Bump and grind

Forget the prickly name, our Cactus is smoothing relations

ALEX INWOOD

THE thing that annoys my wife most isnít my laziness (thatís what she calls it, at least; I call it relaxing) or my reluctance to mow the grass. Itís not even my tendency to leave dirty laundry on the floor. Itís how I park. Or to be more exact, itís where I park.

Iím quite fussy about where I leave a car, especially in underground shopping centre car parks. My biggest pet peeve is emerging from the shops to discover someone has opened a door onto our car, or clipped it with a trolley. Itís infuriating.

So, to avoid this, I park as far away from other cars as possible, preferably next to a cement pole. This drives the wife bonkers.

ďAre you sure this spot is okay?Ē she asks innocently, before storming off in a huff.

Sometimes sheís so mad she refuses to speak during the 2km hike to Coles.

Happily, though, we havenít had an episode like this in weeks because my new longtermer Ė this bright yellow Citroen Cactus Ė is largely impervious to such parking mishaps thanks to the Ďairbumpsí fitted to its flanks.

These act like giant strips of bubble wrap, so instead of skulking around a car parkís far reaches, the Citroenís body armour means I now aim for pole position instead. And where I once rejected parking spots if they showed even the smallest potential risk, anywhere will do for the Cactus.

Does that spot look a little tight? No worries. Oh no, that oneís next to the trolley return shoot. Who cares. Honestly, itís changed my whole outlook on life. Instead of glaring at trolley-wielding shoppers and mentally shouting, ďStay away from my car, you morons!Ē, I find myself hoping theyíll lose control and ram the Cactus just to see what happens.

I even know what Iím going to say when they do. ďOh my goodness, Iím so sorry!Ē theyíll screech, mortified. ďItís okay, you careless duffer,Ē Iíll reply, ďthatís what these bumps are for.Ē And then Iíll ram the Cactus again just to prove the point.

The Citroen has improved my life in other ways, too. I no longer need to visit petrol stations twice a week, for instance. Regular readers will know my previous long-termer was an HSV Clubsport LSA wagon that, while excellent in almost every way, didnít so much drink fuel as guzzle it. The Citroen, on the other hand, seems to have a bottomless tank.

My Cactus has the 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, paired with a five-speed manual, and so far itís been so frugal that Iíve only fuelled it once over an entire month.

And donít confuse this efficiency with languid performance; the 81kW/205Nm three-pot is a peach.

And then thereís the design. Some of my friends hate it, but to my eye the Cactus looks brilliant with its quirky round edges and concept-car DRLs. I love the cabin, too, especially the supremely comfortable lounge-like front seats.

However, there have been annoyances, even at this early stage.

Thereís no tilt adjustment on the steering wheel, for example, so the driving position feels a little off. And the reversing camera takes twice as long as it should to engage.

And Iím already starting to resent the clumsiness of the central touchscreen that controls everything from phone connectivity to the climate control.

Yet none of these foibles have dulled the Cactusís initial shine. As the first properly bonkers Citroen in ages, it dares to be different. And I like that. So does the wife.

Extra! Extra!

Petrol versions of the Cactus start at $26,990, but a few options bump the price of my long-termer up to $30,140. Culprits include black 16-inch alloys ($1000) and $800 worth of premium paint.

Having the word ĎCactusí emblazoned on the C-pillar is another $100. However, the single best option, and the one every Cactus buyer should tick, is the panoramic roof for $1250. Itís a beautifully crafted single piece of glass that further increases the interiorís wonderful sense of space and airiness.

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Tech for tach

Cactus is one of the few cars on sale in Australia that doesnít have a tachometer. Instead, a gearshift indicator pops up on the instrument cluster to let you know when to swap cogs. I found this annoying at first, but quickly realised the three-cylinder donk delivers such a thrummy note you can drive it by ear instead. The gearshift itself is another quirk, thanks to an extremely long throw between gears.

CITROEN CACTUS

34 44 3 3 0 0 8 1 5 4 WEEK 4 Date acquired: September 2016 Price as tested: $30,140 This month: 656km @ 6.1L/100km Overall: 656km @ 6.1L/100km a m Overa 34 44 URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY