Citroën has always been one of boredom's most dedicated foes, and the leaked images of their new C4 Cactus reveal a car very well equipped to do battle with ennui. Who else but Citroën could get away with naming a car after an immobile desert plant with spines and fill it with shock-absorbing body panels?
There seems to be a theme of 'air' for this new car. First, and most noticeably, the chunky wagon shape is clad with bumpy colored panels that they call "Airbumps." Those flexible oblong pimples are actually filled with air and absorb shock and reduce damage from minor impacts. Citroën says they ran a shopping cart full of batteries into the panels with no damage to the car. That seems pretty good to me.
In brown, on that white C4 Cactus like in the leaked photos, the Airbump panels seem to playfully hint at an old woody wagon, which is fun. In other color combinations it appears very stylish and modern, and really sets the car apart from the masses. Cars don't play all that much with surface texturing and detail like this, so it's nice to see something like this that's not plastic cladding on a 90s Pontiac.
The other air-related quirk of the car is the PSA HybridAir engine that is said to be available for the C4 Cactus. The system is quite clever, and works in a similar way to a combustion/electric hybrid, but instead of storing electrical energy in expensive, heavy batteries and driving an auxiliary electric motor, the HybridAir compresses nitrogen when driving or braking, and then uses that pressurized gas to drive an auxiliary hydraulic motor.
PSA says the system delivers fuel economy that easily competes with a conventional hybrid, at less cost.
I'm quite taken with what I've seen here so far. The proportions remind me (in a good way) of an AMC Hornet, and the floating roof/C-pillar and novel body detailing make this a really striking looking package, one of the closest translations from show car to production car that we've seen in quite a while.
Too bad they're very likely never coming here.