I don't know how much thought manufacturers put into it, but the look and design of keys and key fobs can tell you a lot about the car you're driving.

I don't know how much thought manufacturers put into it, but the look and design of keys and key fobs can tell you a lot about the car you're driving.

After all, it is the keys that stay with you all the time. While your car is parked outside your house, out of sight, the keys are there on the sideboard in that nice bowl you bought in Morocco, right where you can see them when you move about, and just where the burglar would expect them to be.

I remember when I owned a V8 Land Rover Defender that it came with a whole bunch of keys - a tiny one for the fuel cap; a slightly bigger one for the back door; and a huge key for the ignition. The keys were a fair representation of the vehicle, telling you that it was an archaic machine that hadn't been updated for years.

My Alfa's key is slender and stylish; it comes in a handsome red and sometimes refuses to work. Similarly, the key to the Citroën C5 3.0 V6 Auto Estate I drove for a week is a thin sliver of ridged metal, wonkily housed in the most enormous black egg.

I could see no possible reason why this thing is so gigantic since, apart from turning the headlights off and on, it only does what all keys or key fobs do these days, i.e. open the doors. If, however, the key fob's purpose is to serve as a representation of the car it starts, the Citroën's is pretty accurate.

Like its key fob, the Citroën is a big sort of egg-shaped thing, larger than all others in its class and a bit cheap-looking.

Mind you, several people I showed the estate to approved of its appearance more than I did. And it is certainly good value, though I can't imagine that many will opt for the top-of-the-range car I was driving.

The sort of person who buys a C5 will not want to pay for leather, swivelling headlights and the slow-to-pick-up three-litre engine; rather, they will go for a mid-range diesel, where they will be purchasing a real bargain.

When I was offered a C5 I particularly requested the estate version, knowing it would be spacious. Generally, I only do saloons and coupes, but I've been wanting to move something bulky for a while, so the Citroën was the perfect opportunity to do it. The bulky thing was the figure of a man wearing a top hat wrapped in brown paper and string, with stickers all over him saying "fragile" and "Transvaal".

You may remember in an episode of The Young Ones called "Nasty" that I played a character called "Harry The Bastard", a driving instructor from the Transvaal who The Boys thought was a vampire from Transylvania. At one point I am delivered as a piece of mail to the house and it is this wrapped figure, which we call "The Parcel", that I wanted to move.

Twenty years ago when we made the show, I thought this brown paper and string figure resembled a piece of Christo-style art, so I asked the props department if I could have it.

They delivered it in a van and it's been a bloody nuisance ever since. My friend Steven, who stayed with us in the spare room, would wake in terror every morning with a sinister top-hatted figure looming over him. I'm happy to report that the C5 estate can easily swallow the figure of a top-hatted man wrapped in brown paper.

Finally, I have to say it's a long time since I've been in a car that made me laugh out loud, but it happened when I came to test the C5's lane departure warning system. This is a feature that helps to prevent you falling asleep at the wheel - if at speeds over 40mph you cross into another lane without indicating, then a device is activated in the driver's seat which vibrates on the side you are drifting towards.

To test it, I took the Citroën on to the Westway in London, accelerated and weaved from lane to lane. In response I expected a gentle buzzing, but erupted into involuntary guffaws when the warning system was activated. It felt as if I was being punched in the bottom by a powerful rabbit that lives under the seat, and was the most hilarious thing that has happened to me in a car for years.

So hats off to Citroën; they are well known for loading their cars with features such as comfort, safety and practicality, but they are now the first manufacturer to add "humour" to the list.

Search for used cars

Comments