Citroën is set to embark on a new strategy for their C-line cars, that of creating good everyday cars with useful features for everyday use, without any frills .
This does not mean budget like Dacia, the cars will be reasonably priced and supposedly have the range of features expected in today’s world, such as air con, electric windows, satnav and so on, but no extra features like lane departure warning and radar guided cupholders. Fair enough, a car for people who want a car. A thing which takes you from A to B, comfortably. So not a car to set the pulse racing then.
The C-line needs to be something different to the hugely popular DS-line , but still be interesting and relevant enough to sell.Citroen argues that there is a market for cheap cars which are honest workhorses for those individuals who see cars as white goods. They regard cars as a means to an end, nothing more, nothing less. They do not go out for drives, they do not take the time to get to know their car. They use it like a washing machine. When it works they use it, when it stops working, they replace it. There is no emotional involvement.
It therefore makes sense for Citroen to tackle this segment of the market in the same way that Volkswagen does with Skoda. Outside the world of petrolheads, the DS, the 2CV, the SM, the Mehari and the Traction Avant mean nothing. Probably to those outside the car world, Citroen means nothing, and I am willing to bet that Citroen want to utilise that to their advantage, and create another image for themselves.Time will tell whether they prove successful or not, but as ideas go, this is an interesting one.
So how does this strategy start? The first car to attempt this new milestone in Citroen’s history is the C4 Cactus. Silly name I know, but bear with me. As I just said there is nothing particularly noteworthy about the car,no massaging seats, no massive turbocharged engine. it’s just a car. As my dear mother likes to say, four wheels and an engine. It does have these bumpers with air pockets, designed to protect the car against rebellious trolleys in supermarket car parks, and the back pillar resembles that of the DS3. Both these details are quite interesting I suppose, though not interesting enough to make me want to buy this car.
Dig beneath the surface, and things become rather interesting. This car weighs 965kg, or 60kg less than a Ford Fiesta. Citroen is on a mission with this car to remove any unnecessary stuff within the car. The dashboard is designed with simplicity and elegance in mind. There is no rev counter, no centre console, the rear seats do not split and rear windows don’t even open. Why have they done this, you might be asking. All in the pursuit of saving weight. The engine line-up is quite a modest one, with the most powerful petrol engine producing 108bhp. However, because it is so light, the power-to-weight ratio is quite high. Also, in keeping the power output low, costs will be kept at a minimum too. In the UK, this car will have a starting price of about 13,000 sterling, about the same price as a mid-range Ford Fiesta.
The Citroen boss also said that the C-line will not have powerful engines like the DS line, in a bid to keep costs low. He argues that a more powerful engine would require bigger brakes, re-tuning the suspension and so on, adding to the costs, and thus raising the showroom price, and price is key when you want to attract customers.
Another fascinating feature is that this car might also introduce a new method of car ownership, whereby one may rent the car for a period of time at a fixed rate. Whether this will work or not, I have my doubts, I want to own my cars, not rent them. Then again I am not exactly the type of buyer they are looking for, so my opinion on this particular matter does not really count.
I am quite fascinated to see how this new direction pans out for Citroen. It is quite a no nonsense approach to cars, something that Citroen used to do brilliantly with cars like the 2CV. I do hope it works out for them, and then the money they make off these cars can be put to making wacky cars.. Like say a Citroen DS5 Coupe with the Hybrid four-wheel drive system and a retractable glass roof maybe? I would very much like to see that.