IF there is one car company that have never been afraid to do things a little bit differently then you needn't look farther than our old French friends, Citroen.
Who could forget the fabulous Traction Avant made famous in BBC TV's 1960s Parisian detective series Maigret, or how about the super-streamlined sexy high-tech DS that could have been designed in the same studio as British Rail's all-conquering, record-breaking Mallard steam engine.
And remember the 2CV, the little snail-like machine that - along with the 49cc VeloSolex moped - helped get the rural French public mobile after long dark years of austerity at the end of the Second World War.
In more recent times, Citroen was back showing off its quirky design mindset with the quirky C4 Cactus crossover hatchback.
First things first, Citroen bubble-wrapped the machine making it virtually bullet proof - well not quite - but certainly car-park proof, for large replaceable panels which the French car makers call Airbumps were fitted to the doors to provide a protective shield to help prevent the bodywork suffering dents from carelessly opened car doors or runaway shopping trolleys.
With a large range of standard paint colours from which to choose, including metallic and pearlescent finishes, the Airbump panels could also be colour-coordinated to match the car's exterior paintwork.
Another neat and uniquely-Citroen exterior design touch was the car's "floating" roof. Black-painted pillars along with the car's tinted windows gave an illusion that the roof was actually detached from the rest of the car's bodywork.
Inside, there was more unconventional design cues. The minimalistic colour-coordinated dash was served by a small pad behind the steering wheel containing the digital speedo and fuel gauge.
Centrally-situated was the seven-inch colour touch screen through which the sat nav - if fitted - radio, air conditioning and Bluetooth could be controlled, while selecting reverse gear saw a rear view camera kick in making reversing a breeze.
Other novel features were a large flat-topped hinged glove box and straps which replaced the more traditional door handles.
Buyers could take their pick from both petrol and diesel engines, all offering superb fuel economy. The diesel for instance returned quite mind-blowing fuel economy of 83mpg.
The petrol range, made up of a trio of 1.2-litre three-cylinder PureTech powerplants of 75, 82 and 110bhp, all return in excess of 60mpg on the combined cycle, while CO2 figures ranged between 89 and 107g/km.
Highly-fashionably and trendy in the looks department, the Cactus was designed for comfort rather than out-and-out speed. The suspension was even tuned slightly on the softish side for great for long-distance cruising.
Around town, the car's light steering and great all-round vision made it a breeze to negotiate through busy traffic.
There was also bags of space in the Cactus, especially so in the rear which accommodated three adults with relative ease. The boot was also spacious, with 385 litre of luggage space available with the rear bench seat in place. Fold it down and that increased to a more-than-useful 1170 litres.
The Cactus came in three spec levels, all of which offered a decent amount of kit for the money. However, most new car buyers opted for the mid-range Feel with its seven-inch touchscreen, front electric windows, DAB radio, alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control and Bluetooth connection, so finding one to suit should prove no problem.
Safety features included electronic stability control, hill hold and front and side airbags, while sat nav and what Citroen call a city park pack, which more or less automatically parked the car by itself, were also available as options and worth looking out for.
With prices now starting around the £5,500 mark for a nice 2014 to 2015 model with decent spec level, the C4 Cactus can be said to be something of a bargain, and with superb fuel economy and low road tax and insurance premiums, this little French fancy certainly makes a great family favourite.