I’d like to start this month’s test with a big thank you to DS Dalgleish Citroen in Coldstream.
Not long after filing last month’s piece, the Cactus and I had a disagreement with a large piece of roadkill (already dead, I hasten to add) which left the Citroen making some rather worrying noises.
A quick call to Citroen pointed me in their direction and within a day the source of the noise — a very bent support strut — was discovered and repaired, allowing me to go on my eye-searing way again.
That means more pottering about enjoying the Cactus’ lively 1.2-litre petrol engine and smooth, floaty ride. Both of which make it a pleasure to drive around town and on the open road.
Sadly, not everything is quite so rosy.
Spending an extended period with any car means the model’s hidden foibles start to become apparent.
In the Cactus’ case most of these are to be found in the cabin. It looks good, with its leather straps for door pulls and studded and chrome-embellished glovebox, but using it isn’t quite so pleasant.
My colleague Steven previously complained about the armrest that rendered the handbrake unusable and this is still a niggle. You can move it out of the way for city driving — when the handbrake is important— then drop it down for longer cruising but this isn’t even an issue in rivals.
Also annoying are the cupholders. Not only are they not wide enough to hold a standard drinks can but they’re so shallow that anything that does fit in falls over the instant you go round a corner. When a popular Japanese tea maker redesigned their bottles Nissan spent £10,000 restyling the Qashqai’s door pockets to accommodate them. I’m not asking for such slavish attention to detail, but it would have been nice if someone at Citroen had at least looked at the holders before signing off.
It’s little things like this, equally impractical stowage spaces and the lack of any physical controls for the air con that make you suspect far more time was spent on how the Cactus looks than how it actually works.
More of a pain, figuratively and literally, are the seats.
Citroen declares that “the wide front seats in the Citroen C4 Cactus were designed with a comfy sofa in mind.” They’re certainly like a sofa in that they’re squishy, wide and completely lacking in any kind of support.
For someone with a chronically bad back the super soft cushions and lack of lumbar support feel like punishment for past sins. Even short drives have left me aching and I’ve actually avoided using the Cactus for a couple of long runs for fear of the state the seats will leave me in.
Seats are very subjective and they might well really suit some people but to not even offer optional lumbar support in a car that packs in so many other fancy features is a poor show.
It’s a shame that such things let the Cactus down because it’s not all bad in the cabin.
Seats aside, passengers are well catered for. There’s plenty of room all round, even for those in the back. And the panoramic sunroof specified on our car really helps make it feel like a big, airy space.
It’s also quiet and smooth once the three-cylinder engine has settled into a cruise, meaning that if you can live with the seats, it’s a nice place to spend time.
What’s more, the boot is a healthy 358 litres with the rear seats in place, meaning there’s a good amount of space for luggage or shopping or, in my case, a pushchair so big many hatchbacks struggle to accommodate it.
The Cactus is due to get a new super-smooth suspension arrangement soon. This seems like another example of focussing on the wrong area. The ride’s fine as it is, time could have been better spent improving the driving experience instead.