Citroen has jumped on board with Rip Curl for a new special edition C4 Cactus. We find out whether it's swell or a wipeout
What do we have here?
For the past two years, plenty of eager buyers have chosen the Citroen C4 Cactus and it's easy to see why. The Cactus is stylish, has ever-more popular SUV looks but with the running costs similar to that of a small family hatchback.
This new model brings some 'cool' Bondi Beach appeal to the streets of the UK with Australian surfwear brand Rip Curl. There's no escaping the collabration as there are reminders all-around. Above the front wheel arch, the Cactus Rip Curl is tattooed with the firm's trademark pattern while the rear roof pillar features the Rip Curl logo.
Unique to the Rip Curl are the 17in diamond-cut alloy wheels which are wrapped in Goodyear Mud+Snow tyres, a grip control system, white wing mirror housings and white roof rails that look like inverted waterskis. Inside you'll find that the seat belts, speaker surrounds and floor mat stitching are all finished in orange.
Powering the Rip Curl here is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder Puretech petrol engine which develops 109bhp, has start-stop technology and is linked to a five-speed manual gearbox. There's a 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 diesel engine available should you so prefer but it's a £730 premium.
Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, a panoramic sunroof, sat-nav, cruise control and a rear parking camera and sensors.
How does it drive?
Firstly, let's discuss the grip control system and Goodyear Mud+Snow tyres. These make the Cactus Rip Curl more capable of crossing tricky terrain, getting you to those more inaccessible spots where you might find the best waves to surf or a lesser known piste to slalom.
The grip control system has five settings; road, snow, mud, sand and one to turn the traction control off. In combination with the extra grip tyres, the theory is sound, but we didn't notice too much difference on wet roads or a gravelly car park. Although, the Cactus is only front-wheel drive so it's not as capable as a four-wheel drive vehicle.
On the whole, the Rip Curl is little different on the road than other models in the range, meaning you still get a relaxed and comfortable ride. There is plenty of grip when cornering or pulling away from junctions and the steering is light, making it easy to manoeuvre around town.
If you're after something that appeals more dynamically, then a higher riding car, such as this, is unlikely to be the answer. The Cactus does roll a little too much through the bends and the steering feel can be inconsistent, leaving it more suited to cruising along the coast than tearing around hairpins.
Citroen's 1.2-litre Puretech engine suits the Cactus perfectly. It has more than enough oomph with 109bhp and 15lbs ft of torque while careful driving may get you near to the claimed 65.7mpg, although we'd expect more low to mid-50s.
There's plenty of character to the engine and it has a pleasant little growl. It likes to be revved hard and delivers its output consistently, and with max torque arriving at a lowly 1500rpm, it helps make it very flexible. The gearbox lets it down with a lack of gear change precision.
What's it like inside?
It's one of the most interesting interiors of any car on sale today, doing away with tradition and instead focusing on innovation and creativity.
For instance, the instrument binnacle has been replaced by what appears to be a notebook computer, the iPad-looking 7.0in infotainment screen seems to be rising from a polished flute while the glove box appears to have been exchanged for Phileas Fog's travel case complete with leather strap, buckles and studs. All of which sit on a flat shelf that stretches from door to door.
And it works well, although the materials used are quite hard plastics and that leather look, being just that. The dashboard gets a few conventional buttons for demisting the front and rear screens and applying the hazard warning lights. The grip control selector sits on its own in the middle with a useful no-slip shelf below, complete with UBS socket.
The Cactus' high roofline mean it feels light and airy inside but with just one cupholder and only average storage space, it's not the most accommodating.
Neither is the lack of steering wheel adjustment, which only adjusts for tilt and does not move in and out. Add to that that the pedals that are set too far forward and some drivers may find it difficult to find an agreeable driving position. Saying that, the seats are well-sized and comfortable.
The view out to the front and sides is a good one but the over-the-shoulder view is restricted by a thick rear roof pillar, however the standard fit rear parking sensors and camera makes up for some of this reduced visibility.
If you're riding in the back, then you'll want to be on the shorter side as taller passengers will find their head brushing the roof lining and knees nestling into the back of the front seats. Rather oddly for a car this size (ie not a city car) the rear windows don't open fully and instead are side hinged, meaning they will only open a few inches.
At the back, the boot is reasonably large and square, but the presence of a high load lip will make it more strenuous to load heavier items. The rear seats split 40/60 although they don't lie flat and there's a decent step between them and the boot floor.
The Cactus' infotainment system controls the sat-nav, Bluetooth, air conditioning and trip computer as well as the music. It features Citroen's Multicity Connect System which allows you to downloads apps and has 3G internet.
Whichever way you look at it, the C4 Cactus continues to entice and enthral with its unique blend of styling, entertaining interior and low running costs, even if it's not the most practical or best car to drive in its class.
Whether the Rip Curl edition is for you will depend on your need for the grip control system, which could offer more assurances during winter months or get those adrenaline junkies to the next sporting thrill spot, although a four-wheel drive rival may make more sense.
On the face of it, it's over £1,700 more than the better value Feel edition and ultimately a Skoda Yeti is better to drive while a Nissan Qashqai is more improessive all round.