Our favourite engine is the 109bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol, which is badged Pure Tech 110; it picks up eagerly from low revs and doesn’t mind being worked hard, although there’s a bit of a surge of power in the middle of the rev range. It’s also offered in lesser-powered forms, badged 75 and 82. These versions, which produce 74bhp and 81bhp respectively, are tolerable around town, but feel gutless on the motorway. They don’t have turbochargers, which consequently means they feel a lot less gutsy than the 110 version.
The sole diesel engine is the 98bhp 1.6 Blue HDi 100. It is strong enough at low revs, but feels a bit wheezy at medium revs and isn’t as eager as the petrols.
The Pure Tech 82 petrol is the only engine that’s available with an optional automatic gearbox; every other engine comes with a manual ’box only.
Our favourite engine is the 109bhp 1.2-litre turbo petrol
Citroën C4 Cactus ride comfort
Gets a bit harsh on rough roads
The C4 Cactus’s suspension is relatively soft, which mean the ride is comfortable the majority of the time. Around town and on the motorway its soft nature stands it in good stead, absorbing big bumps with ease. That said, the soft suspension also means that the body rolls a lot in corners, which can lead to your passengers being tossed around. The C4 Cactus can also struggle over sharp-edged bumps and potholes, which tend to send jolts through the cabin. Drive it down a poorly finished country lane and you’ll know about it, because it can bounce around and leave you feeling a little jarred.
There are no options on the suspension front, but depending on specifications and options your C4 Cactus will come with wheels ranging from 15in to 17in in diameter. Stick to the smallest wheels possible for the best ride comfort.
Citroën C4 Cactus handling
Competent and safe, but no fun
You’ll find little to fault the Citroën’s steering when driving around town. It has enough heft to it to stop it from feeling twitchy, and is precise and responsive. This helps make the C4 Cactus easy to manoeuvre. On faster roads, while the steering never provides much feedback, it weights up enough to provide additional reassurance when you turn in to bends. If you do overstep the mark, the C4 Cactus will simply wash wide of your intended course in a safe, controlled fashion – rather than getting tricky to control or doing something unexpected. It’s not the most gratifying car to drive in its class (the Kia Soul and Skoda Yeti both handle better), but it’s far from disappointing.
Citroën C4 Cactus refinement
Rough diesel engine and snatchy brakes
The three-cylinder petrol engines are relatively smooth and hushed, whereas the diesel is coarse and gruff, so is best avoided. The manual gearbox is also disappointing, with a long and rubbery action. It’s preferable to the ETG automated manual gearbox, though, which can cause the car to lurch between gearshifts. You can learn to drive the ETG version smoothly, but it’s a shame that you have to modify your driving style, unlike with a traditional automatic ’box.
Some drivers may also struggle to get used to the sharp initial braking response when you press the middle pedal, which can make the C4 Cactus a little jerky at low speeds.
At least wind and road noise aren’t too bad compared with those of other small SUVs.
The entry-level petrol engine is best suited to those who are just pottering around town, because it feels out of its depth on the motorway. It’s not the most economical engine, either, so it’s worth considering only if you’re after the cheapest option.
Our pick Pure Tech 82
This is the engine of choice in the C4 Cactus line-up, although it’s offered only in mid-range Feel models and up. It’s economical, willing and smooth. Low CO2 emissions mean you won’t pay much in tax, and you can expect it to average around 50mpg in the real world.
Blue HDi 100
You get a decent amount of low-rev shove from this Blue HDi diesel, and it’s the most economical and lowest-emitting engine in the range. It’s quite noisy, though, and not as willing as the Pure Tech 110 petrol.