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.

But now 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 (providing you avoid the bright in-your-face yellow body colour). In a more conservative shark grey it’s rugged and distinctive, and has a very spacious interior. Its overall appearance is helped by smart 17 inch alloy wheels in black.

I test drove the 1.6 litre diesel-powered Cactus in Flair specification. The 100 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, thanks to a huge thermally insulated panoramic sunroof (£395 extra). Styling is attractive and has lots of personality to match its rugged exterior.

The seats, leather-trimmed (£695 extra) with folding armrests, are more comfortable and supportive than most 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. My only worry is that simple actions like turning the temperature down of switching the automatic stop/start off involve taking your eyes off the road, if only for a second or two. Sometimes a simple switch is a better idea.

Storage space is generous, with a large facia top compartment, storage in the front arm rest and big door bins front and back. Leg and headroom is 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 83.1 miles to the gallon in mixed driving. Low emissions mean it is exempt of road tax.

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 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 £17,990 on the road price. Extras on my test car included metallic paint (£495) city parking pack (£375) 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