Citroen and the famous surf brand Rip Curl have joined forces to create the C4 Cactus Rip Curl Special Edition, a small Crossover with a bit of extra attitude. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Citroen C4 Cactus has returned the French brand to its innovative roots and sells to buyers looking for a small but practical crossover with a bit of extra individuality. These people will, the company thinks, be particularly interested in the limited edition version we look at here, the 'Rip Curl' model, which features some unique interior and exterior styling enhancements, plus introduces the brand's 'Grip Control' traction system to the range for the first time.
Isn't it good when a company goes back to doing what it does best? Take Citroen. For years in the modern era, the marque simply copied the products of its group partner Peugeot - but no longer. The latest C3 supermini shows that very well, but it was a trend started by the car we look at here, the C4 Cactus.
In this case, we're reviewing a special edition version, but quite an important one. This 'Rip Curl' model looks even more distinctive than the standard design and features some key extra equipment items incorporated into what Citroen hopes will be perceived as a value package price.
The 'Rip Curl' package doesn't include an engine or dynamic changes and there's the choice between the pokiest petrol and the pokiest diesel unit you can get in the standard range. That means a 110PS PureTech three cylinder 1.2-litre petrol powerplant and a 100PS 1.2-litre BlueHDi diesel. There's no auto gearbox option. Standard - for the first time on a Cactus model - is what Citroen calls 'Grip Control'. This intelligent traction system allows drivers to select different modes to deal with the types of surfaces encountered as part of an adventurous outdoor lifestyle, such as snow, mud and sand.
And on the road? Well it probably won't surprise you to learn that the C4 Cactus doesn't break any new ground as a driver's car. That's not to say that Citroen hasn't applied its design genius to improving this car's responses. It's extremely light. The three-cylinder petrol model weighs in at just 1,020kg, which is around 200kg less than an equivalent C4, which helps it get the most out of its modest engines. Citroen has engineered the suspension set-up for comfort rather than outright handling focus and the power steering is geared towards ease of use in cities.
Design and Build
This 'Rip Curl' model is identifiable by its white-finished roof rails and door mirrors and its 17-inch diamond cut 'Cross' alloy wheels. Otherwise though, the design package is much as it is with any other C4 Cactus model. Which means that the first thing your passengers and neighbours will want to talk about is the so-called 'Airbump' panels that decorate both flanks. Looking for all the world like a pair of puncture repairs on the side of the C4 Cactus, these thermoplastic polyurethane mouldings have air capsules inside to help absorb car park nerfs and nudges. They also look pretty cool, as indeed does the rest of the C4 Cactus.
The body marries smooth curves with bold, planar surfaces, indented with slick details like the Airbumps, the slot-like daytime running lights and the arc-like roof rails. There's a lot to take in. The cabin has had a lot of design effort poured into it. Everything feels soft and relaxing, with squidgy seats and a simplified dash that features a touch screen to house most of the minor controls. In an industry first, the passenger airbag is housed in the roof, freeing up the dash area to feel lighter and airier. The front seat is bench-like but only seats two and cost and weight has been taken out of the rear with the simple, non-split rear seat and the basic front-hinged rear windows. There's a 358-litre boot, extendable to 1,170-litres.
Market and Model
There's a premium of around £1,600 for the 'Rip Curl' package, which means that pricing fr this derivative starts at around £18,500 for the PureTech petrol model, rising to around £19,200 for the BlueHDi diesel variant. So, what do you get for that? Well, this Special Edition boasts Rip Curl graphics on the wings and rear quarter-lights, plus white roof rails and door mirrors, orange seatbelts, orange detailing on the audio speakers, orange-trimmed carpet mats and a panoramic glass roof. Standard equipment also includes aluminium-effect front and rear bumper protectors, rear parking sensors, a colour reversing camera, automatic air conditioning, automatic headlights and wipers, satellite navigation, a 6-speaker MP3 audio system, cruise control with a speed limiter and tinted rear windows.
Plus there's the 'Grip Control' system for enhanced slippery surface traction, which works with the standard Goodyear 4 seasons Mud+Snow tyres. Rip Curl buyers choose between five striking body colours - Obsidian Black (metallic), Arctic Steel (metallic), Pearl White (pearlescent), Sport Red and Tapenade Grey. All versions come complete with Citroen's innovative Airbump technology, which is designed to avoid scrapes and scratches to the bodywork.
Cost of Ownership
Weighing from just 965kg, the model is 200kg lighter than an equivalent Citroen C4. As a result, Citroen has been able to adopt smaller engines to improve efficiency, without compromising driveability. Combined with ultra-low rolling resistance tyres, the latest-generation PureTech petrol and BlueHDi diesel engines offer a responsive drive whilst delivering impressive combined fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures. To be specific, the PureTech 110 version manages 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and 100g/km of CO2. Meanwhile, the BlueHDi 100 variant delivers 78.5mpg and 95g/km.
In 'Rip Curl' form, the Citroen C4 Cactus looks a more credible crossover contender, with a well-judged package of enhancements that delver the kind of style and individuality that many likely buyers will be seeking. Find one of these in the showroom alongside a standard model and you're going to want to try and find the extra £1,600 or so to own it.
Assuming, of course, that you're sold on the whole idea of a 4 Cactus in the first place. We think you might be. There's something refreshingly different about this design, yet it's also class-leadingly practical and efficient. That's a rare combination of virtues.