A connection too far


I gave up the fruitless fight against the relentless advance of my middle years some time ago. I accept I will never again pick up a book without first picking up my reading glasses. I can live with the hair that once grew on my head relocating to my nostrils and ears. I am resigned to the truth that I can’t run as fast as my teenage daughters and I know they will laugh every time I utter an involuntary squawk when I collapse onto the sofa after a hard day’s work. I know too the day will come soon enough when I choose to sit down to put on my socks. And I am alright with that. But I can’t cope with being overtaken by cars.

I don’t mean this the way you think. If you want to get where you’re going faster than me I’ll do all that I can to let you. Indeed the single downside to the outstanding lack of performance common to all the cars I actually own is the fear that I might hold someone up. The overtaking I’m referring to is technological.

Right now I have outside something called a Citroën C4 Cactus. It is as peculiar as it looks. This is a car with full navigation but rear windows that cannot be wound down. It has cruise control but no vanity mirror for your passenger. It has only one gauge (a hideous digital speed readout), but at least three different sockets into which you can plug your iPod. It is my job to make sense of these choices but to be honest I am struggling. This is a car aimed at the youth of today, a constituency of which I can no longer claim to be a member.

There’s more I don’t understand. Why does it need vast, ugly plastic cladding down its sides? And why does Citroen feel the need to proclaim to the world in letters down their sides that these addenda are called ‘Airbumps’? If it’s just side protection it looks like overkill. Also, it has acne on its dashboard. Which board member thought it a good idea to decorate the area about the glovebox with 32 blackheads? They had become 31 within a day of the car arriving. Somewhere there is a little black plastic cap roaming pointlessly around the inside of the Cactus, but now all I can see is the small, white hole in the dash top from which it made its heroic bid for freedom.

But I guess the real subject of my befuddlement are the connectivity options it claims to place at your disposal. If you have a 3G connection (not always a given in my neck of the woods) you can, in theory, connect your Cactus to the internet through your telephone. In reality you cannot, or at least I could not because every time I turned on the internet function in the car, the car thoughtfully turned it off for me. I did try awfully hard and even managed to rope a more media-savvy daughter into the attempt, but it just wasn’t happening.

Even so, I don’t need a Google search engine, BBC homepage or, as Citroën helpfully suggests, the Trip Advisor app open in front of me to see a potential flaw to this plan. I am sure Citroen is not suggesting that you go honking down the M4 at 70mph while reading restaurant reviews, and I hope that were I ever actually to get into this confounded system I’d discover it was disabled while the car was moving. And if that’s the case – if you have to be parked at the side of the road to use it – what value does it have when all it can offer is the same information as the telephone that’s providing the internet connection in the first place? Why not look at that instead?

The terrible thing is I know I’ve missed something here. I know that if I’d ever been able to hook up to what Citroen calls ‘Multicity Connect’ all would become clear and that the genius of getting a parked car to speak on behalf of your perfectly serviceable and presumably rather more user-friendly telephone would be revealed.

So if one of Motor Sport’s younger and more techno-literate browsers could take pity of an ageing contributor and let me know what the hell is the point of all this and where I’m going wrong, I’d look forward very much to reading it. As soon as I can find my glasses.


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