Cactus!

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Jodyone
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Cactus!

Post by Jodyone »

I’ve just had a black Citroen Cactus as a courtesy car for the weekend, while our C6 has its cam belt replaced. For those who may be interested in it, I collected some thoughts.

I expected to hate it. The last courtesy cars I had from Citroen didn’t impress me. The DS3 was horribly hard riding, as if set up for a racetrack, yet its gutless engine said shopping trolley. The C4 Picasso had a tortuous gearbox that I never really understood. My expectations weren’t high for the Cactus.

However, I quite like the bumpy side bits, and the overall bearing of the car said “fun” rather than “aggression”, like so many other current cars. I drove off happily, with a bog-ordinary manual gearbox, generally old-fashioned non-automatic bits and bobs (wipers, lights), and a digital display binnacle visible through the steering wheel which reminded me of the C6, which was just then being driven onto the ramps. To my left, somebody had glued a tablet from Tesco onto the dashboard, but no matter- I could deal with that later, and the Cactus trundled cheerily to join the commuter traffic, high-sidewall tyres soaking up the potholes.

It’s fun enough to drive, and feels light and actually quite chuckable. I may not be the best judge of handling: I soon get used to whichever car I’m in and find everything normal. It’s only the odd roundabout anyway and I get scared well before cars lose grip on dry roads. All the reviews say the Cactus is soft-riding. I found it about right (and certainly harder-riding than my Merc W123, which I’ve never had a problem with, even though it’s ancient).

Mine(!) has a petrol engine. I’m not sure which one- haven’t opened the bonnet- but there’s a fancy 3 cylinder turbo available, and I don’t think it’s that one. Not very turbo-y. Fine though, good for 80+ cruising, only suffering on the steep bits of the A30 in cornwall, but most small cars do. I only got 40mpg (motorway+mixed, heavy foot), which didn’t impress me particularly given that I get 37 from the C6, which is about twice the weight and engine. It’s probably much better around town though, which is where the Cactus feels happiest.

The tablet. This thing dominates the dashboard in the middle, and it is a calamity. Most of the ordinary dash controls (ventilation, heating, stereo) have been relegated to touchscreen controls. This alone, is an interface disaster, because it removes tactility from your feedback: you have to look at your hand as you adjust things. Nothing can be done by feel... which just reminds you how used you are to adjusting this stuff by feel. The (basic) Cactus doesn’t have climate control, so I should have adjusted the heater often: not a problem normally, but when you have to prod at one of the most heinous GUI’s in years to effect change, it may be easier to just stay cold.

It really is dreadful. The user interface is -firstly- UGLY: no coherent aesthetic, 2D and 3D effects randomly mixed up, elements aligned as if by paintball; and secondly, functionally awful: screen space is woefully wasted, touch targets are often tiny, functions are scattered randomly across the different screens, and stupid yes/no dialogs confuse simple operations. It all looks like a fansite Winamp skin from 2002, and works like Windows 95 at best. The interface in the C6 isn’t better, but it is more recessive: you don’t have to touch it, and most controls can be handled manually.

Strangely, the main dash is much better designed. It’s even quite nice. The main digital typeface is boxy and playful and fits the car well, and the red-line element that contains it is both a bit silly and a bit stylish, (exactly like a Citroen GS!). The 80’s Tron aesthetic is characterful and feels right. If only the characterless and dysfunctional main display had a bit of its charm!

There are, as I’ve intimated, fundamental reasons why a touchscreen is a bad idea for critical controls. But seeing as it’s there, it could be made much better. I would humbly suggest to Citroen, to start again with a blank slate for the interface. Keep whoever did the Tron display to head up the graphics team, and poach some decent UI designers from SOMEWHERE. Apple, Google, Microsoft might be out of reach, but there are enough clever apps on the app stores, and someone made them. I mean it: redesign the software totally, and the Cactus could become a much lovelier place to be.

The thing is, it almost is quite lovely. I’ve not liked a newish car as much in ages. The interior is minimal, imaginatively designed, quirky, but not childish. The seats are square-edged and nicely shaped, there’s a comfy padded bit on the door armrest, and good quality plastics everywhere. A low point was the chi-chi faux picnic hamper for a glove locker, but maybe I just don’t have quite the right sense of humour for that.

I’m looking forward to getting our car back tomorrow, but I’ll miss l’il Cactus. I never got to try the bumpy sides out either (honest)


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In my defence, the Cactus seemed obsessed with this station, and I was scared to change it in case of crashing... ;)

TRON!
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spider
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Re: Cactus!

Post by spider »

Good review. :)

I'm slightly concerned (read that as frightened to be honest) with combining too many controls into a touch screen from a personal standpoint, this from someone who did work (and may again soon) work with 'tech' stuff...

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Stickyfinger
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Re: Cactus!

Post by Stickyfinger »

Thanks for that....

shame about the Plastic and Lights~over~Logic, you would of thought the French of all people would of retained a knob or two to twiddle.

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NewcastleFalcon
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Re: Cactus!

Post by NewcastleFalcon »

The local Citroen Garage nearest to me has 91.1mpg boldly advertised on its Cactii. I instantly think thats even better than my old Honda 175 :!:

According to their blurb it relates to the "Blue HDi 100 Engine"

"You'll save on fuel with less than 100g/km of CO₂ and a diesel version that emits just 82g/km with extremely low fuel consumption of 91mpg on a combined cycle."

Here's the interior, and the marketing speak to go with it

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"Luggage inspired interior touches, like the leather door handle straps and detailing on the Top Box hint at the world of luxury travel"

regards Neil

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CitroJim
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Re: Cactus!

Post by CitroJim »

Jody, I enjoyed your review greatly, especially as I really quite fancy a Cactus and it may be what I get after my C1..

Thanks for posting up your thoughts...

Jodyone
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Re: Cactus!

Post by Jodyone »

My pleasure, Jim! I've still got the Cactus- they're waiting on some parts for my car... supposedly exchange back tomorrow. I'm still enjoying it, and would probably choose it over any other competitive modern car if I was in such a position. If nothing else, because it doesn't seem angry. I'm so sick of aggression being the primary directive for car design teams. This isn't a military operation- it's just going to Asda.

Newcastlefalcon- that's the engine I DIDN'T get! But, yep, that's the picnic hamper. Sorry- luxury luggage.

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CitroJim
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Re: Cactus!

Post by CitroJim »

Jodyone wrote: If nothing else, because it doesn't seem angry. I'm so sick of aggression being the primary directive for car design teams.
I quite agree and I detest the current fad for the aggressive look... I really wonder how much translates to the driver's attitude and results in a more aggressive and potentially dangerous driving style?

I like the fact it has a bit of Citroen individuality about it...

Trainman
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Re: Cactus!

Post by Trainman »

I sat in one the other, and I thought it kind of felt like a seventies 3 piece suite, I haven't a clue which one it was, but there was something almost 'secure' in the way it made me feel.......... strange really!

I agree about the tablet, although I didn't see it working, It just looks 'plonked' on the dashboard......... the thing that annoyed me was everytime you open the door it 'bleeps' at you, going to work at 4am from a quiet cul-de-sac will have the thinking their alarms have gone off.

The Cactus is certainly quirky enough to be a Citroen, but to colours I've seen are all a bit seventies to and .......... it's just not right....

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CitroJim
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Re: Cactus!

Post by CitroJim »

Trainman wrote:I sat in one the other, and I thought it kind of felt like a seventies 3 piece suite
I hope the driver's seat is not like a settee for my diminutive derrière though...

I like my seats to be cozy..

I must admit, the dash seems to be a bit 'retro' in a pleasant fashion...

ACTIVE8
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Re: Cactus!

Post by ACTIVE8 »

I first saw one prior to the U.K. launch in Spain, and had a look around the outside while on the way to the beach.

It was interesting to see it, as I had read about it in one of the motoring magazines, and was looking forward to seeing one in the metal. :wink:

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Zelandeth
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Re: Cactus!

Post by Zelandeth »

I've only been a passenger in one briefly, so haven't really had the opportunity to see how it works in the real world.

I do have to confess to having a deep seething hatred for all things touch screen (not least because at least 50% of the time they simply decide that my fingers don't exist...including the controls for our hob, which is a real pain when the timer cancel button does that or you've got a pan about to boil over and it refuses to turn down). Especially in a car though where tactile feedback is the bulk of how at least I know whether something has worked or not.

I do admit to having been ergonomically spoiled with how many years I've spent driving Saab 900s, where anything and everything is basically within a foot of the steering wheel, and all high enough up that you never need to take your eye off the road for a fraction of a second. The only exceptions to that rule are the power window/sunroof switches (centre console), but even those fall immediately to hand.

I've only driven a couple of cars with touchscreens involved, and they did in every case I can remember drive me spare. Especially the Audi A3 which even when everything was switched off insisted on displaying a gigantic (and bright!) Audi logo on the screen. ...Having said that, I think that was probably the single least annoying thing about it, so not saying much really...

Shame that the screen sounds like it's so clunky, as other than that I have to admit to really quite liking the Cactus from my brief encounter. For me though it would have to be yellow with the black Airbumps. It's one of the very few cars out there at the moment that I might give serious consideration to if I was actually looking to buy something new...but having every vehicle system controlled through something that's apparently so poorly engineered would definitely be a deal breaker. Ergonomics are something that I do take seriously.

I blame all but learning to drive with a cabin like this.

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Jodyone
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Re: Cactus!

Post by Jodyone »

So I've still got the Cactus- garage took my car for a test drive friday afternoon and a suspension faulty alert came on :? , so I'll have Cactus a few more days yet while they investigate. I'm happy to answer any questions about it! I'm getting quite used to it now.

Zelandeth- that Saab interior is awesome

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CitroJim
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Re: Cactus!

Post by CitroJim »

Jodyone wrote:So I've still got the Cactus
Lucky you! I hope you can keep it a bit longer yet and then we can have a long-term test report :wink:

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Stickyfinger
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Re: Cactus!

Post by Stickyfinger »

@ Zelandeth
My first "good" company car.....all others choosing the Granada, Carltons, BabyMerc 190's...me, I paid extra out of my wages and got a SAAB 900Turbo in Anthacite, man I loved that car and loved the drivers position, not been bettered fof me yet. Pulling magnet or what !

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Re: Cactus!

Post by Northern_Mike »

Stickyfinger wrote:..got a SAAB 900Turbo in Anthacite, man I loved that car and loved the drivers position, not been bettered fof me yet.
Are your legs attached at a funny angle or something? I had 5 of them. Great cars but odd driving position. Crap gearboxes too.

My first company car was a a Berlingo van, then a Rover 418 diesel tourer, then a couple of C Class Mercs then a Honda Civic Type-R!

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