I DON'T suppose it is possible to hold a fully rational discussion about this Cactus from Citroen.
You have to either buy into the idea or not.
Here are two polar-opposite reactions: A bus driver noticed it, as I waited in it for the daughter and, without knowing the connection, said he wouldn't be seen dead in a 'yoke like that'. She said nothing.
A few minutes earlier a woman, nonchalantly savouring chewing gum, had racked up the chew rate a hundred-fold as she circled and stared, pulling up alongside just as her lights went green. She looked back a lot.
I could read her lips: 'What is it, at all?' I'd say 50 more did the same thing in the course of my drives. The Cactus is a sort of urban crossover - think idiosyncratic Peugeot 2008, or Nissan Juke or MINI Countryman. But it's a good bit more than that too.
I see it as a mix of old Citroen quirkiness and modern smart technology. If you're thinking of buying, you will be noticed.
Even the muted grey/cream coloured ones stand out, partly because of special panels on the side (to reduce the cost of little knocks and nudges). So imagine how many heads turned at my 'mad yellow' one.
Any way you look at it, this is different in a way few modern cars can match. Citroen are gambling that enough people are prepared to chance the guts of €20,000 on something as individual as that.
Yet it is eminently practical. There are straps on the doors for handles (love them), there's a clever storage bay under wraps on the dashboard (clever and possible because the airbag is overhead), the rear bench seat on my test car would take three family members handy enough, there's a fine boot and road tax is €190.
The 1.2-litre petrol (there are diesels as well) was a real little trier and I had a great seating position.
I found myself really enjoying it. Like a kick-back to the 60s in some ways. But in a modern, clever, street-wise sort of way. In the parlance of the 60s: ya dig it or ya don't. I did, but don't worry, I have criticisms too.
My three main complaints were that I had to make too many mini-steering adjustments on below-average roads. The front wheels, sometimes, felt like they were trailing little tracks of their own. It's a complaint I had when I first drove it in Amsterdam, though not on a subsequent brief test here (the suspension isn't an award-winner but you won't buy this for taut-chassis drive).
My second whinge was over the touch-screen on the dash. In itself it was excellent but they have ladled so much stuff into it. Radio/audio etc; fine. But the detailed workings of the ventilation system? Too much, I think. I crave a simple button or two - and I always decry their presence.
Thirdly I'd have loved seats that gave me a bit more support, though it is a really comfortable cabin overall (great storage slots too).
For all that, sitting in and getting going in this always gave me a little lift (and there were days I needed it). There's something devil-may-care about it. I think they have created a 'car' that doesn't feel like anything else. It's off-beat, effervescent yet effective.
I mean who else would put basic-looking side-panel protective cladding on the doors and then mix-and-match them with body colours ranging from Hello Yellow (my car) to Pearl White? Some combinations are a bit off the wall for me but, hey, you either dig or you don't. By the way these panels are air-filled TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) capsules. With them, you shouldn't have too many repair bills for minor bumps and scrapes.
They claim those, and the fact the Cactus is 200kg lighter than a Citroen C4, contribute to running costs 20pc below your conventional family car. Some of the engines can, Citroen claim, return as little as 3.1l/100km.
Would I buy it? I think my conservative nature would preclude me. Yet I could see it as a second car for a young family. It would be fun - once you get used to people staring at you.
Citroen C4 Cactus: the facts and figures
Citroen C4 Cactus crossover: 1.2-litre PureTech 82 petrol (82bhp, 107g/100km, €190 road tax).
Prices start at €17,795: The version on test costs €19,695. Options on it included white roof bars (€100), white door mirrors (€50) and 17ins diamond-cut 'Cross alloy' (€250).
Standard equipment: The Cactus tested included 7ins Touch Drive interface, air con, cruise control with speed limiter, driver/passenger front lateral and curtain airbags, 'Top Box' dashboard storage compartments, Black Airbump technology, LED daytime running lights, front electric windows, steering wheel controls, DAB digital radio, RDS radio/MP3 player with four speakers and AUX socket, gloss black pack door mirrors (as part of special pack), rear insert and exterior trim, Bluetooth hands-free and media.
MY SIDE OF THE ROAD
I wonder how you'd react if people flung their garbage onto your doorstep or front lawn.
No, I haven't been bombarded or anything like it but I see people fling all sorts from their cars as they scoot along.
Out goes the core of an apple. Out goes the remnants of a coffee - and the cup that held it. Out go the still-lit cigarette butts.
This procession of disposal makes me wonder how those people carry on in their own living space. Because what they are doing is defiling not just a road or roadside, but in many cases the habitat of wild animals and birds.
Some, grassy damp gateways are testament to that with all sorts of horrible stuff gathered around them. I'll leave it to your imagination.
And don't talk to me about places where drivers stop for. . . I'll leave that to your imagination too.
What's wrong with us? We talk about loving our green countryside, how important tourism is for us - and then we turn it into a scattered dump. For shame.