Citroen C1 sitting pretty

Citroen C1
Citroen C1
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Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.
Settle yourself in the front of Citroen’s new baby C1 and you certainly will be sitting comfortably.

For their new body-hugging ergonomic seats with extra side support wouldn’t be out of place on a car costing twice as much: the C1 starts from £8,245 and for just over £10,000 you can have those seats in leather, too.

I was instantly comfortable and so too was my colleague, a guy almost a foot taller than me, so one size really does fit all. It’s a supportive, sporty seat, though sport is not what the C1 is about.

With a choice of two three-cylinder petrol engines, a one-litre 68bhp VTi or a 1.2 litre 82bhp VTi, this is obviously no road burner.But it is a likeable, user-friendly and very efficient little city car that’s likely to be very inexpensive to run, a little lightweight tipping the scales at just 855kg.

It’s the latest incarnation of the Toyota/Peugeot/Citroen link-up that produced the original Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107.

But this time round, the new platform, with a lighter rear axle and refined suspension, allows more scope for the three manufacturers to express their own individuality.

That’s why three very different little city cars are competing for your attention.

Citroen’s version has a cheerful, practical and non-aggressive look, with a choice of flamboyant colours and matching trim and accessories inside.

Pick bright red, for example, and you can have matching plastic trim on the centre console and door panels.

That’d wake you up for the drive to work on a rainy Monday morning.

Or you can have a silver car with tasteful matching trim and black leather.

Two-part headlamps and LED driving lights are meant to give the C1 a smile - take a look and decide for yourself.

Meanwhile the Toyota Aygo wears a bold, in-your-face look featuring a giant X motif inside and out, while Peugeot 108 went for a restrained, upmarket appearance.

Anyway, the C1 is available as a three-door or five-door and seats four adults, as long as you don’t have the front seats too far back. A six-footer would ruffle their hair getting into the back, though.

Fire up the 68bhp engine and it feels spritely enough to keep up with city traffic, although the 0-62mph time is given as a rather pedestrian 14 seconds. It buzzes along nicely, doesn’t feel too stressed and is comfortable and quite quiet at motorway speed.

But if you’re approaching a long climb it pays to change down from fifth fairly quickly to avoid running out of steam. The gear change is positive and easy to use.

The 82bhp version naturally copes better, with 0-62mph in 11 seconds, and is the one to choose if you regularly travel long distances.

All models emit less than 100g/km of CO2 - the smaller engine on 88g/km and the larger 99g/km - so all qualify for zero vehicle excise duty.

Official combined fuel economy is up to 74.3mpg for 68bhp models using stop/start technology, while the 82bhp model manages 65.7mpg.

Transmission is a light and easy five-speed manual gearbox, with the option of an automated ETG -efficient tronic gearbox - on the smaller engine.

The electric power steering is light and positive, with a nifty 4.8m turning circle handy for crowded car parks.

The platform and steering have been refined to improve handling and comfort and the C1 feels nimble enough, although it rolls and sways if you attack bends too briskly, but there’s plenty of grip. It was never meant for that sort of abuse, anyway.

The brakes look tiny, discs at the front and drums at the rear, but are well up to the job, helped by ABS and electronic break assist.

Helping keep you safe, there’s technology including cornering stability and electronic stability control.

All models have hill start assist to prevent embarrassing and potentially expensive rolling backwards on slopes. You can have 14in or 15in wheels.

The interior sees a return of the quirky touches which used to be a Citroen trademark. The instrument panel, featuring a large central speedo with a small rev counter scale on one side and warning lights on the other, sits on top of the steering column and moves up and down as you adjust the height of the wheel.

There’s even more fun to be had if you opt for the Airscape electric folding fabric soft-top, which adds about £700 to the price and runs almost the entire length of the roof.

You can open or close it at motorway speed, though why you’d want to I’m not certain, especially as it opens with one touch of a button but needs constant pressing to close it again.

Anyway, it gives you all the joy of a soft top on sunny days, with a wind-deflector to limit turbulence. Citroen reckon it’s no noisier inside than the solid-roof hatchback. We drove both, and there was only a hint of wind noise in the soft top at motorway speed.It’s available in matching, or contrasting, funky colours, too.

Technology fans can opt for a 7in touch drive interface, grouping together DAB radio, phone and the car’s computer. Mirror Screen technology displays your phone’s content on the touch screen with control of apps including navigation and music.

There are cunning storage compartments throughout the light, airy cabin. The boot is a compact 196-litre affair, big enough for a modest shop if not a day out at Meadowhall. But with the back seats down you have a capacious 780 litres.

The birth of the C1 was not without complications. The woman leading Citroen’s team involved in the design told us of years of delicate negotiations with Toyota’s experts. Japanese and European engineers have different views of how to build a car.

Finalising the details of a platform that suited Toyota, Citroen and Peugeot and left scope for all three to tailor the car to their own markets was a tortuous process. But they got there in the end.