Wallpaper* doesn't test many modern Citroens because most lack the design originality, quality and quirkiness of its classics like the 2CV, DS and SM. The new C4 Cactus is a welcome exception, sporting a truly fresh design, laudable major weight savings and useful technology.

Sized between a Nissan Juke crossover and a VW Golf hatchback, the Cactus' silhouette has utilitarian 4x4 overtones, but its contrast-colour front, side and rear panel plastic air bumps is what really makes it stand out. Able to absorb low speed impacts with pedestrians as well as reduce repair costs from scuffs with other vehicles, Citroen's designers have chosen to highlight these protective pockets of air in different colours to the main body panels to create a car that looks like nothing else on the road.

Avoiding typical car styling references, the interior opts for an oblong digital driver display rather than round dials and suitcase-style door grab handles and luggage strap detailing on the slim passenger dashboard (partly made possible by an airbag repositioned in the roofline). The result is functional, spacious and smart with a practical 358-litre boot space too.

The C4 Cactus is an amazing 200kg lighter than a regular C4 (down to 956kg in its lightest incarnation) by utilising lower-weight items like compact engines, an aluminium bonnet and old-style pop-out rear windows that dispense with electric motors or even manual winders. The Cactus has 21st century spec too though, including a centre display with easy connectivity that mirrors your smartphone's screen.

The top-end, three-cylinder turbocharged 110hp 1.2-litre petrol tested was thrummy but fun and pulled the car along happily despite its small capacity - a factor no doubt by the vehicle's major weight loss - recording 61.4mpg and 105kg/km CO2 (while the most efficient 92hp 1.6 diesel offers an incredible 90.1mpg and 82g/km). The ride is fine, handling decent and overall it feels more 'firm-hatchback' than 'wobbly SUV'. The Cactus won't be to everyone's taste but we have a feeling those who choose it will love it.

TAGS: TRANSPORT