We’ve long been fans of the eccentric French auto industry, a nation that can replace the traditional brake pedal with a button called the champignon, or mushroom, or proudly fall in love with a car whose name, the 2CV, roughly translates into “two horses.”
There are models with names like the Renault Twingo and Twizzy, and some of the most distinctive, if not off-the-wall, designs we have seen short of the concept cars at the biennial Tokyo Motor Show. And once again, the French are pushing the envelope with the new Citroen C4 Cactus. But despite what the name might suggest, there are no pricks on the outside of these cars.
In line with the French maker’s “Creative Technology” mandate, both the front and rear door panels of the Cactus, as well as the back bumper, are, instead, covered with a material that looks almost like oversized bubble wrap.
A blend of wagon and ute, the Citroen C4 Cactus is the first car to use what the maker calls “Air Bumps.” More than just rubber padding, they actually have a springiness that can resist those everyday dings one can take on crowded urban streets and when squeezing into tight Parisian parking lots.
The contrasting color panels are made of molded thermoplastic polyurethane and those bumps are actually air-filled pockets. While they won’t replace a car’s side-impact airbags, and won’t ward off the impact of another car that’s run a red light, they should be strong enough to reduce the number of dents the average urban motorist might otherwise experience.
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The air bumps are just part of the unusual styling, the front of the Cactus also adopt split headlamps. There’s a huge sunroof, but the vehicle also adopts leather belt-like door handles inside, with grainy cloth seats, and a paddle that replaces the handbrake. Indeed, as one of our media colleagues suggests, there’s a lot of “steampunk” to the design – though there are also some very modern touches, such as the Android-based touchscreen system that operates virtually all vehicle functions.
(Click Here to find out when BMW will bring the 2-Series Active Tourer to the U.S.)
The Cactus, incidentally, really isn’t part of the broader C4 family. It relies on the new Citroen Platform 1 architecture and comes in as much as 400 pounds lighter than other C4 models. The whole package weighs a mere 965 kilograms – or 2,127 pounds for the metrically challenged.
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With a diesel powertrain, the Citroen C4 Cactus promises to deliver a whopping 91 mpg in diesel form.
While that’s bound to get the car noticed by potential buyers, it’s likely the Air Bump system that will catch the eye of anyone who sees the C4 Cactus, whether on the floor of the Geneva Motor Show or maneuvering its way around on the street.