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Citroen C-Cactus

Published: 03 September 2007

Citroen C-Cactus: the lowdown

Get the prickly jokes out of the way now; Citroen is deadly serious about its new C-Cactus. Its risible name was apparently picked - groan - because it's low on consumption like the spiky desert plant... Yes, it's yet another green concept car, designed to showcase a company's commitment to saving the planet. But look past the silly name and you can see some good thinking from the Citroen design team in Paris. It all adds up to a car the same size as a C4, but capable of a parsimonious 97.4 miles on every gallon of diesel.

Eighty-three miles per gallon. That's good!

It certainly is. PSA is developing a hybrid system for launch in the 308/C4 by the end of the decade. And, unlike the Japanese, the French are allying their electric motors with diesel engines, not petrols. Citroen won't say yet which engine is in the 70bhp C-Cactus, but we suspect it's the 1.4. Previous concepts have used the 110bhp 1.6 HDI, but as the two engines are related it looks as if PSA is investigating hybrid versions of both. As well as 97.4mpg and the ability to run on electric only power for short bursts around town, the C-Cactus pumps out a paltry 78g/km of CO2. Perfect for trimming your tax bills.

Ok, so tell me more about the Cactus' design

Apparently we shouldn't read too much into the look of this car. Unlike the Citroen C5 Airscape also being shown at Frankfurt, the Cactus is not a thinly veiled production car and portends no new roundel-inspired design obsession in Paris. However, it's no mere flight of fancy, either. The designers and engineers have tried to go back to basics with its construction, and we could see some of this lightweight thinking influence future PSA products.

Lightweight you say? It doesn't look very stripped out!

The C4-sized Cactus is no featherweight. In fact, it tips the scales at 1180kg, but Citroen points out this is no mean feat for a hybrid replete with bulky batteries. But where it has saved weight is in the interior, which uses 200 components - roughly half the usual number of cabin parts. So there's no conventional dashboard, with all the major controls on the fixed steering wheel hub and centre console, and the windows are fixed so there's no need for heavy winding mechanisms (there's a small sliding flap to pick up toll tickets). This back-to-basics design philosophy is evident throughout the Cactus; there's not even a lift-up bonnet, Audi A2-style. Citroen has shown a raft of interesting concepts in recent years; and although we're disappointed it's taking so long to bring hybrids to market, it's good to see the French are still producing quirky show cars. Let's just hope more of this thinking spills into its production cars soon.

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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