List price when new £15,890
Price today £9000*
Available from 2014-present
Bold styling set the Citroën C4 Cactus apart in the small SUV market, but can it fend off an attack from a more practical rival?
Suzuki Vitara 1.6 SZ-T 2WD
List price when new £15,499
Price today £11,500*
Available from 2015-present
The smart Suzuki Vitara promises lots of versatility and plenty of kit, but it needs to beat the charm of the C4 Cactus.
Small SUVs are huge in the new car market at the moment. Every week, a new one seems to come along to fulfill the requirements of drivers who want a more practical car and a raised driving position, yet still want to be able to park it in a multi-storey. But, dear reader, you don’t have to wait for the current crop to drop in price, because there are some excellent used examples right here in the form of the Citroën C4 Cactus and Suzuki Vitara.
Suzuki isn’t new to the world of small SUVs. Remember the Samurai and Jimny? These were chunky-looking, fun little 4x4s that punched above their weight against bigger off-road rivals. The Vitara hasn’t got the mud-plugging ability of its forebears, but it does have the look of something much more expensive – especially with that clamshell bonnet, which mimics the look of a Range Rover.
The French are trying to be a little more original with the C4 Cactus. At first glance, you might think that all that textured black plastic is there to break up what would be a rather featureless side view, but there’s a purpose to it. It's designed to protect the bodywork by absorbing the impact of shopping trolleys running into it or from opening car doors when parked up. A thoughtful touch. Then there is the interior that has been created as an oasis of simplicity, with the majority of buttons being replaced by a touchscreen infotainment system and soft, comfortable chairs to relax the weary traveller.
These two, then, are like chalk and cheese. One is a sensible family car and the other a chic SUV. Both are practical five-seaters that fulfil the wants of small SUV buyers but which one is the better used buy? Read on to find out.
What are they like to drive?
These two compact crossovers may cost roughly the same and compete in the same class, but they’re surprisingly different to drive.
The C4 Cactus’s three-cylinder 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine puts out 109bhp. Suzuki, on the other hand, has equipped the Vitara with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol motor that produces 118bhp. With comparatively little to split them on outright power, it’s hardly surprising that they accelerate with similar vigour when you put your foot down; both took 9.5sec to do the 0-60mph sprint in our tests.
However, while the Vitara’s engine needs to be revved hard before it starts to perform, the C4 Cactus’s starts pulling strongly from just 1500rpm. This makes it easier to maintain snappy progress in the Citroën and means fewer gearchanges are required in everyday driving.
The C4 Cactus has the edge in a straight line, but it isn’t as capable as the Vitara through corners. The Suzuki has relatively stiff suspension by small SUV standards, so doesn’t sway about as much as the softly sprung C4 Cactus through tight twists and turns. The Vitara has more front-end grip, too, although it is let down a little by its steering; it’s precise but overly light, particularly around the central position, and it doesn’t weight up quickly enough in bends.
Meanwhile, the C4 Cactus’s steering is just as accurate but also weightier – this gives you a bit more confidence when cornering quickly. Perhaps more pertinently, both cars are easy to manoeuvre around town and had similar braking distances in our tests. However, the C4 Cactus’s brake feel is little too sharp initially – something that can take a while to get used to.
Despite the Vitara’s stiffer suspension, it tends to deal with most types of bumps better than its French rival. The softly sprung C4 Cactus soaks up speed bumps well enough, but is flummoxed by pockmarked surfaces and potholes, which send nasty jolts through the interior. The C4 Cactus also feels comparatively wallowy over dips and crests in the road.
It is the more peaceful cruiser, though. The C4 Cactus's engine is smoother and quieter at all speeds and there’s a fair bit less wind and road noise to contend with on the motorway. It’s just a pity that the gearshift is so vague; the Vitara’s is far slicker and more precise.
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