Say what you will about the aesthetics of French car design, and I’m guessing many see the C-Cactus concept as the automotive equivalent of a dry-heave, but if anything, they take bold chances. Very rarely are they accused of not making some kind of statement. But although the Citroen C-Cactus continues a French tradition of presenting oddball cars to the world, thankfully, there is LESS to this car than meets the eye.
The use of “cactus” in the car’s designation is a tip of the hat to the stingy water-sipping plant and a reference to the vehicle’s economical use of materials. The construction of the car is significantly derived from recycled or recyclable materials, it uses far less parts to manufacture than most cars, and it also features a hybrid HDi drivetrain, which produces an extremely low amount of CO2 emissions. Based on the C4 hatchback, the idea of this car is to build a new vehicle that does away with all but the most basic equipment. It is so ecological that the dashboard has been completely removed. The usual amount of equipment that is contained on the dash is moved to either the steering wheel itself, or to the spacey-looking center console, which includes the stereo speakers, the gearbox controls and touch screen for interacting with the satellite navigation and the cooling/heating controls. The steering wheel hub houses the speedometer and tach. Citroen’s eco-friendly vehicle doesn’t even have the usual ignition key. It uses a portable MP3 player that plugs into the fixed hub of the steering wheel and enables the engine.
Citroen explains that other techniques have been employed that show a greater respect the environment, such as using fewer parts in the construction of the vehicle to make it 15% lighter than a C4 Hybrid HDi. The door panels in a conventional hatchback are usually made up of 12 part. The C-Cactus has trimmed this down to just two large parts, and the same priciple has been applied to almost everything in the car. Since it uses about half the number of parts than most cars use, logically, the price comes down to reflect the lower production costs. Outside, the design which is roughly the size of a Mini, features a pair of circular headlights (a la Mini) and two large air intakes that look, well, kind of stupid. The concept is powered by an efficient hybrid HDi diesel engine. The options for propulsion includes a silent, all-electric operation at lower speeds, using zero fuel. The four-cylinder HDi engine produces 70 horsepower and is mated to a 30-hp electric motor.
Around town, the car operates in zero-emissions, all-electric mode, while on the highway the diesel particulate filter helps reduce emissions. Average fuel economy is a respectable 69 mpg and the car has a top speed of 93mph. Citroen expects a vehicle such as the C-Cactus to be priced similarly to an entry-level C4.
While surely not everyone’s cup of tea, as we continue on the eco-path of car manufacturing there are many individual innovations in this car that will probably be adopted by other automakers.