Engine choice revolves broadly around two separate units, a 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol, and a 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesel. The former, branded PureTech, is available as either a naturally-aspirated PureTech 75 or PureTech 82, or the turbocharged PureTech 110.
That’s 74bhp, 81bhp and 108bhp respectively, with 118Nm of torque for the naturally-aspirated pair and a more useful 205Nm from 1500rpm for the turbocharged car.
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The diesel has just one power output, badged BlueHDi 100 and developing 99bhp with 254Nm of torque. All nice and simple so far, and it doesn’t get much more complicated after that – there are only three transmissions available. A five-speed manual is standard across the Cactus range, and on all but the 74bhp petrol there’s also a five-speed automatic. The diesel’s auto gets six speeds, and the top petrol is manual-only.
The manual’s shift is light and fairly precise, but not a tactile joy – like everything else on the Cactus, it’s more about ease-of-use than it is shifting just for the hell of it. It’s still a better option than the automatics though: badged ETG (Efficient Tronic Gearbox), it’s an automated manual rather than a dual-clutch or torque converter automatic, and like most non-sporting automated manuals it delivers fairly jerky, slow shifts.
A skilled driver can work around the gaps, but if you’re choosing an auto the main appeal is not having to adapt your driving style to work with the mechanism. A regular auto, or even a CVT, would be more in-keeping with the way the Cactus makes progress.