We drive Citroën’s latest AirBump update to see if it cuts the road trip mustard.
WORDS & PICTURES BY CHRIS ROWLANDS
Selecting a compact SUV for your next great road trip is not a task to be taken lightly. One wrong decision and you’re stuck dealing with a roller that’s all grunt and no go.
With the keys to Citroën’s latest C4 Cactus in our hand, then, we set out to determine whether this lumpy number will do for road-going journey-makers.
At first sight, there’s no denying that the Cactus offers something unique over similarly-sized SUVs. With a high, boxy nose, slit headlights and AirBump sides, if it’s understated class you’re after then this probably isn’t the beast you need.
Still, there’s a certain sort of style to the redesigned front end – even if it looks a little better on the smaller C3 variant. Choose the right colour (red or black, we’d say) and it’s almost aggressive, in a squinty way.
Sadly, the interior feels a little lacklustre compared to what is, in many lights, a playful exterior design. It’s all simple, chunky practicality, rather than a touch of luxury (which goes for the clunky SatNav and infotainment system, too).
That’s the case with the seating as well, which offers limited adjustability, and feels far more budget than the car’s modern looks would have you believe.
At least there’s plenty of baggage space, with the true SUV scale of the C4 only apparent when you actually take a seat. Leg room is plentiful in the front (a little more cramped in the rear) with a good chunk of boot capacity to fill with camping kit and road trip necessities.
You’ll also find the C4 Cactus to be kind to your rear. Whilst the softer suspension makes body roll an issue (and does little to enhance any sportier moments), the comfortable spring setup means it’s happy at load and unlikely to jolt you around – even on the rough stuff.
The same can’t necessarily be said for the motor. Our automatic petrol variant was certainly grunty, but puffed out pretty quickly as it worked through the gears (often erratically), feeling far more comfortable in urban environments than cruising or climbing.
That said, road noise was pretty minimal and handling was more responsive than in other SUVs of the C4’s size, with decent weight and speed, and good responsiveness at crawl.
Take the C4 Cactus on a long trek, then, and you’ll quickly become aware of its numerous niggles; all the same, there’s still plenty of fun to be found in its design, handling and, sometimes, its power.
Throw in the ability to get decent mileage out of a single tank (thanks in part to stop/start tech) and you could get far worse for your cash.
Would we buy it? Probably not. Would be happy using it as a road trip hire car for a week? Absolutely.