Citroën Cactus: Prickly When Wet

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Established music history tells us that on 14th November 1952, the first UK record chart was published in the New Musical Express. (Later to become the NME). Crooner Al Martino became the first artist to have a No 1 single in the UK charts and was the only record to make No. 1 in 1952.

The UK Top 40 Chart embraced the digital age as it became more relevant to the record buying public as more and more people began downloading music and digital music inevitably became more mainstream. In 2005 the BBC Chart Show played its last UK top 40 show based on record sales alone and digital downloads were included along with physical record sales, albeit with very strict rules as to what could be counted and what could be excluded for the very first time.

It is the Official UK Charts Company who are responsible for the Official UK Music Charts to this day and provide the information for the Radio 1 Chart Show on a Friday afternoon.

Even the most liberal of Pop Music fans would have to admit that there is a rather Gallic element present in the music produced over the other side of the channel. Music which tends to discuss L’Amour doesn’t appear to go down well with the single buying public today. Looking over which French artists have spent the highest number of weeks in the Top 40 we have Honeyz at 36 weeks whose biggest hit was Finally Found, Milli Vanilli at 25 weeks and at 25 weeks, the talents of Jane Birkin and Sereg Gainsbourg. It is with Daft Punk at 22 weeks where we finally get to a group accepted by the mainstream, one with a certain beat that is comfortable and reassuring to us restrained Brits.

Now think about the outrageous flair present in some of the more famous vehicles to have rolled of the production lines in France. A quick look at an excellent article from The Telegraph Motoring website at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/picturegalleries/8636876/Top-10-French-cars-for-Bastille-Day.html?image=0 gives a superb rundown of their top 10 French cars, featuring such quirky and unusual stars as the Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic, the Citroën DS and the utterly insane Delahaye 175. Each of the vehicles feature their own idiosyncratic features such as bizarre styling, strangely shaped steering wheels and amazingly complex and baffling suspension systems. Yet over the last decade, our French cousins appeared to have lost interest in their natural leaning toward the avant-garde and have been producing dull and humdrum cars that have been bland and utterly forgettable.

So step forward the Citroën C4 Cactus. A car that rewrites the rules of what a Focus sized family hatchback can and perhaps should be. The test car provided for MotorMartin was the mid range Feel variant, although as shown later, this mid range model was still high on specification and value.

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The Cactus sorted by Citroën for MotorMartin was a 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 manual diesel which has been designed to meet the new and strict Euro 6 emissions regulations. With 91 bhp on tap, emissions of 90 g/kg co2 and delivering a claimed 83.1 mpg combined, the Cactus should be a car that the average family can run within a strict budget. Of further interest to families and anyone who appreciates simple value for money is that the Cactus has given us a further, even more compelling reason to take the plunge into the newly recreated bonkers French car segment. The Cactus starts at just £12990 and rises to £18290 with the model tested coming in at £16690. Excellent value in my opinion.

But there’s been no mention yet of the elephant in the room, the elephant that I’ve so far managed to ignore despite it’s size and position directly in view.

With groups such as Daft Punk and Air making us happy once again to spend time with the more conventional French talent on the wireless it would be somewhat of a shock to suddenly hear Milli Vanilli returned and climbing swiftly up to no. 1 and it is a surprise of the same magnitude that you experience when you first set your eyes upon the Citroën C4 Cactus. Perhaps the most controversial decision made by the team behind the C4 was the size, look and function of the large panels prominently positioned on both sides of the car. I’ll leave it to the design team to explain their thinking in the video below.

Sensible thinking but terrible application or innovative and exciting? It’s certainly a styling decision that would appear to polarise opinion. I love the look of the Cactus, I think Citroën have really thought about the use of this vehicle, where it is going to be most vulnerable and tried to do something about it in a interesting and novel way. The colour choices are bold and interesting with the front of the car being of particular note.

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The slightly raised look of a SUV dominates the grill area with the thin strip of lights snaking around both corners rounding off the striking frontage. Citroën carries on the airbump© theme around the edges of both front and rear of the vehicle protecting the areas of likely impact from bumps and scrapes allowing for extra confidence during every day use.

Overall the styling is interesting, imaginative and bold. The roof bars and overall look suggest a tough, do anything motor and one that, if you think about it logically, is ideally suited to day to day driving in the UK.

Keep checking back at the end of the week for part 2 where MotorMartin will be considering the tech and driving impressions given by this quirky Cactus.

Where will you go?

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