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Miles of smiles in Citroen’s cute little C1 character

06:00 09 October 2014

New Citroen C1 city car has a cheeky face and real character to drive.

New Citroen C1 city car has a cheeky face and real character to drive.

Citroen

With bug eye headlights and grinning grille, the Citroen C1 city car will put a big smile on your face too, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

Test drive: Citroen C1 Flair PureTech 1.2 82 five-door,

Price: £10,935 (range from £8,245)

Engine: 1,199c, 82hp, three-cylinder petrol

Performance: 0-62mph 11 seconds; top speed 106mph

MPG: Urban 52.3; extra urban 76.3; combined 65.7

CO2 emissions: 99g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 12%

Insurance group: 11E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 3,465mm; width (including door mirrors) 1,884mm; height 1,460mm

The distinctive split front lights design looks like a pair of eyes with brows while the lower front grille gives the impression of a huge grinning face. And that’s what the C1 does for you too – it’s a little car that puts a big smile on your face.

Citroen has given the C1 a really fun and funky design – which makes it different and distinctive compared to the more mature-looking Peugeot 108 and youthful, dynamic Toyota Aygo with which it shares running gear, oily bits and interior. And that’s going to be most imporant if all three are going to win a share of this blossoming A-segment market.

This new second-generation trio of city cars confirms that small is beautiful in a sector which is expanding in terms of both models and sales as more people down-size cars to cut running costs.

Like its Peugeot sibling, the Citroen also offers an 82hp 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine alongside the 68hp 1.0-litre unit.

While the smaller engine is fine if you spend much time in towns and cities, the extra oomph of the 1.2-litre unit, which powers higher-specification models, is welcome on the open road.

These three-cylinder engines are not the smoothest at low revs with a bit of a throbby thrum which you notice through the pedals and steering wheel. Wind them up and they feel more refined, accompanied by an exhaust note that is sporty enough to make you think there is something much more exciting beneath the bonnet.

Even if you go for the bigger unit, there is not much of a penalty at the pumps with a combined fuel figure of 65.7mpg, against up to 74.3mpg for the 1.0-litre, while CO2 emissions of 99g/km still mean no annual road tax to pay. In real-world mixed motoring I saw 55 to 60mpg most of the time with a best of 63mpg.

The C1 is compact enough to nip through tight gaps in the traffic and squeeze into little parking spaces – helped by the light steering – but pushing the wheels out to the corners gives it the biggest possible footprint on the road and maximises space inside.

The result is a little city car that is pretty adept at soaking up poor, pockmarked urban roads but does not feel out of its depth on twisty open roads with suspension that is still firm enough to give the C1 a flat stable stance through fast corners so you can have a disproportionate amount of fun given the power outputs of the small engines.

The interior continues that fun feel with its speedo-dominated instrument binnacle, bar-style rev counter and seven-inch central touchscreen which, on top models, allows the driver to run selected smartphone apps.

There are also personalisation options for the fascia panels and gear lever, so it can co-ordinate or contrast with the body colour, but it is a shame that that hard plastic fascia does not feel as nice as it looks. Easy-to-use controls and a light clutch pedal take the strain out of stop-start urban snarl-ups.

For a small car, the C1 has a surprising amount of space inside. You can get four average adults in reasonsably comfortably for short journeys – especially in the five-door models – if those in front give up some of their legroom. My top-model test car also boasted very supportive front seats with one-piece seatbacks incorporating head rests.

The well-shaped 196-litre boot takes a useful amount of shopping or enough luggage for two people. The rear seats split 50/50 and fold down but leave a step up from the boot floor and their painted metal backs could get marked if not protected from sharp loads.

As well as being good looking, the C1 is attractively priced with Touch, Feel and Flair trim levels as well as a canvas-roofed Airscape version. And, in these cost-conscious times, that will put an even bigger smile on your face.

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Andy Russell

Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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