03:06PM, Friday 07 February 2020
Citroen UK enjoyed 2019 volume growth of 2.4 per cent, against an overall market shrinking by 2.4 per cent during the same period.
While the C3 supermini was the brand’s best-selling UK car, Citroën’s SUV offensive also continued to deliver results, thanks to C3 Aircross Compact SUV and New C5 Aircross SUV securing second and third place respectively in terms of Citroen’s 2019 car registrations.
With its current 'swappage' scheme offering £5,000 above the trade-in value for cars part exchanged for a new Citroen (£3,000 for the diminutive C1) until March 31st, Citroen sales should see even bigger growth in the first quarter of this year. To qualify, the trade-in must have been owned by the buyer for more than 90 days and have been registered before January 1, 2014. If you downsize carefully, in theory you could drive away with a new Citroen and cash in hand!
What became obvious across the majority of the Citroen range during 2019 was that buyers were shying away from the budget cars, instead going for the Flair or Flair+ versions. In the case of the new C5 Aircross SUV those trim levels accounted for 98 per cent of sales, perhaps to be expected in a market sector where people think big.
Elsewhere in the range, C4 Cactus Hatch continued to outperform the UK market, posting full year growth of five per cent. Top of the range Flair trim accounted for 78 per cent of C4 Cactus Hatch sales in 2019; that may be 20 per cent back on the C5 Aircross but with a smaller, economy-focused, car you might expect cost-cutting buyers to want the cheapest they can get.
However, talking to a Ford salesman while we had the Cactus it became obvious that Citroen buyers are not alone in this desire for luxury. Ford has the Vignale name for its best models and biggest demand is among Focus and Fiesta customers even though it is offered more widely in larger cars, including the Kuga SUV that equals the C5 Aircross.
We could say it was our ability to read the market that had resulted in us booking a Cactus Flair BlueHDi 120 EAT6 as our first road test car of the New Year but the trim level because we wanted super-sized supermini in an urban environment-friendly format with an automatic gearbox.
It’s immediately striking that despite flat-looking seats the C4 Cactus is supremely comfortable. The seats themselves are supportive and combined with the “progressive hydraulic cushions” in the suspension the car is able to iron out even severe bumps and potholes, although the evidence of their presence is there in the crash from the suspension. That’s no bad thing because, to take care of the tyres, you still need to avoid the worst of them.
With the smooth six speed auto gearbox, progress in the C4 Cactus can be best described as serene. That’s not to say it’s soporific because with the 1.5 litre diesel engine of the test car there’s good performance – a top speed of 125 mph and 0-62 mph time of 8.7 seconds would put you up there with the Saab 99 Turbo of yesteryear. The Saab, though, would not even get to the 56 mpg we achieved in the Cactus and would never have matched its CO2 figure of 103 g/km even if Saab buyers of the day had been aware of how significant this figure would become.
This newer Cactus looks bigger and bolder than the first version of the car but there are carry-over features such as the hinged flaps for rear windows rather than drop glass, a good feature in a family car as children can’t get their heads out! There’s a decent boot although leg space might be tight for adults travelling in the back so careful front seat positioning will be required.
That’s rarely going to be an issue for the nuclear family with its 2.4 children – the rear seat will take three and there are ISOFix top-tether fittings in place for the outer two positions. The seat split folds for versatility and the boot is deep, although the load lip is also high. Still, that stray apple won’t roll out when you open the boot!
Car: Citroen Cactus Flair BlueHDi 120 EAT6
Does it fit your ego...
0-62 mph: 8.7 secs
Top speed: 125 mph
PS: 120 @ 3,750 rpm
Torque: 300 Nm @ 1,750 rpm
...and your wallet...
Combined: 52.9 – 58.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 103 g/km
Best bits: affordability with flair!