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Tale of two Citroens: 'One of the French cousins proved much tastier than the other'


CAVEAT: The C4 Cactus Rip Curl

CAVEAT: The C4 Cactus Rip Curl

The C3 is let down by a poor gearbox

The C3 is let down by a poor gearbox


CAVEAT: The C4 Cactus Rip Curl

In the middle of last month we were delighted with the weather forecast: snow on higher ground.

Sam the dog is getting old but nothing pleases him more than rolling in snow and this winter had so far yielded little chance to do this.

I was also driving a car, the Citroen C4 Cactus Rip Curl - not really my sort of name anymore - which had the Grip Assist system that is shared with Peugeot and aims to give almost AWD abilities at the turn of a control knob. The snow in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains would be a good test.

The Rip Curl, with its fancy lettering ("Patterned body graphics"), roof fittings suitable for a couple of surfboards and some off-road abilities, is the latest niche, SUV-style vehicle that Citroen seems to be specialising in. The C4 set-up is getting fairly old now and the general comfort level was pretty low. But maybe the surfing generation is so laid-back that they don't care. The C3 we had the week after is a much fresher car, very tasty, crammed with technology and deserves its place in the final seven of the European Car of the Year contest the winner of which will be announced in Geneva tomorrow.

However, both it and the Rip Curl are let down by a poor gearbox which is not precise enough at all. Both also have the Citroen tendency to be too soft a ride which gives a lot of roll going into corners.

But back to the snow. On the way to the Sally Gap, we stopped off at a forest walk, which crosses the making of a lovely river, and parked behind two other cars at the wide entrance. We had our walk, Sam rolled to his heart's content and we headed back to be greeted by a smashed passenger-side window. The car in front had worse; back and front window smashed. The other one had already left, leaving a pile of glass.

Nothing was taken from us, or from the family in front. Their three iPads and two phones were untouched. Either the would-be thieves were just after cash or they just might have been doing it for fun. Anyway, it managed to ruin our day and that of two other families.

It was a cold, cold drive home through the snow with an open umbrella trying to block the swirling snow's assault on our car.

It was a bit Heath Robinson, but let me tell you that Grip Control worked and I would have happily given chase at a fair lick if I had seen our attackers in action. Though perhaps, for all of us, it was best we hadn't. They were just scummy cowards out to wreck people's enjoyment of the countryside.

It was embarrassing returning the car the next day, especially as I thought that the Rip Curl was overcooked. I like the idea of a company partnered with a surfing legend, but it might be a shake of the dice too far. The car first went on sale last July so that perhaps was a better time to see a surfing car. The test model was €25,195. It has all the space and family attributes of the C4 range but with some nice styling and, of course, those Cactus Air Bumps to protect the doors. It can move along at a decent pace; 0-100kmh in less that 10 seconds.

I spent my teenage years in Cornwall and learnt to surf on the local beach, but it is more than 40 years since I have carried a board into the sea.C3 is more my style now and is superbly well-equipped, especially for urban use.

It can even have a camera on behind the rear-view mirror to take photographs or videos of anything in front. I wish someone with one was passing when our window was smashed. The C3 with all the kit comes in at two lattes short of €21k. It's worth looking at.

Maybe you won't have the same problems with the gearbox. It's my only caveat with a sparkling car.

Sunday Independent