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Citroen C4 Cactus

Citroen C4 Cactus review

Citroen C4 Cactus

The Citroen C4 Cactus is an eccentric choice for family car buyers seeking a small, affordable five-door hatchback. It’s ageing, but still likeable.

For: Ride comfort, high spec, quirky cabin

Against: Some quality issues, poor infotainment, awful automatic

Verdict: The most soft-focus car in its class

Latest news: As 8 in 10 C4 Cactus customers choose the top-line Flair model anyway, Citroen has withdrawn the entry-level Feel variant. Flair also now gets standard keyless entry and front parking sensors – August 2019.

Citroen C4 Cactus

Citroen went out on a limb with the original C4 Cactus, a car as eccentric as some of its illustrious forebears.

For the 2018 update, the marque stripped away its identity, shrinking the Airbumps and imposing a more corporate look.

Still, pillowy suspension and lounge-like seats make for the most comfortable car in its class.

Elsewhere, it frustrates and delights in equal measure. Pop-out rear windows, the lack of a rev-counter and the reliance on a touchscreen for primary controls are minor irritations.

But other cabin details remain wonderfully satisfying.

Citroen C4 Cactus

The range has been slimmed to just one trim level, called Flair. There are two 1.2-litre petrol engines and a 1.5 diesel, with each one offering good performance and economy, thanks in part to low weight.

The 130hp 1.2 PureTech petrol only comes with a dimwitted automatic transmission, so steer clear.

We’d opt for a C4 Cactus Flair with the 110hp PureTech petrol and a manual gearbox.

KEY INFO

  • Launched: 2014
  • Facelifted: 2018
  • Due for replacement: 2021
  • Euro NCAP score: Four stars
  • Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
  • Available body styles: Hatchback
  • Alternatives: Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra

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Dyane and GS: driving the classic Citroens of my childhood

Citroen Dyane and GS

When, as part of our visit to the Conservatoire Citroen, I was asked if I’d like to drive a couple of the exhibits, my response was quick and obvious. The hardest part was narrowing the choice down from 400… to two.

Opting for the Maserati-engined Citroen SM and hot-footing it down to the French Alps was a tempting prospect. As was spending the day leisurely touring the back roads of Provence in a Citroen DS 23.

But, perhaps selfishly, nostalgia won the day and I selected two cars from my youth: a Citroen Dyane and a GS.

Dad’s Citroens

I can’t quite figure out if my late father was a Saab or Citroen man, as our family owned an equal number of cars from each marque during my childhood. But one thing’s for sure, my father wasn’t a fan of mainstream motors, preferring the charms of the more eccentric and individual carmakers.

And it’s the French connection that must have left a lasting impression, as I currently own three Citroens and can put my name to just two Saabs. The fact that the Citroen Dyane is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017 presented a good secondary opportunity to grab a quick drive.

I use the word ‘quick’ with caution, as I was given strict instructions not to drive at speeds in excess of 30kph (a little under 19mph). Oh, and forget visions of Provence and the Cote d’Azur, as I wasn’t permitted to drive beyond the confines of the old Aulnay-sous-Bois plant on the northern fringes of Paris.

No matter, because my sole experience of both the Dyane and GS was from the comfort of the back seats. A chance to play grown-up in the front was something I had waited too long to experience. If only my father was around to share the experience with me.

His Dyane was the plusher and more powerful Dyane-6, registration mark XEL 32S. Ask me anything about my school days and I’ll respond with a Gallic shrug, but I’ll happily reel off a list of number plates attached to the cars of my childhood.

Dad’s Citroen GS was a 1976 Pallas, registration mark LDY 935P. In both cases, the Citroens have long since departed for the big French scrapyard in the sky: the GS last taxed in 1984, the Dyane in 1991. Shame.

Oh, Dyane…

Citroen GS X3

First up for my trip down memory lane was the Dyane. “That’s the sound of my childhood,” I said to the Citroen PR man, as the twin-cylinder, air-cooled engine burst into life, before sputtering to a halt before it had left the shadowed coolness of the Conservatoire.

“That’s also the sound of my childhood,” I said once again, as the Conservatoire resident mechanic tried in vain to get the Dyane restarted. With no joy, the Dyane was pushed unceremoniously back into line. Easy work when the car weighs about the same as a dozen packets of Gitanes.

Enter plan B: a 1979 Citroen GS X3. By the time this particular car had rolled out of the factory in Rennes, the GS was into its ninth year of production, and yet it remained a technical tour de force in its segment. It was also preparing to make way for the more practical GSA, which would live on until 1986.

Once again, the GS fires into life with the unmistakable sound of an air-cooled engine, only this time it’s a 1,299cc flat-four unit, the same one soon to be powering the forthcoming GSA. With 65bhp on tap, a top speed of 99mph was possible, not that I would be demonstrating this in the old factory workers’ car park.

Settle into the supremely comfortable seats and it doesn’t feel like a car dating back to 1970. The GS hallmarks are there – single-spoke steering wheel, dash-mounted handbrake and wonderful circular display of dashboard lights – but it’s a measure of Citroen’s forward-thinking that it felt new and fresh, not least in 1979.

Citroen GS X3 cabin

It’s also incredibly easy to drive. All the controls are neatly positioned and the all-round visibility would shame even a modern convertible. Even in temperatures approaching 30deg C, there’s a sense that you could drive this all day, every day, although I wasn’t about to test this theory on the Peripherique ring-road.

Let’s remember, the GS featured a simplified version of the Citroen’s famous hydropneumatic suspension, along with all-round disc brakes and an aerodynamic body that must have seen otherworldly in a segment of three-box saloons. That the GS didn’t feature a hatchback was a wrong put right by the GSA.

There’s no power steering – it doesn’t need it – but even at the permitted low speeds (I did top 40km/h, but shhh!), it turns in neatly and is utterly predictable. The clutch is light, the four-speed gearbox is smooth, with everything combining to create an effortless driving experience.

The highlight, of course, is the suspension, which smooths away the imperfections of Aulnay-sous-Bois and makes even low speed cornering an absolute joy. Quite what it must be like on a French ‘Bis’ road is something I’ll have to imagine and plan for another day.

While some cars might be thrown off line by potholes and drain covers, the GS behaved impeccably, steadfastly refusing to ‘hop’ in the same way I’d experienced in the C3 test car I’d driven to Paris. In fact, the GS completely outclassed the C3 in the comfort department. So much for progress.

The brakes are also excellent, with a strong initial bite that gets more progressive with more force. Once again, I’m left with a feeling that the GS could be driven daily, although the rarity factor might encourage you to save it for high days and holidays. But what a tremendous thing to have parked in the garage.

With the all-too-short test drive complete, I return the GS to the Conservatoire, pull the handbrake from the dashboard and switch off the engine. The suspension creaks as it returns to its resting position, as I relive my youth by climbing into the back seat. I don’t remember the legroom being so restrictive as a seven-year-old…

Talkin’ ’bout Dyane

1970 Citroen Dyane

The Dyane is in the workshop, bonnet open, Yannick Billy hunched over the engine. My chances of grabbing a drive are slim, as time was ticking and we had strict orders to vacate the building by noon. But just as I was about to search for a GS on Leboncoin, Monsieur Billy wanders over with a split hose in his hand and a thumbs up. The drive is on.

Although it is claimed that the Dyane was designed to replace the 2CV upon which it is based, it was certainly seen as model to occupy the space between its more utilitarian sibling and the Ami. Contemporary press photos show a more youthful clientele, with trendy young things doing whatever trendy young people do.

Launched in 1967 as the 425cc Dyane-4, the 602cc Dyane-6 was unveiled at the 1968 Brussels Motor Show. Power was increased from 21bhp to 28bhp, raising the top speed from 63mph to a dizzying 71mph. Comically, the speedo on this Dyane-4 displays a rather optimistic 130km/h (81mph), which might be possible if you’re descending the hill into Cherbourg. It’s what the escape lanes were invented for.

I distinctly remember our Dyane-6 struggling to climb the one in four Devil’s Staircase on the Abergwesyn Pass, but feeling totally at home on the motorway. Thanks to its low weight, it didn’t require much in the way of power to give it a decent burst of acceleration.

Citroen was keen to press home the price and practicality of the Dyane, with headlines such as ‘The lowest-priced four-door car has five doors and a sunshine roof’. The hatchback certainly gives the Dyane a practical advantage, although the full-length canvas roof is straight out of the 2CV book.

Citroen Dyane cabin

If the GS felt like something from the future, the Dyane was very much of its time. The cabin is stripped of all but the bare essentials, with a pair of benches to provide seating. It’s sparse, but certainly not stark. In fact, its simplicity is totally charming and a welcome antidote to the tech-laden, button-fest cabins of today. The Dyane was a car you could run on a shoestring, as there was very little to go wrong.

To start, you twist the key and press a little red button situated beneath the top of the dashboard. The push-pull-twist gear lever protrudes from the centre of the dash and takes a while to get used to. I’m not ashamed to admit I stalled the Dyane – twice – and managed to shift from first to fourth, which made the car stall. Again.

But once you’re accustomed to the procedure, it’s little short of brilliant. Soon I was touring the car park without drama, gathering enough pace to warrant third gear. I’d forgotten about the speed limit by then.

Falling in love again

Again, it’s the handling that shines through. The Dyane leans to almost comical levels when cornering hard, but the skinny tyres hold firm, enabling you to maintain terrific pace through a series of chicanes.

But just as I was getting carried away – and having thoughts of attempting a lunchtime drive through the centre of Paris – an almighty clunk was heard from the back of the Dyane and I limped back to the Conservatoire. Yannick gave it a knowing look as he drove the Dyane back into the workshop for another repair job.

Needless to say, it would have been a quick and easy fix, because that was the beauty of the Dyane. Here was a car that could be repaired by one of the countless number of independent Citroen specialists that dotted the land before the rise of the franchised dealer. A car that sips fuel like your grandma nursing a Babycham at a Christmas party.

Maybe the Citroen Dyane was ahead of its time after all. Sadly, it died in 1985, five years before the 2CV. Total sales of 1,443,583 puts it firmly in the shadow of the hugely successful ‘Tin Snail’, which amassed sales of 8,756,688 over a 42-year period.

My drives were all-too-brief, but I’m left with the overwhelming sense that my father knew a good car when he saw one. Time spent in the back of these wonderfully eccentric and idiosyncratic cars shaped my love of motoring, and that’s something for which I can thank Citroen and my father.

Citroen DS ID19

Going nowhere in a Citroen DS: a lockdown car review

Citroen ID19Nobody talks to their neighbours in London, right? They do if you park a Citroen DS outside your house. This classic did more for community cohesion than a communal clapping session.

The key word here is ‘park’, because the Citroen didn’t move. Back in 2016, it silently taunted me for two days, then was removed on a low-loader. 

Stuck in COVID-19 lockdown, those feelings have flooded back. Once again, I’m at home, gazing wistfully through my window at a static car. Granted, my 2005 Golf is no DS – the neighbours have so far declined to comment on it – but I’m still revved up with nowhere to go.

Show me some IDCitroen ID19

A bit of background first. The 1961 DS you see here is actually an ID19: a cheaper, less powerful and (slightly) less complicated version of the DS19. Used for ‘press and publicity purposes’ when new by Citroen UK, it has since returned to the company’s care as part of the heritage fleet.

As the most iconic and beautiful French car ever made (discuss), the DS seemed ideal for the Retro Road Test: the weekly classic car review we used to publish every Thursday. With everything crossed, I called the ever-helpful Craig at Citroen and, just a few weeks later, the DS was delivered.

Street art in suburbiaCitroen ID19

“Lovely, just lovely,” said the man from the corner house who’d asked me to sign a petition about bin collections. “That’s my kind of car,” cooed the lady who runs the pub across the road. “Looks like it’s been lowered,” mumbled the 16-year-old lad from next door.

In recent memory, the only car that comes close for sheer street spectacle was a purple Lamborghini Aventador SVJ I tested earlier this year. But while the Lambo got envious looks and grudging remarks about “winning the lottery”, the DS drew nods, smiles and genuine affection.

Wildly futuristic yet timelessly elegant, it literally stopped traffic as drivers slowed to stare and take photos. It was probably trending on social media, for all I know. One can only marvel at how this car, with its spaceship styling, must have looked in 1955.

Feeling a bit flatCitroen ID19

The DS arrived late on a Monday afternoon, but I resisted the urge to jump straight in and cruise the streets of Croydon. I’d set my alarm early for a long, cross-country jaunt the next morning.

With 67hp and 0-62mph in 22.1 seconds, progress would be as relaxed – and as pleasurable – as a Beaujolais-fuelled Sunday lunch.

Tuesday dawned bright and fresh, the DS draped in morning dew. I sank into the soft leather seat, grasped the Bakelite wheel and twisted the key… Silence. I tried again: the dials on the (UK-specific) English walnut dashboard sprang to life and I heard the faint click of a solenoid, but nothing more.

I called Craig, expecting – hoping – there was some Gallic quirk of the starting process that I’d overlooked. “No, just put her in neutral and turn the key.” Hmm.

The battery voltage gauge showed a full charge, but I decided to attempt a jump-start using my old Ford Focus. Still nothing. Admitting defeat, I telephoned Craig again to request a recovery truck. The dream was over.

Doing the plankCitroen ID19

The nightmare, however, was just beginning. As any student of old Citroens knows, hydropneumatic suspension only pressurises and rises up when the car’s engine starts. Without power, the DS is effectively ‘slammed’. This would prove problematic.

Danny arrived with his low-loader on Wednesday lunchtime. He was sceptical about our chances: with no towing eye on the front, the DS would need to be winched up the ramp backwards. And the downturned tips of its exhaust were virtually kissing the tarmac.

Inching the DS back, it quickly became clear this stubborn lady wasn’t for towing. So, in a further boost to neighbourly relations, I knocked on the door of John the roofer, returning a few minutes later with some scaffolding planks.

Danny and I wedged them under the wheels, reducing the angle of approach. And slowly, steadily, with millimetres to spare, it edged up the ramp and onto the truck. We’d done it.

In the presence of Goddess Citroen ID19

The DS had been sent to Coventry (literally, not figuratively – that’s where Citroen UK is based) and it hadn’t even turned a wheel. But as I watched this magnificent car being carried away, a princess in a sedan chair, I felt surprisingly buoyant.

A few awkward moments with planks aside, my two days with the DS had been an absolute pleasure. I’d gazed longingly at it from my bedroom window – and met friendly, enthusiastic people every time I went outside and, well, tried to start it.

In 15 years of writing about cars, this was the only one I’ve returned one without driving it. C’est la vie.

As the current crisis has taught us, you need to find pleasure and positivity where you can. And sometimes beauty is its own reward.Citroen ID19

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Save £7,000 on a new Citroen – if you live in London

£7,000 off a Citroen

Citroen has introduced a new ‘swappage’ scheme, effective for the remainder of 2019, which allows up to £5,000 off a new low-emissions car when you trade a car in. And buyers in London could save up to £7,000.

To be eligible, your trade-in car or van must be registered before January 1 2013. It also has to have been in your ownership for more than 90 days.

The most efficient versions of the C3 Aircross, C5 Aircross and C4 Cactus are included in the Citroen offer. 

£7,000 off a Citroen

In addition to the £5,000 from Citroen, London’s ULEZ scrappage scheme offers low-income and disabled motorists £2,000 to swap their Euro 4 (2005 or older) petrol car, or Euro 5 (September 2015 or older) diesel. Do so at a Citroen dealer, for the right model, and you’ll save £7,000 off your purchase.

Citroen has partnered with Cartakeback to dispose of and recycle cars that are traded in. If the car is to be scrapped, it can be removed from the owner’s home, workplace or local Citroen dealer.

£7,000 off a Citroen

“We are delighted to be able to introduce our new Citroen swappage scheme for the remainder of 2019,” said Eurig Druce, Citroen UK sales director.

“With a range of award-winning products available, including our new C5 Aircross SUV, now is a great time to upgrade an existing older vehicle, to a newer, safer and cleaner Citroen model.”

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

Citroen Berlingo Van vs WRC rally star

Citroen Berlingo van WRC specialThe Citroen Berlingo van is virtually a brand in its own right. Frequently Britain’s best-selling light commercial vehicle, it has built a reputation since 1996 for toughness, flexibility and dependability.

So when Citroen World Rally Championship star Esapekka Lappi visited Britain, an idea was hatched. They could have let him do demonstration runs in a road-going version of the C3 supermini he spectacularly drives in the WRC. Fun, but maybe a bit ho-hum. 

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

Instead, brilliantly, a new Citroen Berlingo van was given a rally-spec engineering makeover. A rally training school was hired for the day, and Lappi was let loose towork his magic. Even better, I was lucky enough to hitch a ride.

The idea was to show off how robust the Berlingo is. Citroen UK dubbed it a ‘stress test’, and it’ll be interesting to know if a day’s thrashing by one of rallying’s hottest young talents now becomes an official part of the development sign-off process.

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

Citroen had an extra ace to justify the day: a Berlingo ‘Worker’ version was chosen. This has 30 mm more ground clearance than the regular van, more underbody protection, hill descent control, Grip Control (which magics up extra traction from the front wheels via electronics) plus beefier mud and snow tyres.

It’s more WRC-spec than any road-going C3, particularly with the installation of a regular ‘bar’ handbrake instead of the standard Berlingo’s electronic parking brake. Add on a WRC-style livery (“we weren’t allowed to use Red Bull branding, so we went with our centenary logo instead”) and it was all set for an unlikely afternoon of driving.

Rallying a Citroen Berlingo Van

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

It was my turn first. Cool as a cucumber, Esapekka cheerily told me to do whatever I wanted, go as fast as I liked. Racing drivers can be super-cautious when being driven by people they’ve never met: rally drivers are a different breed. As I fired up the stock HDi diesel engine, he sat back and relaxed, as if we were driving to the first job of the day.

All that was missing was a copy of The Sun on the dashboard for him to read.

I won’t bore you with what I drove like, because I was rubbish. I understand circuit racing, but I really can’t get my head around rallying. There’s no grip, the vehicle must always be dancing, usually sliding, and the way you have to use Scandinavian flicks is a bit like playing snooker. I was bamboozled.

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

The van, amazingly, felt great. Loads of suspension travel made light work of the lumpy rally-spec surface and even though I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, it was still fun to slide around. But I knew I only had a limited time with Esapekka, so I pulled up early. Time to swap, and show me how it should be done.

Citroen Berlingo Van WRC

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

I quickly got it barely 10 seconds later, as we scrabbled away in a gravelly, clattery rush, hurtled towards the first corner and, unlike me, he didn’t brake and totter round but instead pitched sideways and drifted through it at barely-abated speed with the most ludicrous cloud of dust left in our wake. This is how you rally a Berlingo van.

At least with circuit driving, you can work out braking points and likely speeds through corners. Sitting alongside a rally driver, even in a van, is the most random experience because it all seems so confidently improvised and beyond-comprehension fast. This was a sun-baked gravel course whose surface you could do skids on in your shoes. There’s no way a standard road-going diesel van should be going this quickly.

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

But Esapekka was on it, working at the wheel in a blur, making it do the most graceful things through bends probably three times faster than I’d taken them. Absolutely glorious is the only way to describe it – genuinely more fun and thrilling than many a supercar blast around a racetrack.

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

We eventually had to stop because there was so much dust, we couldn’t see where to go. I had no idea a Berlingo van could do what I’d just been shown, and certainly no clue it could seemingly take such treatment in its stride. The man who winces when he hits a pothole had just experienced a van being monstered by a WRC driver, and it was still ready for more.

Citroen Berlingo van WRC special

Indeed, once the dust had settled, it was out again, so I could marvel at the 25-metre drifts and, as it disappeared back into the dust, growl of a hard-worked diesel engine and sounds of tyres battering gravel indicating Esapekka wasn’t letting up.

“It has a long heritage and is very well known in the light van sector,” Citroen’s CV boss told me later. “We had the chance to work with Esapekka so we thought we’d do something a bit different, to add to the Berlingo van brand story.”

Quite brilliant, Citroen. Even Esapekka seemed surprised. “I’m actually impressed with how much fun it is to drive – it corners well and it’s very strong.”

Rally drivers really are a different breed, and will drive anything spectacularly. That a future WRC champ has given such kudos to the Berlingo van is surely now worth a point or two on the building site or delivery yard.

Revealed: the number of speed bumps in the UK

Speed bumps in the UK

A freedom of information request (FOI) by Citroen has revealed exactly how many speed bumps and associated traffic calming measures there are in the UK.

The number of speed bumps has risen to 42,000, which is a new high following their controversial introduction in 1983. Speed bumps have seen a five percent increase in investment since 2015, hence the large figure.

Via its FOI request, which was sent to more than 400 counties, Citroen also discovered that there are a further 12,000 other traffic calming measures in place. These include speed tables, ramps and width restrictions. Councils have had the power to install such calming measures since 1999.

Where are the most speed bumps?

Speed bumps in the UK

It will come as no surprise to discover that London is the speed bump capital of Britain. On the basis of speed bumps per mile of road, eight of the top 10 councils are in London. Outside of London, Norwich and Portsmouth lead, with a respective 17 and 13 percent of roads featuring traffic calming measures.

Where did speed bumps come from?

They first appeared in the UK in 1983 under the Highways (Road Humps) Regulations. Their origins go back to early-1900s New Jersey in the USA.

Road deaths, including pedestrians and non-motorised vehicle users, have fallen 80 percent in the UK since the last peak in 1941. Traffic calming measures, including speed bumps, are one of the key developments credited with this drop.

Why would Citroen be interested in speed bumps? It’s all to do with promoting the comfort of its vehicles equipped with its hydraulic cushion suspension. To a similar end, it filled in 200 potholes last year to “provide road users in Surrey a glimpse into what life with a new C5 Aircross SUV or C4 Cactus with suspension would be like”.

Speed bumps in the UK

“At Citroen, we are committed to providing our customers with the best journey experience possible no matter what the road surface,” said Souad Wrixen, Citroen UK’s marketing director.

“Speed bumps and other traffic calming measures have their place on UK roads helping to improve road safety and reduce fatalities.

“So, when approached at the correct speed and with care, our Citroen Advanced Comfort programme will ensure that humps and speed tables can be navigated more comfortably, avoiding the sharp jolts often experienced by road users.”

Young drivers can get FREE insurance on a new Citroen C1

Free insurance offer on Citroen C1

Young drivers can take advantage of a free insurance offer when they buy a new Citroen C1 city car this summer.

A year’s free insurance is available to customers aged 18 and over if they order and register a brand new Citroen C1 between now and the end of September.

The offer is available on all but the entry-level Touch trim level and includes hatchback and ‘Airscape’ body styles. The recently launched ‘Origins’ Collector’s Edition – which celebrates 100 years of Citroen – is also eligible for free cover.

‘A helping hand’

Eurig Druce, Citroën UK’s sales director, said: “C1 is an extremely popular urban vehicle that’s packed with style, technology and safety equipment, including those all-important full-length curtain airbags.

Citroen C1 interior

“We’re delighted we can now make this attractive model even more desirable, with free insurance for retail customers from 18 years of age.

“This offer has been designed in particular to offer a helping hand to younger drivers, whose insurance costs are usually higher. By covering these costs we hope to get as many young drivers into a safer, brand new car that they can be proud of.”

A Citroen C1 Feel costs £11,900 and boasts a seven-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Some 65,000 C1s have been sold since the current generation was launched in 2014.

Manufacturers are ramping up their summer offers, with Vauxhall and Ford recently unveiling their new scrappage deals. Meanwhile, the Toyota Aygo X-Trend – which shares a platform with the Citroen C1 – is available with a £2,000 scrappage allowance.

Citroen marks 100 years with Origins special editions

Citroen C4 Cactus Origins

Citroen is paying homage to 100 years of ‘creativity and boldness‘ with help from a new range of Origins limited edition cars.

Sadly, this doesn’t mean we can look forward to a Citroen AX GT ‘restomod’, a CX for a new-generation or a modern-day 2CV – although we can dream. Instead, it’s a range of limited-run specials based on some of Citroen’s most popular models.

The first two vehicles in the UK are the C3 Origins and the C4 Cactus Origins. Later this year, Origins versions of the C1 and C3 Aircross will be available to order.

All feature bronze highlights and a nod to the original Citroen chevron logo.

The C3 Origins is available in a choice of Polar White, Cumulus Grey, Platinum Grey or Perla Black body colours, paired with a black roof and 17-inch black alloy wheels.

Citroen C3 Origins

A special Origins colour pack features bronze fog lights and Airbump panel surrounds, along with the Origins logo on the door mirrors and roof pillars. Inside, the C3 Origins features Heather Grey and black seat upholstery, and a soft-touch dashboard trim with a bronze surround.

The C3 Origins is available with a choice of two 1.2-litre engines – a PureTech 82 and PureTech 110 – with the latter equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission. Prices range from £16,585 for the PureTech 82, to £19,005 for the PureTech 110.

The C4 Cactus Origins is largely the same as the C3 Origins, although Pearl White paint is also available, while Perla Nera is substituted for Obsidian Black. Only one powertrain is offered: a 1.2-litre PureTech 110 with a six-speed manual gearbox. The price is £20,215.

Citroen Origins logo

Customers can place orders now, with deliveries expected in March 2019. Origins versions of the C1 and C3 Aircross will be available to order in March for delivery in June.

2019 Citroen C5 Aircross

2019 Citroen C5 Aircross review: quirky crossover plays the comfort card

2019 Citroen C5 AircrossSpoiler alert. I haven’t given the new Citroen C5 Aircross its full name, for reasons that will become clear in a moment. But first, let’s give credit where it’s due. The French company has been doing amazingly well of late. Amongst all the doom and gloom around ever-falling car sales, Citroen is selling more cars. Private buyers have been particularly keen on its blend of great style and competitive PCP offers.

Building that position, then keeping up the same momentum, is far from an easy proposition. After all, if it was straightforward, others would have done it already. So what has changed?

Citroen pricing has been keen for years, but personal contract purchase (PCP) has been a real strength. And the model range is not one you’d recognise from even a few years back. While some of the nomenclature is similar, like the C1 supermini, everything has got a lot, well, funkier.

Citroen styling sometimes verges on simply being too in-your-face, but, by and large, its cars stand out with their own distinctive family style.

A crossover, not an SUV

2019 Citroen C5 Aircross

Now for the contentious bit, which is passing some cars off for what they are not. Take another car in the Citroen range, the compact C3 Aircross ‘SUV’. If there’s one thing this car is not, it’s an SUV. It’s telling that no manufacturer that makes a real SUV actually makes the acronym titular. And so to the new C5 Aircross SUV reviewed here…

What’s going on? Simple. SUVs are selling like hot cakes, and Citroen wants a slice of the action. But it doesn’t have a four-wheel-drive chassis on which to build one. Who cares? Not Citroen or indeed its sister Peugeot, which does exactly the same thing.

If you’re not following this, a little bit of history. The ‘Sport Utility Vehicle’ was a concept dreamed up in the States to cover things like Jeeps and Land Rovers. What we used to call 4x4s. The SUV name embraced these, along with more civilised vehicles like the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Toyota Land Cruiser. And later, smaller but almost as able off-roaders like the BMW X3 and Nissan X-Trail.

In the great hierarchy of cars, beneath SUVs sit crossovers, cars that want to be SUVs but don’t have four-wheel drive. They look the part, but really they are just taller cars with an imposing bonnet and a tall posture. The magnificently successful Nissan Qashqai is the benchmark. And a crossover is what the C5 Aircross is, too.

Impressively practical

2019 Citroen C5 Aircross

You get a proper French car smooth ride here. Citroen has done some clever things with the suspension, which smooths out all but the worst bumps. Coupled to brilliant sound suppression (from the engine, wind and tyres), the C5 Aircross is a calming way to travel. 

The front seats have multiple layers of foam of varying density, which suited me very well after two three-hour drives. The upholstery looks smart, albeit not quite up to the standard of rivals in its finish and stitching. In the rear, three individual seats can be useful, although unlike the Citroen C4 Spacetourer, only the outer ones have Isofix mountings for child seats. There is a third, however, on the front passenger seat.

2019 Citroen C5 Aircross

If you do have kids in the rear, the seats can be slid forward by as much as 150mm, which does wonders for the already sizeable boot space. For larger occupants, those rear seats also recline.

It’s practical in other ways, with easy access to all seats and a simply huge air-conditioned box in the front. The central dashboard screen covers the major functions like music, radio, heating and navigation. It’s a touchscreen, but in a good way, with everything easily accessed without much distraction from your driving.

Petrol versus diesel

2019 Citroen C5 Aircross

Like most manufacturers, Citroen has been downsizing its engines to make them less polluting and more economical, while using turbochargers to give equal, sometimes better, performance than the units they replaced. The cheapest petrol model is powered by a 1.2-litre engine, with CO2 emissions of around 120g/km and what looks like entirely passable performance. There’s a 1.5 diesel with CO2 that’s 10% lower, for a £1,500 premium.

The cars we drove in Morocco were the most powerful, and both were fitted with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 180hp turbo petrol model was feisty and quick, and seemingly all you could ask for in the C5 Aircross. Until, that is, you stepped into the 180hp turbodiesel. This was more relaxed, less urgent, and yet seemed even more responsive.

That’s not a Citroen thing, merely the well-established fact that modern diesels are still a force to be reckoned with. This C5 Aircross diesel also seemed a better match to its automatic gearbox, whereas the petrol version demanded a heavier foot to get a response.

The rough with the smooth

2019 Citroen C5 Aircross

So let’s be clear, the C5 Aircross is front-wheel drive, like most new cars these days. It’s no surprise that it handles very well on the Tarmac, has light power steering that gives almost no feel of the road through the steering wheel (if that bothers you), and the soft-ish suspension means there’s some body-roll in corners, although it isn’t bad.

And here’s Citroen’s argument about its off-road prowess. Any version can be bought with ‘Grip Control’, plus mud and snow tyres, for a reasonable £400-£600. This, they say, gives the C5 Aircross enough rough-terrain ability to suit most buyers. But it can never, ever, be as competent as four-wheel-drive, especially if the SUV has similar tyres.

Citroen C5 Aircross: verdict

2019 Citroen C5 Aircross

It’s an easy car to like, the Citroen C5 Aircross. With prices from £23k, the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson are all cheaper to get into at the lower end, yet there’s not a great deal in it. Look instead at the PCP offers and the story may well turn on its head.

As a rather bigger alternative, the Skoda Kodiaq has a lot to offer and can, like the Kia and Hyundai, be bought with four-wheel drive.

The Citroen C5 Aircross doesn’t pack a killer blow, then, but it’s a perfectly nice family car with standout styling. Just don’t bargain on getting an SUV.

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2018 Citroen C4 Cactus

2018 Citroen C4 Cactus first drive: it’s new, but is it improved?

2018 Citroen C4 Cactus

You only get one chance to make a good first impression. For the Citroen C4 Cactus, that moment came in 2014, when the innovative French crossover managed to upstage the more expensive metal at the Geneva Motor Show.

Four years later, the Cactus has been given a makeover, stripped of many of its quirky features to gain mass-market appeal. It turns out the world wasn’t ready for “a new interpretation of crossover”, so Citroen is off in a different direction.

“The hatch gets a reboot,” proclaims the brochure, as Citroen goes to great lengths to convince us that, as far as the Cactus is concerned, the crossover is dead, long live the hatchback. Which seems at odds with current market trends.

But what’s in a name? Do Mr and Mrs Public really buy into car industry speak? C-segment this, crossover that: most buyers see a car they like, and if it fits their needs and the PCP allows, they’ll part with their cash. Simple.

Only it’s not that straightforward. Citroen’s decision to swim in a different pool is significant because, while the Cactus once occupied its own island of quirkiness and charm, it’s now swimming against the tide in a segment dominated by the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus and other family hatchbacks. No pressure, then.

More than a facelift

The raft of changes to the Cactus feel like so much more than a facelift of an existing model, and Citroen should be applauded for delivering a convincing Cactus 2.0. The more mature and grown-up exterior is the most visual indication that original design doesn’t sell, but the significant changes lie beneath the mostly Airbump-free body.

It’s called Citroen Advanced Comfort, and it sees the Double Chevron returning to its roots to establish a market USP. A case of history repeating itself, as Citroen goes off in search of a comfortable future, echoing some of its much-missed greats of the past.

In the case of the C4 Cactus, comfort and joy are based on two pillars: Progressive Hydraulic Cushions (PHC) and Advanced Comfort seats. Citroen promises to deliver “extraordinary ride comfort” and the cliched “feeling of travelling on a magic carpet”. But, can we believe everything they tell you about Mr Soft?

In short, yes. The C4 Cactus is the first Citroen in Europe to feature the PHC system, which adds two hydraulic stops on each suspension turret to replace the mechanical stops: one for compression and one for decompression. The result is ride comfort that might be akin to travelling on a carpet, but King Solomon wasn’t available to add weight to this claim.

It’s a novel thing, hitting a pothole without fear of a visit to a chiropractor, but on the pockmarked roads of Buckinghamshire, the C4 Cactus devoured imperfections like a tube of concealer on an adolescent’s face. Hit a sunken manhole cover, and you’ll feel little more than a tickle on your bottom. It really is that good.

It’s a similar story over speed bumps, which become little more than minor irritations rather than major inconveniences. While it’s all very impressive, it’s not quite up there with the levels of comfort associated with Citroen’s hydropneumatic past. Don’t be in a hurry to part company with your Xantia Activa, GS or BX.

Driving in your car with Mr Soft

2018 Citroen C4 Cactus interior

It’s a similar story with the front seats, which look comfortable and inviting, even before you’ve set foot in the Cactus. In using 15mm thicker foam, broader bases and backs, and reinforced support, Citroen has created the most comfortable bum perches this side of the DFS sale.

You’ll settle in with the same sense of satisfaction as a grandparent lowering themselves on to a sofa after a hearty Sunday roast, and the seats felt no less comfortable following a two-hour drive along the country lanes around Aylesbury.

The new Cactus feels so much more mature than before. Citroen has used thicker glass, more sound-deadening, revised sealing joints and an acoustic windscreen to create a more sophisticated ambience, with levels of refinement that wouldn’t feel out of place in a more expensive vehicle.

It’s a bewildering sensation. The new-found comfort and polish feel at odds with the Cactus’s inherent lightness (the kerb weight ranges from 1,008kg to 1,080kg) and pleasingly simple cabin, which might seem strange to buyers who assume that refinement should be a byproduct of heavy materials, big engines and interiors honed from wood, leather and granite.

The question is, are the seats, suspension and revamped exterior enough to take Mr Soft into the mainstream, or will the soft-focus Cactus be left between a rock and a hard place?

Going off in search of a fence upon which to perch our cossetted behinds, we’ll say it could go one of two ways. Citroen’s decision to create a niche within the C-segment is both bold and impressive: the Cactus is refreshingly different to anything else in the sector.

But let’s remember, the Cactus has been on sale for four years, during which time Citroen UK has managed to convince just 30,000 punters that innovation is worth making a few sacrifices for. That’s a pretty miserable return for an affordable car, especially when you consider that the Vauxhall Astra, a car in the sales doldrums, managed to find just under 50,000 homes in 2017.

Shift your ideas, make your mind up

2018 Citroen C4 Cactus rear

Sure, the exterior styling should be more universally accessible, but the rear end is bordering on bland, even with fancy LED 3D lights, while the front end has lost its uniqueness within the Citroen range. And, yes, the Airbump panels were, anecdotally, more hated than loved, but they gave the Cactus a real identity.

Speaking of which, note how the Cactus name has been removed from the tailgate, relegated to a single strip on the C-pillar. We wonder how close Citroen came to dropping the name altogether. See also: Skoda Yeti.

Here’s the thing: if the C4 Cactus had premiered in 2018, without the baggage of the original, we’d probably be lauding it for its innovation and courageous attack on a highly-competitive segment. But instead, Citroen has to re-educate those who raged against the machine, delivering the slightly confused message that the Cactus is new and improved.

Some of the quirks – or faults, depending on your point of view – remain, such as the pop-out rear windows, the lack of a rev-counter, and the reliance on a touchscreen for the primary controls. There are two cupholders in the front, but they’re too shallow to be of real use. That said, the suspension is such that you’re hardly going to be tackling bends like Kris Meeke.

The key touchpoints – such as the steering wheel, door handles, and luggage-style grab pulls – remain pleasing to touch, while the ‘Top Box’ glovebox is both useful and aesthetically charming. If nothing else, they provide some balance for the woeful plastics and finishes found elsewhere, such as the way the central bin meets the carpet behind the back of the front seats, and the inside edges of the door pockets.

Deep Purple – or paint it grey?

A punchy and lively 130hp version of the excellent PureTech three-cylinder engine is now available, which is recommended if only for the fitment of the six-speed manual gearbox. In common with the old five-speed ‘box, it’s as precise as a wooden spoon in custard, but it should make long journeys a more comfortable and fuel-efficient experience.

The entry-level PureTech 82 comes with a five-speed manual, as does the mid-range PureTech 110, which can be equipped with a six-speed auto. A BlueHDi 100 diesel completes the engine line-up.

As for customisation, the new C4 Cactus comes with a choice of nine body colours, four exterior packs and four interior ‘ambiences’. Sadly, while Deep Purple metallic remains an option, you’ll no longer find Hello Yellow, Jelly Red or Blue Lagoon listed in the brochure. The new colours are more muted, including three shades of grey, which sounds like a low-rent E.L. James novel.

More positively, the tech has been improved, and now includes a raft of driver-assistance systems, including active safety brake, lane departure warning and speed limit recognition. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are fitted as standard.

Prices start from £17,265, but the entry-level Feel Edition is offered only with the PureTech 82 engine and has to go without the fancy cushion-soft suspension. Better, we’d say, to opt for the standard Feel or more lavish Flair. Or, you could buy a previous generation Cactus…

As for the latest Cactus, it’s probably best to look at it as a prelude to a new future for the Citroen brand. When cars are developed from the ground up with advanced comfort in mind, Citroen will be able to re-establish its place in the market. The C5 Aircross should provide a more revealing demonstration of the new focus, as opposed to a facelifted version of an old model.

When viewed in the context of other facelifts, the new C4 Cactus is genuinely impressive, and it deserves to find a new group of Citroen loyalists. But somehow, while the outgoing model lived long in the memory, the second coming is more forgettable. Easier on the eye, easier to drive and easier to live with, but unable to hit the high notes of before.

Put it this way: a pair of M&S slippers might be comfortable, but you wouldn’t dream of leaving the house with them on your feet. Instead, grab a pair of Air Jordan IIs, complete with full-length Air Bubble, to enjoy comfort and style. Which is why we’d take the new Cactus tech in the old Cactus shell.  

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