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What is the new Citroen C4 Cactus?
It is, in a nutshell, a C4 hatch that's been jacked up, had 200kg of heft trimmed out of it, and then been wrapped in Citroen's seriously cool new design language. That includes the new 'Airbump technology', an innovative way of stylising a protector strip into the doors of the C4: pockets of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) filled with air. It's a bit like bubble wrap. Citroen reckons you could run a shopping trolley along the side of the C4 Cactus and the Airbumps will save it from damage. We'll leave that to someone else to try…

The same TPU material stretches over pockets under the LED daytime running lights and lower headlamps, as well as adorning the space between the rear lights, with raised Citroen lettering in the same colour. It certainly makes the Cactus stand out from the crowd - and suggests Citroen may be back on quirky form.

The Airbumps can be had in one of four shades that contrast the Cactus's paint, and, with the crisp, sharp design language, gives this car so much character that we were bowled over before we'd actually driven it. Look closely: even the way the gloss black roof rails are designed is thoughtful and edgy.

What about inside the cabin of the Citroen C4 Cactus?
The design adventure carries on in the Cactus's spacious cabin: there's loads to soak up, from the comfy 'sofa' style front seats, which are surprisingly well bolstered and supportive, to the sturdy door pulls that designer Mark Lloyd says were inspired by suitcase handles.

The seats are covered in a thick, premium cloth and while the driver's chair has loads of adjustment, the squircle-shaped steering wheel has only up-and-down adjustment, but not reach, which limits the driving position. That wheel is wrapped in leather and has a gloss black lower spokes, while splashes of piano black and silver adorn the textured dash. It all belies the price of this car: our Feel model - the middle of three trim levels - will cost around £17,500 in the UK. Final Citroen C4 Cactus spec and prices have yet to be announced.

Reckon you've seen this car before? The C4 Cactus was inspired by 2007's Citroen C-Cactus concept car. Just goes to show how long lead times are in the car industry...

The new C4 Cactus is a step change for Citroen: its character and charm will win you over, and the more you spend time with it, Lloyd's design philosophy of simplicity and lack of pretentiousness only add to its delights. This car sets a template for pleasingly distinctive, back-to-basics Citroens in future, and we can't wait to see them.

The perceived quality is high - its cabin puts a Nissan Juke interior to shame, especially for the price - and the driving experience is competent and satisfying. Fiat has the hideous 500L, but could the Citroen C4 Cactus be the genuine design icon of the SUV world? It's a strong offering and should have its rivals worried.

Read the full review here:


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