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Citroen: “we don’t think Airbumps are a bad idea”

As Citroen tones down the C4 Cactus, we’re assured its Airbumps aren’t dead

“We’ve had two reactions to the new C4 Cactus on social media,” says Citroen’s awkwardly named product director, Xavier Peugeot. “Some are saying ‘why have you changed it?!’ and some are saying they will now consider it. The customer clinics suggest it’s a good idea.”

The C4 Cactus has moved from quirky crossover to more mainstream hatchback; the regular C4 has reached retirement, so Citroen has toned the Cactus down a bit to make it closer to a VW Golf or Ford Focus rival. Part of the process has seen its famous Airbumps – damage-repelling rubber dimples on the doors – shrunken and minimised to a part of the car where they’re not especially useful.

Is that because the old Cactus’s appearance put people off? “Maybe,” says Peugeot. “But the Airbumps are smaller because we are replacing two cars at the same time. This is not because we think Airbumps are a bad idea. The majority of C3 owners prefer them. We just don’t want to be prisoner to one type of bump.”

While Citroen says the Cactus has been a success, its 270,000 sales since its 2014 launch don’t compare favourably to the 300,000 latest-gen C3s sold in in its first 12 months on sale.

“The Cactus’s success is not only in its sales, but in being the right car for Citroen,” says Peugeot. “To me it was an iconic proposal, really in line with the brand proposition. It was divisive – you loved it or hated it. We should accept a bit more customer dislike to make something a little different, otherwise you just offer a normal car.”

Despite this, the Cactus’s heavy facelift has seen 90 per cent of its exterior parts changed, to give it “more status” and to “move the car up the range”. With the C4 heading out of production, it’s needed to go a bit upmarket to compensate. Yet we’re promised its eventual replacement – in around three years – will still be individual.

“In order to get the C4 Cactus to fit in, we phased the standard C4 out,” says Citroen boss Linda Jackson. “The replacement will take the spirit of being something different, even in a part of the market that can be quite traditional.”

It will also be electrified. “Any manufacturer developing a vehicle to launch after 2020 needs to have an electrified version,” says Jackson. “We’re not going for electric-only vehicles, we’re going for platforms that can support petrol, diesel and electric. We don’t want to build dedicated EVs.”

She reckons it could keep the Cactus badge, too. “The Cactus name is strong – in the future, why not? It’s got a long life left in it.”

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