Crazy though it first seems, hybrid cars may well have their engines supplemented by air, compressed into a tank under breaking and released to drive a hydraulic motor under acceleration. In testing, with a relatively new technology, Citroen has been achieving better than 90 mpg combined for the petrol/air hybrid.
What Citroen have done with the new Cactus is to not only achieve great aerodynamics but also target weight reduction. The lighter a car is the smaller its motor can be and at low speeds, weight is more important that aerodynamics. Mazda has led the way with weight reduction and their latest Mazda 3 is 2800lbs, amazingly the Citroen Cactus is 2120 lbs or 25% lighter. In a hybrid situation, where the electric or hydraulic motor is used to pull away, weight is everything. Storing fresh air is much lighter than storing energy in heavy batteries
The 1.6 diesel has CO2 emissions of 82g/km and a combined average fuel consumption figure of 76 mpg. Emissions are worst as the engine works to pull away, watch the car in front of you. The design is typical Citroen, they have always been experts in going their own way and sometimes leading the way.
As a company car, the Cactus has much to commend it, great room inside, fabulous economy and it is also sensibly thought out with padded airbumps in strategic places to protect the body and plastic wheel arches to protect it in car parks.
If the show car is anything to go by, there will be no switches in the car, instead, a touch screen panel with buttons on lights up once the ignition is switched on.
My view is this, there is demand for a reliable, affordable car that because it is cheap to run and cheap to buy is the first car that ticks all the boxes. I will go so far as to say it is inevitable that other manufacturers will have been surprised by this car, within a year alternatives will exist and it will drive the market, the Cactus in hybrid form may bring about even more changes. In business car leasing terms, the Cactus reduces all of the costs that go to make up your monthly rental and initial payment, I think Citroen may just have got this one right.