Cactus divests quirky diesel for smooth petrol

Citroen’s Cactus should seem a less prickly proposition thanks to a price drop and drivetrain change.


ONE of the more characterful contenders in the compact crossover segment should enjoy a stronger run now that its thorniest issues have been pruned in a mid-life update.

So suggests, Auto Distributors New Zealand, which recently took over national sales rights to Citroen, in respect to it having moved to revitalising the quirky C4 Cactus by retiring its controversial turbodiesel and automated manual drivetrain in favour of a more energetic smaller petrol married to an orthodox auto.

In doing so, it has also been able to pull $5000 from the previous sticker price, repositioning a model that had sited at $37,990 model to a more consumer-pleasing $32,990 placement.

Chris Brown, CEO for ADNZ, says the outgoing model suffered from being in a high sensitivity sector, but also conceded the drivetrain potentially also challenged.

"In New Zealand with so much choice, the market is hugely price sensitive," he commented today.

"The thresholds are subtle but telling. Couple the old price with a diesel engine and an unfamiliar gearbox and it simply put too many barriers in the way for the majority of the motoring public.

"We don’t expect Cactus to be a volume model, but it certainly deserves a bigger audience and we’re confident the combination of the new price, gearbox and engine will give it higher appeal.

"The continued growth in SUV provides us with good opportunities. However Cactus polarizes, and I like that about the vehicle, the car takes a pragmatic view of everyday life, it takes everyday bumps and bruises in its stride, it’s a carefree and confident design that stands out," he ventured.

"It’s a  philosophy that isn’t for everyone and regardless of how much we like the car, that is the ceiling on its volume. We’d like to sell 10 a month, it deserves more."

The irony about this update is that it could have conceivably occurred when the car first introduced back in 2015, had PSA allowed it.

At that time, the snazzy 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol and six-speed automatic Cactus now goes forward with had already entrenched into not just the Peugeot 308/208 families but also the C4 hatch from which the Cactus directly derives.

However, Cactus was denied what was then portrayed as a game-changer powerplant, accurately as it turned. It snatched the coveted 2015, 2016 and 2017 International Engine of the Year award in the 1.0-litre to 1.4-litre category.

Nonetheless, Citroen France at that time seemed to think that as a kind of crossover – though barely so, being front-drive (with no four-wheel-drive option) and not all that elevated – Cactus would do better with a 1.6-litre turbodiesel and an orthodox six-speed manual that used a robotic clutch for gearshifting, hence the divestment of a clutch pedal.

Perhaps that worked on home turf, but lacklustre local registrations in this market – just 39 in 2015 (a count that would have included the press cars and a swag of fleet demonstrators) and 18 last year, according to official statistics – tell a different story.

MotoringNetwork’s thoughts of the car can be found in the roadtest section. But basically, our determination was that it needed the drivetrain it has now because, while the 68kW/230Nm diesel was decent in its own right, the so-called ETG was a letdown due to inconsistent, often horribly abrupt gear change characteristics.

As I said: “The biggest appeal of an automated-manual gearbox is that it provides outstanding fuel economy …the worst is … well, drive it and you’ll find out.”

The update combination delivers more power (lifting to 81kW) and 25Nm less torque and isn’t as fuel efficient – with Citroen citing 5.1-litres per 100km optimal against the diesel’s claimed 3.9.

However, it should surely not be as polarising. Certainly, the six-speed auto, which comes from Aisin, has always appealed in other PSA product; being smooth yet still quick to react to differing driver mood.

The box features a Sport mode as well as a Snow mode for driving in low-traction situations, plus it has stop/start technology and hill assist. As before, the delivery is sent exclusively to the front wheels.

The price drop has not hurt the specification, which embraces a seven-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, a full colour reversing camera, rear parking sensors, LED day time running lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, as well as Bluetooth connectivity and media streaming.

It also continues to push as a car that can be highly personalised. Citroen reminds that with eight body colours, four colours of the Airbump rubber side panels, two colours of wheels and three choices of interior trim, the car lends itself to 184 different trim and colour combinations “so everyone can create their own version of an urban utilitarian vehicle.”

Also availed is opportunity to match the colour of the exterior paint, Airbump side panels and wheels, albeit this OneTone option comes with just two paint hues – Metallic Obsidien Black with black Airbump and 17-inch wheels, or Pearlescent Perle White with Dune grey Airbump and two-tone 17-inch white hoops.

The white option also adds white roof bars and door mirrors.