Up Close & Personal With The Citroen C4 Cactus

CitroenC4Cactus (1)French, Fast and Funky is the best way to describe this unusual car!

French? It has a certain style of its own, it’s classy and unmistakably European, and it took me the first day to get used to the indicator on my left.

Fast? This 1200 engine delivers superb performance. That turbo makes a whole heap of difference.

Funky? Just one look and you will know exactly what I am talking about.

“I am sending you a Citroen to drive for the weekend, I think you will love it” she said. A Citroen, I thought, that’s a French car? Who loves a French car besides the French? Send it; let’s see what the fuss is about.

First stop was the ZMOT (Zero Moment Of Truth as Google calls it) online research before you have even seen the car or asked a friend about it. Wow, that worked: fast, clean, very modern website and I was suddenly looking forward to driving it. Couldn’t wait to show Sasha! “I hope they send you the white one dad, it will match my acrobatics outfit.”

Friday morning 9am and a knock on the door, it’s here. Admittedly I am very impressed. It has an urban appeal to it. It looks tough enough to take off road but it’s not designed for that. Thirty seconds later I am in the car and driving. I have been driving a little runner for the last few months; the choice was simple, drive uphill or have the aircon on but never both. Suddenly I am sitting in a 1200 car that goes like a dream. I am no racing driver, I have no idea what braking horse power is, or maximum torque CEE and honestly I have never thought of buying a car based on its CO2 emission. Either I like the thing or I don’t.CitroenC4Cactus (5)

I have been lecturing marketing and consumer behavior for years and I often site the FOUR questions, a customer asks themselves before they make any purchase, so let me put these to the test…

Q1 Price, can I afford this? Well if you can’t, there is little more to consider. Starting at R229k and heading close to R300k for the model I tested, this is certainly within the range of most people looking to buy a new car. So let’s move to question two..

Q2 Functionality, does it work? This is getting a little more personal now. I am a single dad with a daughter, perfect size for me but not for a family of six. Fast enough, easy to park, fuel efficient, all the bells and whistles, electric windows, great aircon… Oh yes, functionally this would suit me just perfectly.

Q3 Emotional, how will I feel driving this car? I felt great! It is unusual enough to attract a few stares and thumbs up from the cars around you. It’s just the right size so as not to feel vulnerable next to a truck on the N3 and sitting behind that space age dashboard does give you a wonderful feeling. So this leaves question number four…

Q4 The Super Emotional Question! What will my family and friends think when they heard I have bought this car? Oh yes, much more important than we would like to admit. Peer pressure and all that. Anyone who saw the car or picture of the car seemed in no doubt why I would buy it and be very happy to be seen in it. There are the doubters, I was certainly one of them. Nagging questions about resale value, service costs, warranties and availability of parts. Without a doubt the challenge facing Citroen South Africa, is not how to build better cars, they are doing that already, the challenge is how do they change the perception of the public.

So I decided to go to the source and ask the hard questions. (Answers directly from Citroen SA)CitroenC4Cactus (3)

Please explain the maintenance plan and warranty that are available on the car? – 5 year 100 000km service plan and 3 year 100 000km warranty –  with an optional extended maintenance plan plus warranty for 5yrs/100 000km

What are the servicing costs if any?  When purchasing the vehicle you get a 5 year/100000km service plan. After 5 years costs will depend on what parts are being replaced. Servicing costs vary from dealer to dealer as they all have different labour rates but will be between R3000 and R5000.

What about pricing and availability of parts?  Citroen has a warehouse with parts worth over 30 million in SA. 94 % of the parts are available and if not available we fly them in from France TheKinsey report is an  independent survey of parts baskets of various manufacturers, published once a year.  Since Citroen opened its doors in South Africa, as a wholly owned subsidiary of France in 2010, it has always placed in the top three in its category.  For example in 2014 Citroen came first in the small hatch segment with the DS3 in 2014 which is an indication that expensive parts pricing and availability are a perception.

What about after my maintenance plan expires? Will the costs jump?  The main focus for owning a C4 Cactus is the cost of ownership which includes fuel consumption, residual value and MAINTENANCE SERVICING AND REPAIR COSTS.  The cost of ownership of the Cactus is regularly reported by the media in Europe as best in class. The airbump is a good example of this as it is cheaper to change the airbump than to change a damaged door.

CitroenC4Cactus (4)With that out of the way, what did I like most about the car? Undoubtedly the drive! Smooth, nippy, easy, fun, safe… this engine really does seem to have it all. No lag on the hills, no sacrifice for the air-conditioned, no shortage of power if you want to overtake or change lanes on the highway. They had me at vroom vroom.

The size was another great feature, it’s certainly not a “little car” but yet small enough to park anywhere, drive through small spaces and fit into underground parking spots without any hassle. The rear view colour reversing camera is also a bonus and needs a little getting used to and remember to check for oncoming cars BEFORE you start looking at the monitor.

Space! Wide comfortable seats, a great field of vision and plenty of packing space. Sasha did complain about the lack of a cup holder in the back, it’s hard to hold a strawberry milkshake and Instagram at the same time while you are stretched out on those sofa style seats!

Of course I did not love everything about the car and neither will you. So although very few if any would be deal breakers, here are a couple of things you may need to consider.

The high-tech, electronic dashboard takes a little getting used to, much quicker than I thought but it is different. There is no rev counter, just a few numbers with arrows indicating you should consider changing gears.

The internal lighting is a little weak. An under strength light in the front and no lighting in the rear.

The rear windows do not go up and down. Just a small leaver to allow a little fresh air in the back. As a single dad with one child, no problem at all for me but if you are planning on taking the family to the game reserve in it you can expect a few arguments about who will be sitting in the front.

No auto up and down on the driver’s window. Nope, not a deal breaker at all but unusual to see in modern cars.

No mirror on the passenger seat visor. Made no difference to me but the acro and ballet dancer had to reach for her cellphone in selfie mode to ensure her hair and make-up were right. Certainly not a deal breaker but a small oversight I think.

At first I was a little unsure about the bumper covers on the doors, are they really functional or just a design feature. After a few days, it really doesn’t matter, you are either going to love them or hate them and they quickly grew on me.

In a nutshell I loved the weekend in the car, it comes highly recommended and do yourselves a VERY big favour, if and when you are in the market, call Citroen for a test drive! You will be very glad you did.

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