A few weeks ago I finally had the chance to check out the new Citroen C4 Cactus at a dealer. I sat in it and had a good look around. What an impressive car, truly excellent design from Citroen! I was shocked at just how small the car is from the outside. It really is tiny, smaller than even a standard C4 or DS4, but space inside is superb. The boot capacity is rather small thanks to a cute stubby rear overhang, and for my family it’s inadequate. The loading lip is very high and unsuitable for my dog. There are no rear quarter lights either. So maybe it’s not for me (shame because I really want to buy one) but it’s clearly one of the best new car designs for many years. The interior is truly special. The dealer I visited also sell Mercedes and I sat in the new GLA class crossover. Guess which car has more space and then guess which has the best quality interior materials and design? Yes the Citroen. Bravo! For less than half the price the little Citroen beats the Mercedes hands down. The door cards and door pulls on the Cactus are wonderful. The touchscreen centre console is much higher quality than the Mercedes. The front bench seat style cushion that stretches across the range topping Cactus I sat in feels so luxurious. I can’t praise this little car enough. Car of the year 2014 for me, without a doubt.
Recently we’ve seen a couple of major Auto Shows go head to head, West vs East in May with New York and Beijing shows back to back. Toyota chose the Beijing show to launch the production version of their Lexus branded small crossover. I’ve posted here before regarding crossover vehicles (and I once owned the trendsetting Qashqai myself). The new Qashqai has been underwhelming in design, and other manufacturers are still following the styling of the previous model. Toyota have been finding their design stride recently, especially with the bold designs under the Lexus brand. Risks are being taken, and that is very nice to see. Some designs are successful, others not so much. Their small crossover concept, the LX-NF, last year was radical in it’s surfacing treatment (incredibly over the top) but has translated very nicely to a less frantic production design. Thank goodness for those metal stamping production limitations… the changes are subtle, but for the better.
Here’s the original Lexus LF-NX crossover concept. And then the production version Lexus NX (this one is the 200T)which was launched in Beijing.
If we go back to March 2014 we also saw some great auto design work at Geneva, and another very nice transition from concept to production for the Citroen C4 Cactus. This one has been in the works for a long time, and began with the C-Cactus concept of 2007. The C3 Picasso for example follows a similar styling theme. The production version is very innovative, and not just in styling terms. Citroen are experimenting with selling the Cactus in a new lease contract based system. These two manufacturers can be applauded for their risk taking, unlike the ultra conservative German manufacturers who seem to be painting themselves into a corner.