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Available to order now, the Citroen C4 Cactus is a world away from anything we've seen on Britian's roads before. There's literally nothing like it. Therefore we thought it would be best to take you through it using words, images and video, and hopefully explain why it is featured on What Car?'s shortlist for the most exciting car to be released in 2014.

Citroen Cactus door panel

C4 Cactus Design
 
C4 Cactus Profile: Distinctive Alloys and Airbump Panels

The Citroen C4 Cactus is named after a regular C4, and is similar in size (it has the exact same wheelbase), but has a much higher driving position and a bulbous, unique exterior. It is however 200kg lighter than a regular C4 at 965kg, thanks to a compact and lightweight platform, and the omission of certain unnecessary features in favour of more lightweight solutions such as pop-out rear windows (-11kg) and a single-piece folding rear bench seat (-6kg). The C4 also makes use of lightweight materials such as aluminium to help keep the weight down further. This lack of weight benefits the ride, handling and most of all the fuel economy, which we'll come on to later. There are no sharp edges inside or outside of the C4 Cactus. There is however an abundance of smooth surfaces, flowing lines and unique features - helping the C4 Cactus stand out from the crowd. The floating roof - first seen on the DS3 - is back, as are LED daytime running lights at the front.

Moving the wheels to the corners of the car allows for much shorter overhangs, maximising interior space while maintaining compact exterior dimensions - it's just 4.16m long and 1.73m wide.

Airbump Technology

A first for Citroen, and a first for the UK car market, Airbump is a new piece of technology that protects the doors, boot and front bumper corners from dings and scrapes. Think about it, how many times have you returned to your car in a multi-story or supermarket car park and found a dint or a scratch caused by other inconsiderate road users? Airbump hopes to end all that heartache, and comprises of a plastic outer skin that is filled with air capsules that absorb impacts from car doors or shopping trolleys, leaving your bodywork intact.

There is nothing to maintain with Airbump, and it's purely there as a method of further cutting the cost of motoring. The panels are available in four different colours - Black, Grey, Dune & Chocolate and compliment the 10 exterior colours very well indeed.

Inside the New C4 Cactus
 
C4 Cactus - Unique Interior and Dashboard

The interior has been a revelation amongst journalists, with them labelling it everything from 'serene' to 'homely'. Comfort was a major priority for the C4 Cactus engineers - the front seats are designed 'in the style of a sofa' and the rear seats benefit from excellent leg room. The boot is fairly large, too, with a 358-litre offering.
 
C4 Cactus: Sofa-like seats

A huge panoramic roof stretches from the front to the back of the vehicle, and provides the best available heat protection on the market, filtering light as efficiently as category-4 sunglasses to protect occupants from UV rays and reflecting heat to ensure the cabin doesn't get too hot in the summer - there's no need for a sunblind whatsoever.

C4 Technology

A 7-inch touchscreen interface is standard inside every Cactus, and this is used to control all the vehicle functions such as the automatic air conditioning, the radio and navigation, reversing camera, cruise control, hands-free Bluetooth telephone system and all other media. It also includes an on-board interactive manual - doing away with the paper versions no one really ever reads. There's also a range of apps available for the system:

Coyote - Provides you with alerts on 'high-risk' roads

Fuel - Locates your nearest and cheapest filling stations

Yellow Pages/Trip Advisor - For locating restaurants and hotels on the move

Michelin Traffic - Provides the driver with live traffic information, helping them to keep moving

Back of the Citroen Cactus

Driver aids

C4 Cactus: Striking Rear End

There are plenty of other technologies available for the C4 Cactus that makes it easier and more enjoyable to drive.

There's a self-park function, which can identify and manoeuvre the car into a space without the driver having to operate the steering wheel at all. If you decide that's too space-age, the reversing camera allows you to manually navigate into tight spaces by providing you with a useful view on the central touchscreen.

On hills with gradients of over 3%, Hill-Start Assist keeps the Cactus still for a couple of seconds after the brakes are released, to avoid dropping back before the accelerator is applied. Another addition to the Cactus is an extra beam of light in the headlamps, illuminating the inside of corners to improve visibility and safety levels.

Another clever and interesting feature is the 'Smart Wash' windscreen washer nozzles, which are built into the windscreen wiper arms themselves - allowing for a much smaller amount of fluid to be released, eliminating the age-old problem of vastly reduced visibility while the windscreen washers are in operation. It also allows for a smaller washer fluid bottle, which saves weight and cuts costs for owners who will have to fill it up far less often. It all adds up.

C4 Cactus Engines

There's a choice of three engines, two petrols and one diesel.

We'll start with the petrols, and it's a case of turbo or non-turbo. The non-turbo, naturally aspirated PureTech VTi is Citroen's newest engine, and is designed for maximum efficiency - emitting less than 100 g/km, meaning free road tax. The Turbo is calibrated for performance, but still manages over 60mpg combined and a low 107 g/km CO2 figure.

If you want the maximum possible efficiency however, you'll want the Blue HDi diesel engine in your C4 Cactus. Thanks to that 200kg weight saving over a regular C4, the 1.6 diesel model manages a huge 91.1mpg on the combined cycle, emitting just 82 g/km of CO2 along the way, meaning free road tax.

The Citroen C4 Cactus is available to order from Evans Halshaw Citroen now, and deliveries will start later in the year. Contact your nearest Citroen dealership now for more information or to pre-book a test drive.