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Review: Citroen C1 range

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Citroen C1 range

Citroen C1 range

Citroen C1 range

Citroen’s C1 shares its design but not always its tight pricing with Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107 stablemates that roll down the same production lines.

It’s a clever design that maximises space and offers the advantage of a five-door option over the similarly-sized C2. Styling enhancements and small improvements to fuel consumption and emissions make the latest version particularly attractive.

If, understandably, you were under the impression that Citroen’s sub-supermini-sized C2 was the French maker’s offering in the citycar sector, you’d be wrong. That position is occupied by this car, the C1. It’s more affordable than the similarly-sized C2 and offers the option of five as well as three doors. Leaving aside the headache that must give Citroen dealers on the sales floor, there’s also the issue of how it can differentiate itself from the re-badged versions of this design also on sale at Peugeot and Toyota dealerships.

Citroen being Citroen, they’ve solved that problem by simply offering better value as you’ll find if you compare prices. That leaves the C2 overlap, partly solved by equipping that car with a wider range of engines. OK, it does mean that the C1 buyers only get a single choice when it comes to either petrol or diesel powerplants, but even that’s more than Toyota or Peugeot will offer you in their citycar alternatives. Both these makers reckon there’s no market for citycar diesels. Citroen beg to differ.

As a C1 buyer, you get either an improved 68bhp 1.0i petrol unit or a 54bhp 1.4-litre HDi diesel. Five speed manual gearboxes are fitted as standard and there’s a refreshing lack of gimmicks and nonsense that can plague some small cars as manufacturers look to differentiate their wares. With this Citroen, you just get a citycar that’s small, manoeuvrable, easy to see out of and very simple to operate.

"When it comes to hammering down running costs, Citroen’s C1 is extremely tough to beat."

It’s almost comical how little car there is behind the rear seats and when reversing into a multi-storey bay, it’s worth remembering that you can afford to leave yourself some breathing room at the back. Quite what a tailgating articulated truck would look like to a rear seat passenger is the flip side of that characteristic! Both the engines have something to be said for them but the petrol unit that most choose does feel more willing and revvy and perhaps a little more suited to the C1’s up and at ‘em personality. The steering feels somewhat artificial and takes some getting used to but it doesn’t require much effort to twirl the car into a parking space.

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The C1’s exterior has been given a smart upgrade in recent times, with changes to the car’s front end, complementing the looks of the updated C2. There are revised wheels and trims, whilst inside there is better quality upholstery and smarter materials. Unlike a number of its rival tiny runabouts, the C1 offers a choice of either three or five-door body styles. The glass tailgate looks good but unlike that on the C2, doesn’t extend down to bumper level, which might be a pain if you’re constantly wanting to load in heavy shopping. The wheelarches are surprisingly beefy and the rear set are sculpted a little further forward in the three-door body style. The five-door car sees its rear doors meet the rear light clusters in a very neat piece of packaging.

Citroen have been regaining their reputation for bold and exciting interiors of late and the C1 continues that trend. Headroom inside the car isn’t at all bad, even for someone well over six feet tall and the big glass area up front gives an airy feel to the cabin. The rear of the three-door car is notably more claustrophobic and is really only suitable for kids and short journeys. Rear kneeroom in the five door car is little better but at least the car’s beltline is a little lower, making it feel a little less hemmed in. Bootspace is the same, whether you choose the three or the five-door – 139 litres with all the seats in place or 751 litres with the rear seat folded.

As we all know, list prices (in this case the typical £8,500 to £10,500 bracket common to this class) are only the starting point for negotiation but bear in mind that on a car this inexpensive, the dealer will have less to play with in terms of discounts. Allow £500 more if you want five doors rather than three. Some buyers may have reservations about the safety of such a minute car. Nudge up against a behemoth 4x4 in a car of the C1’s size and it’s easy to feel rather threatened, but the C1 is likely to have better safety systems than some sizeable SUVs. As well as a specially developed body structure that incorporates crumple zones and impact absorbers at the front and rear, the C1 also boasts ISOFIX child seat anchor points, reinforced doors and up to six airbags.

What’s more, it’s also well equipped to avoid a fender bender in the first instance with anti lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and corner stability control. The C1 has also been designed to limit the consequences of a pedestrian impact – wise indeed for a car that will doubtless spend much of its life in the urban environment. The front end features no sharp edges and impact absorbers up front also help to limit leg injuries. There’s plenty of clearance between the impact absorbing bonnet and the top of the engine which means that shock is dissipated without coming into contact with anything hard.

Where the C1 scores an almost unbeatable mark is in the field of cost of ownership. The nippy 1.0i 68hp petrol engine emits less CO2 than any other petrol powerplant currently on sale in the UK, boasting lowered CO2 emissions of just 106g/km (2.7% better than before), and a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 62.8mpg (2.1% better). At 22.0 pence per mile over a typical three year ownership period, an entry-level C1 1.0 is one of the least expensive cars it’s possible to run.

Unlike its Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107 rivals, the C1 offers its buyers a diesel option and in this form, the car will return 68.9mpg on the combined cycle. Given that there’s a price premium of around £1,000 for the diesel and that most C1s don’t cover huge mileages, the diesel is actually the more costly model to own of the two and is also nearly two seconds slower to 60mph. No prizes for guessing where the smart money goes. One area where the diesel does fare better is, rather surprisingly, servicing charges but it falls into insurance group 2 rather than the Group 1 premium of the petrol models.

The Citroën C1 is one of the better buys in the city car sector, developed with the kind of design budget that guarantees a good result. It might not be as spacious or as versatile as, say, a Fiat Panda but when it comes to hammering down running costs, it’s extremely tough to beat.

What’s more, low running costs don’t come at the expense of everything else. The C1 is a fun car to drive with a cheeky personality and the no-nonsense approach to build quality means that there’s not a whole lot to go wrong. On top of that, there’s no safer car in the class, so if the price is right, you can understand its appeal.


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