It’s amazing no one has thought of it before; rubberised protective panels on a car’s vulnerable areas to protect it from supermarket trolleys, carelessly opened doors, bumps and scrapes writes motoring editor Ian Strachan.

But Citroen has thought of it. The new Citroen C4 Cactus has protective “Airbump” panels on the side doors, and front and rear bumpers, meaning no more scratched or damaged paintwork. A simple idea, and it actually looks OK, blending in with the car’s rugged design.

And the C4 Cactus does look good. It’s rugged and distinctive, and has a very spacious interior. Its overall appearance is helped by smart diamond cut 17 inch alloy wheels.

I test drove the three cylinder 1.2 litre petrol-powered Cactus in Flair specification. The direct injection 110 horsepower engine is willing, smooth and quiet. Married to a five-speed manual gearbox it gives effortless performance, although a sixth cog would help.

The interior is pleasant to look at and pleasant to be inside. Styling is attractive and  has lots of personality to match its rugged exterior.

The seats are more comfortable and supportive than many cars in this class.  The centrally mounted touch-screen for controlling air conditioning, radio and media and the satnav system is slick and satisfying to use.

Storage space is generous, with a large flat-topped facia top compartment, storage in the front arm rest and big door bins front and back. Leg and headroom is more than adequate and boot space is generous.

There are some clever touches around this Citroen and I Iike it a lot. In addition fuel economy is very good, returning an impressive 60.1 miles to the gallon in mixed driving.

On the road, the Cactus handles extremely well. The power assisted steering is sensibly variable – always giving you good contact with the road. Cornering is positive and effortless. The car’s suspension feels a little harder than you’d expect from a Citroen but it’s still very comfortable.

Automatic dual-zone air conditioning, remote central locking with immobiliser, RDS DAB radio/MP3 player with Bluetooth compatibility and USB socket, cruise control, 17 inch alloys, gear efficiency indicator, rear parking sensors with camera, electric windows, automatic wipers and headlights and electric, heated door mirrors are all standard.

This is a good package and well worth the £18,360 on the road price. Extras on my test car included a city parking pack (£325) and space saver spare wheel (£75).

Motoring Reviews are bought to you courtesy of Midlands Business News and its Motoring Editor Ian Strachan of Ian Strachan Communications