Citroen first introduced the C4 Cactus as a concept vehicle two years ago at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show. Since then, the Cactus has morphed into not only a production crossover, but a variety of separate prototypes as well, including the 2015 Aircross. It also gave the French automaker the 2015 World Car Design of the Year accolade at the New York International Auto Show back in April. Unsurprisingly, the platform has transformed once again, this time as homage to the Mehari light utility off-roader.

Between 1968 and 1988, Citroen produced 144,953 examples of the Mehari. Based on the stout 2CV, the Mehari served many different purposes, including military use in the French army. However, civilians also got to enjoy the Mehari’s rugged capability – not only was it lightweight enough to tackle rough terrain, its plastic body resisted corrosion, even in the grit and salt of repeated beach runs.

Drawing inspiration from the Mehari “and the seaside world associated with” it, the new Cactus M Concept hopes to prove the versatility of the C4 Cactus platform for future models in a variety of different bodystyles, exhibiting several fun ideas along the way.

Updated 09/21/2015: We’ve added a series of new photos we took at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Find them in the "Pictures" tab.

Continue reading to learn more about Citroen Cactus M Concept.

Exterior

Note: 2014 Citroen C4 Cactus shown here.
Like the Mehari (and any other serious beach cruiser for that matter), the Cactus M Concept has no roof, bringing an “open-air” design that offers passengers miles and miles of blue sky. With the top chopped off, Citroen added thick pillar arches front and back, including the windscreen surround. The windscreen was also tilted up to 60 degrees, which helps direct air over the passenger space at speed, and is outfitted with a single, central wiper blade. The pillars are finished in a wood-grain look and are capable of carrying up to two surfboards lengthwise. To demonstrate, Citroen even created two custom boards matched to the concept crossover’s color scheme.

In case the sun decides to take a vacation, the Cactus M Concept comes equipped with an inflatable roof located in the “double-floor” trunk. This piece is installed by hand, extending across the top via three blowup tubes that hold it in place. And if hyperventilating in the rain harshes your mellow, an air compressor is located in the rear.

Unlike the four-door production Cactus, this concept boasts just two long doors. Each is a single piece of molded plastic, which helps to reduce the crossover’s curb weight, while opener straps are in place for simplicity’s sake. Like the Mehari, the door hinges are visible.

Passengers vying for the backseat can use step indents in the flanks to climb up and over the side of the crossover, aiding ingress without actually opening the doors. The bumpers and door mirrors echo those from the Aircross concept. Covering the exterior is Citroen’s “Airbump” technology, which uses a thermoformed TPU coating to resist scratches and impacts, not to mention the harsh elements of life on the beach. There are metal tow hooks in place should you find yourself stuck in a dune, and a Hawaii Blue paintjob works well to blend in with the waves.

In the corners is a larger-diameter tire and wheel package, which yields a higher body height overall. Despite carving out the wheel arches a bit, these rollers are narrowed slightly to accommodate the size. Citroen says the wheel design was inspired by the floral pattern of a wetsuit.

Exterior Dimensions

Length 4,160 MM (163.77 Inches)
Width 1,770 MM (69.68 Inches)
Height 1,480 MM (58.26 Inches)
Wheelbase 2,600 MM (102.36 Inches)

Interior

2015 Citroen Aircross Concept
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Note: Interior from 2015 Citroen Aircross Concept shown here.

Speaking of wetsuits, the interior uses neoprene for the upholstery and dash trim. It’s all extremely functional, designed to tolerate the demands of those living the beach lifestyle. As such, there are water drains in the foot wells, and Citroen says “the whole cabin can even be hosed out” for quick and easy cleanup.

There’s plenty of storage as well. The doors come with decently sized bins covered by nets, and there’s a large trunk in the rear.

The Cactus M Concept is very cohesive, and not just in the theme. The automaker wanted it to look like a “singular molded object,” with the same bright colors used inside and out. The cabin continues the maritime motif, resembling a ship’s hull, and even the headrests draw inspiration from boat fenders.

However, the coolest part of the interior has to be the double-duty roof. Not only does the inflatable top cover the crossover in inclement weather, it can also be used to create a “freestanding tent” that extends outwards from the rear, perfect for camping out. To complement this, the rear seats tilt back into the trunk, offering a nice place to sleep. Cue crackling fire and smores.

Drivetrain

To help it contend with the unpaved pathways to that hidden break, the Cactus M Concept employs Citroen’s Grip Control (basically, advanced traction control), which offers those behind the wheel four available driving modes selectable from an input on the dash. These include Normal, All-Terrain, Snow and Sand.

While Grip Control is nice, it would have been better if Citroen included an AWD system in lieu of the stock FWD. After all, the Mehari 4x4 was introduced in 1979, and anyone serious about going off-road will need more than just the front wheels for motivation.

I also would have liked to see a bump in output, maybe with a more powerful version of the 1.2-liter inline 3-cylinder gasoline powerplant found on the production vehicle. But given this concept will most likely remain tethered to the show floor its entire life, I guess it’s forgivable.

Competition

Jeep Renegade

2015 Jeep Renegade High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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When it comes to fun and functional crossovers, the Cactus has the Jeep Renegade to contend with.

Targeting young adventure-seekers, the Renegade has been busy building a strong following, which is absolutely crucial for this segment. In terms of engine choices, the Renegade offers some nice options, starting with a 1.4-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder that produces 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Those looking for something a little more powerful can opt for the 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder that pumps out 184 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque.

The Renegade runs on AWD (as it should), but customers get a choice of systems: the Jeep Active Drive and Active Drive Low.

Pricing for the baby Jeep starts at $17,995 for the Sport trim, going all the way up to $25,995 for the top-of-the-range Trailhawk.

Read our full review here.

Fiat 500X

2015 Fiat 500L Urbana Trekking Exterior
- image 576800

Essentially, the 500X is just like the regular 500, albeit a bit oversized. It doesn’t come with fancy technologies like Airbump in the Cactus or the My Sky roof system in the Renegade, but it does give precedence to things like interior space and functionality.

The 500X has a myriad of trim levels and options available. There are seven engine choices available in Europe, but here in the U.S., we get just two: a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder making 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque and a 2.4-liter four-cylinder MultiAir engine that pumps out an impressive 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. FWD is standard, while AWD is an option.

The 500X starts at an even $20,000 for the Pop trim, going all the way up to $27,100 for the range-topping 500L Trekking Plus.

Read our review here.

Conclusion

Citroen Cactus M Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Like many Citroen concepts, the Cactus M combines the make’s long heritage with a variety of clever ideas and a healthy exercise of the imagination. I love seeing a reimagining of an existing model, and a two-door Cactus with no roof fits the bill nicely.

I like the neoprene interior you can clean with a hose. I think the exterior Airbump technology and plastic body panels are an excellent fit for the theme. Looking at this thing, I can’t help but see it transported into one of those ‘60s surf movies, surrounded by dancing, well-tanned teenagers as a Dick Dale riff plays in the background.

Yeah, it would have been more realistic if there was AWD and more power, but hey, why be real when pretending is so much more fun?

  • Leave it
    • Could use AWD and more power
    • Doesn’t actually become a boat
    • Just a showpiece with no hope of ever seeing production

Updated History

Updated 09/03/2015: Citroen dropped the official details on the new Cactus M concept, with just a few days before its official debut in Frankfurt.

Press Release

One year on from the launch of the C4 Cactus, Citroën will display a new take on the model at the 2015 Frankfurt International Motor Show.

Citroen Cactus M Concept High Resolution Exterior
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The SUV looks of the Cactus M, previously suggested by the C4 Cactus, are underlined by its specific styling and features. The strong sculpted lines, at the front and rear, convey a sense of power. The use of tall and narrow tyres made it possible to increase wheel diameter, resulting in an increased body height. This impression is reinforced by the sculpted wheel arches. The robust and compact look of the Cactus M is underlined by the 60° rake of the windscreen and the thickness of the pillars, conveying a sense of strength.

The design of the bumpers and the door mirrors was inspired by the Citroën Aircross concept. The solid metal tow hooks and door mirrors suggest protection and quality. These styling attributes position the Citroën Cactus M concept in the world of SUVs and reflect the ties between the two concepts.

Like the Méhari in its time, the Cactus M concept was designed as an open-air vehicle. It seeks to bring passengers closer to their surroundings and to make life easier.

Citroen Cactus M Concept High Resolution Exterior
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The Citroën Cactus M has two long doors, further underlining the impression of compact overall dimensions. The design of these moulded plastic one-piece doors makes them particularly easy to open and close , while also reducing overall vehicle weight. The doors use the same Airbump® concept as on C4 Cactus with their thermoformed TPU coating. This ‘second skin’, which is also used on the bumpers, resists knocks and scratches as well as salt water and sand. The concept has been designed with visible hinges, just like the renowned Méhari, which also had ABS plastic bodywork.

Inspired by the surfing spirit, the Citroën Cactus M concept is completely open to the outside world. The wood effect on the rear arch and the windscreen pillars brings to mind the way surfboard manufacturers customise their boards. The cheerful design of the wheels resembles a floral wetsuit design.

INGENIOUS, WITH A STRONG FOCUS ON LEISURE

The beach, sand, salt and water are all considered incompatible with cars. However, the Cactus M was designed for this environment, allowing users to enjoy an intense, uncompromising leisure experience. The choice of shapes, materials, technologies and colours was guided by a desire to enable users to pursue their chosen leisure experience, while freeing them from all practical concerns.

The overall design of the cabin resembles the hull of a boat. The flowing lines are a continuation of the exterior design and the impression of the car being a singular moulded object is emphasised by the use of the same colour – Hawaii Blue – both inside and out. This bright, optimistic colour points to the cheery character of the Cactus M concept and encourages users to head for the open road.

Citroen Cactus M Concept High Resolution Exterior
- image 644556

Looking beyond appearance, the functional qualities of a boat hull are also reflected in the overall design. The Citroën Cactus M concept is the ideal partner for an expedition and all the materials used have been selected or treated to resist the elements. With the draining foot wells, and seats in water and salt-resistant fabric, occupants who have been surfing or swimming in the sea can get into the car without drying or rinsing themselves off. The whole cabin can even be hosed out.

The Cactus M has an attractive, functional interior. The upholstery and dashboard trim were designed to resemble wetsuits. The brightly coloured neoprene fabric adds warmth to the cabin and underlines the vehicle’s ‘fun’ side. It also increases the waterproof qualities of the seats and reduces the time required for them to dry.

The Citroën Cactus M concept is designed for practicality. The rear side panels each have a hollowed-out step to enable passengers to get into the seats in row two by stepping over the waist line. This solution makes for easier access and creates a sense of freedom for passengers in the rear who do not need to open the door or fold the front seats forward. Inside, a range of functional stowage compartments are available including the large front door bins, each enclosed by a net. The boot is accessed from the outside and two surfboards can be attached using a specific lashing system. Citroën’s styling teams created two surfboards in the colours of the concept car to demonstrate this.

The character and strong personality of the Cactus M concept car is inspired by the 1968 Méhari and the seaside world associated with this legendary model. A number of styling features, such as the door opening straps and single central windscreen wiper bring to mind the automotive design of the time. Similarly, the headrests are designed to resemble boat fenders, bringing to mind the marine environment associated with open-air vehicles.

Citroen Cactus M Concept High Resolution Exterior
- image 644557

AT EASE ON ALL TYPES OF TERRAIN

Designed for people looking for wide open spaces, the Cactus M concept is the ideal partner for adventure. Through its technologies and innovations, it overcomes any obstacles relating to the weather or bumpy terrain.

The Citroën Cactus M combines Grip Control with tall and narrow tyres, increasing agility and enabling it to cope with the toughest roads and gradients. Grip Control adapts to all situations to optimise traction in any circumstances. Using a dashboard selector to the left of the steering wheel, the driver can choose between four modes, normal, all-terrain, snow or sand.

The Cactus M concept was designed as an open-air vehicle, but is able to adapt to any type of weather with its innovative roof. Located in the double-floor boot, this roof is installed by hand and stretches around the vehicle using an innovative inflation system.Air inflates three tubes that hold the top in the correct position. Inflation is activated by a compressor at the rear of the vehicle.

With its modular interior and this innovative roof system, the Citroën Cactus M promotes spontaneity and freedom. For example, the Cactus M can be turned into a bivouac for two people, extending the outdoor experience. By means of an ingenious tilting mechanism, the rear seat can become an extension of the boot, create a ‘couchette’. Users can either sleep in the open or under cover, using the inflation function to turn the roof into a freestanding tent. This tent folds out at the rear of the vehicle, enabling two people measuring 1.80m in height to stand upright. No more limits stand in the way of the quest for discovery.

For the roof and the tent, Citroën has worked with two companies who are well known in the sector. For the structure and safety of the tent, the brand called upon ATIC, experts in inflatable structures for extreme conditions. To make the fabric, they worked with Jonathan & Fletcher, who are experts in technical textiles for extreme sports.

Citroen Cactus M Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Looking beyond its innovations, the Citroën Cactus M is also enjoyable to drive every day as it has all the driving comfort and technologies present on the production C4 Cactus. One year on from the launch of the production car, this concept illustrates the potential of the C4 Cactus as the basis for new models, as well as the extraordinary possibilities for deploying Citroën’s brand positioning through different body styles.

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