Sunday, 18 March 2018

Gearbox failed to push my buttons

ANYONE who has driven the Citroën Cactus will tell you that it’s quirky, frisky and fun

ANYONE who has driven the Citroën Cactus will tell you that it’s quirky, frisky and fun to drive.

But not, on the evidence of this week’s drive, if the car happens to incorporate an automatic gearbox.

When I took delivery of the Citroën Cactus Flair BlueHDi 100 auto, initially I was pleased to see that its gearbox was automatic.

I had driven the Cactus before, but only the manual. Not only that, outwardly this gearchange was attractively designed in inimitable French fashion.

You see, the gearbox was just buttons. Yes, a push button for neutral, one for drive and one for reverse — and, oh yes, the handbrake: now that was something else.

The handbrake was a large handle on a lever reminiscent of the foot-operated pedal that we used to apply on the Lightning Whip ride at funfairs.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry. The Lightning Whip was one of the delights of kids growing up in the Sixties who attended those itinerant fairs that used to breeze in and out of British towns and villages throughout the year. Dodgems was the ride of choice but I loved the Lightning Whip — a sort of crane bucket on wheels that shot round in a metal-squealing skid when you applied that pedal.

Anyway on this particular Cactus the gearbox was officially the EAT6 six-speed torque converter automatic.

But disappointingly, no matter how I drove the car I simply could not avoid a “lurching” sensation between auto gearchanges.

I’m sorry to have to report this, because I really like the Cactus as a car — it is right on the money with all its modern technology ideas.

But at the very least, unless I am going barmy, Citroën needs to look again at this EAT6 six-speed gearbox, simply to make it work smoothly.

Curiously enough, Citroën does not seem to say much about the gearbox in the Cactus specification sheets I received.

However, a cursory study of these pages tells you that this car is extraordinarily innovative: it absolutely shouts “new” at you.

From its seven-inch Touch Drive interface (used to control all primary vehicle functions) to its Airbump panels — protection from everyday skirmishes — on the side, this car is “packed with new thinking and fresh style”.

Whether any of this is your cup of tea is a matter of individual taste — which of course is the greatest determining factor when it comes to buying a new car.

Certainly, you can design yourself a head-turning Cactus if you want one. The colour options are numerous and eye-catching.

From Hello Yellow to Deep Purple via Jelly Red (the test car) and Arctic Steel, there is an exterior colour for everyone.

Inside, too, the trim options include Stone Grey ambience, with Purple or Habana Highlights.

I must mention the wheel options because again the non-shrinking violets among you are bound to appreciate either the 16in Anthracite Square alloys or the 17in diamond cut Cross alloys (two of the options).

Whatever your choice here you know that with the Cactus you are going to end up with a very individual-looking motor car.

I really like the simplicity of the interior, especially the dashboard design. And the touchscreen is easy to operate and graphically clean and clear.

The three spec levels — Touch, Feel and Flair — should satisfy your demands if a Cactus is for you. There are PureTech petrol engines available and diesel alternatives.

Emissions on the car I was driving were very good at 89g/km and the 1,560cc diesel engine was willing and able (if marred by the auto change). And with something around 80-plus miles per gallon achieved in official figures during the combined cycle, the Cactus is economical.

Citroën Cactus

Citroën Cactus Flair BlueHDi 100 auto

Cost of test car: £20,235

Warranty: three years, 60,000 miles

Engine capacity: 1,560cc

CO2 emissions: 89g/km

Max speed: 114mph

0-62mph: 11.2 seconds

Options on test car include: Flat paint (£250), thermally insulated panoramic sunroof (£425), City Park (£325), Citroën Connect box (£250)

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