Saturday, 24 March 2018

Quirky Cactus shows off its world exclusive panels

THE question I kept asking myself when I got behind the wheel of the new Citroen C4 Cactus was: what

THE question I kept asking myself when I got behind the wheel of the new Citroen C4 Cactus was: what was the point of such a car?

I confess that at first I did not know quite what to make of it. The test car was not easy on the eye in its bright yellow livery. It had what looked like odd “crash” panels attached to its sides that you might find on a dodgem car at a fair.

Together with its uncompromising colour, this gave the car a rough urban look — as if it was ready and willing to go out and do battle on our roads.

But once inside and driving the Cactus I soon realised what this car was all about: simplicity. That is ease of operation and handling, easy to live with and a bit of a rascal to boot.

Of course the Cactus is French and although my love of France is unequivocal, I know too that I will never understand the French sense of humour.

I can imagine when the Cactus popped up on the design board (or more likely as a 3D model on a computer screen) there were Gallic shrugs of approval among its design team: especially when some bright spark came up with the yellow version. I’m sure such words as “chic” and “cool” were bandied about in that inimitable French way.

I am told that in black the car looks rather stealthy which should appeal to some. If you go on a Citroen sales website you can flip through the colours for the Cactus on screen. Each new colour evokes a new perception of the car that is very different from seeing it in yellow.

That aside what I did like very much was its exquisitely designed interior. We are plagued by bad design each hour of every day, but the dashboard of the Cactus illustrates perfectly that you can get the job done beautifully by employing the simplest of design lines.

All the controls for the Citroen C4 Cactus are grouped on a single screen so they are easy to use. You access the car’s functions at a click on the seven-inch Touch Drive interface, which is fitted as standard.

This fully digital touch screen controls media sources, such as for connecting mobile devices, storing music and displaying photos, navigation, with maps, a speed limit display, and information on traffic conditions.

It also allows automatic air conditioning and access to driving aids, such as Park Assist and a reversing camera with colour display. There is also a hands-free phone function through the Bluetooth connection, directory access and photos of contacts plus Citroen Multicity Connect through a 3G connection.

This kind of simple one point access for the driver is essential today: I am not saying that all issues of distraction have been resolved.

In fact I remain uneasy that too much appears still to be available for the driver to activate while actually concentrating on driving. But in the Cactus at least this information is in one clear place.

All carmakers know that this is the way to go and many of the more advanced in research and development are hot to find ways of providing motorists with the very latest technology to make life easier on the road.

To be honest, I find the combative nature of driving on our roads today a bit of a pain: I am constantly disappointed by the low standard of good manners among drivers.

That said, the Citroen Cactus appears to be tackling this biff-bang culture head on by providing the aforesaid bumper car panels on each side of the car.

Actually the correct name for this technology is Airbump panels. Citroen claims them as a “global exclusive” and though you may think them odd they could catch on in a big way.

Certainly panel beaters and their like must have grown rich in recent years on the constant dings and bashes that motorists suffer daily on the road. The idea of the Airbump panels is that they protect your car from these minor everyday bumps and scrapes. Citroen believes they also add to the overall “quirky” look of the Cactus.

Just so you know the panels are made from something called TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and include tiny air capsules that absorb impacts and help prevent scratches. They do not need any maintenance.

I have not driven Citroens for some time so I have been unable to report back to you on their new models. I hope this will now change because Citroen is nothing if not an innovative and inventive carmaker. It may be all down to French quirkiness and appear odd to “les rosbifs” in this country but you could not argue that Citroen does not move with the times and the Cactus is clear evidence of this.

Prices from £12,990

Stylish, functional design: four colours, 21 combinations

Airbump: a world exclusive

Compact but spacious: boot capacity of 358 litres

Open, welcoming interior: bright and friendly

Useful technologies: simple to use and easy to drive

Connected travel: Citroen Multicity Connect and eTouch

Fuel economy up to 91.1mpg efficient and eco-friendly: with low emissions of 82g/km of CO2

Citroen Multicity Connect app portal, that you control from the seven-inch Touch Drive interface with 3G connection: use the Fuel app to find the nearest and/or cheapest service station; try the Trip Advisor app to find a hotel or restaurant; use the Michelin Traffic app for traffic information; and access the Coyote app for alerts on high-risk traffic zones.

By NIGEL WIGMORE, Standard motoring correspondent

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