Remember when the Citroen C1 first launched in the mid-2000s? Alongside the Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo – which used the same parts but each looked a little different – it heralded a slightly new piece of thinking in small cars.
There were deliberate touches to make it cheaper and lighter than rivals: rear windows that popped out rather than wound down on five-door cars, and just one piece of string for the parcel shelf. Take care of the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves, and all that…
Their clever thinking kickstarted a bit of a renaissance for the city car class they competed in, and the following years saw the arrival of another co-developed trio, the VW Up, Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo as well as the sensible Hyundai i10, retro Fiat 500 and rear-engined Renault Twingo, all trying to outsmart the C1 and its siblings.
Citroen’s response hasn’t been to reinvent the C1 – spend a big development budget on a car like this and its bargain price will have to rise in response – but to give it some new styling, inspired by the rest of its range, and a ton of customisation options. READ: Fiat Uno 2019 Price
Some of it’s relatively premium: you can have a folding soft-top, like a Fiat 500C, while big car tech like cruise control, a 7in touchscreen and a reversing camera all lie on the options list. Those nostalgic for old small Citroens can also revel in some of the trim names: if you miss the old Saxo Furio, you can have a C1 Furio with garish graphics…
There are two engines on offer: a 68bhp 1.0-litre and 82bhp 1.2-litre, both with just three cylinders and neither with a turbocharger. Both come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, but you can fit an automated transmission to the 1.0. With both cars around 860kg – basically what an entry-level Lotus Elise used to weigh – performance isn’t as slow as you might be fearing.
Prices start at a smidge over £9,000 for an entry-level car, but it’ll be precisely that: no touchscreen or air con. The rear seats won’t even split if you want to fold them down. Chances are the next level up – called Feel – will be a better bet, though it will likely take you past £11,000. We suspect these are mostly bought on attractive lease deals anyway, but the city car class is super competitive: haggle hard as there are lots of cars as good as – if not better than – the C1 these days.
The last C1 was only available with the Toyota-sourced 1.0-litre engine. Now Peugeot-Citroen has doubled the choice by offering its own 1.2-litre. The latter costs more and is notably quicker on paper – its 10.9sec 0-62mph time is a whole 50 per cent quicker than the 1.0’s – but if it’s a big financial stress, don’t worry too much. The 1.0 is pretty peppy and in a car this light, either engine will make the C1 feel surprisingly keen in the all-important traffic light grand prix.
ALSO SEE: Fiat Ducato 2019 Model Price
The lightness makes it rather fun to drive, too. The steering is quick and eager and the car moves around with agility. You can even be boisterous into corners if you wish to relive the good old days of Saxo VTRs and VTSs at a slightly slower pace. It’s a good laugh, and while not as good as a VW Up, it handles better than a Renault Twingo, whose rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout seems to trouble the traction control even when you’re driving sedately.
The C1 isn’t super comfy – it’ll feel a bit brittle over more broken urban roads – but that’s true of nearly all cars with a wheelbase this short. It’ll only perturb you if you go looking for the most awful bumps and ruts.
It’s not as refined as an Up at higher speeds and on dual carriageways, but then lots of grown up saloon cars aren’t either – VW arguably overengineered it for its main purpose. The C1 is bearable, but it’s not the best in class if you’ll be on motorways a lot.
One last thing. You can option that cool-looking Airscape canvas sunroof, but bear in mind it does cause wind pulse above 30mph.
Predictably, most of the materials are hard and hollow sounding. But at this price, that’s fine. Citroen’s done a good job of making it all look pretty cheery.
ALSO READ: 2019 Fiat 500 Abarth Release Date Images
Half of the doors are exposed metal, so if you’ve picked interesting paint, it’s a welcome flash of colour among the grey plastic. The speedo is big, round and central, with higher spec cars getting a little digital rev counter tagged on the side. It’s simple but fun.
The centre console is vertical, housing the media and heating controls. Higher spec cars get a decent enough touchscreen system and a natty climate control layout, which again displays some fairly plain info in quite a fun way.
There are hallmarks of cheapness, though; the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, the electric windows don’t zip down with one touch and you need to pay more money if you want that rev counter or even rear seats that split as you fold them.
If you’ve got anything more than a couple of cabin-baggage cases you’ll want to fold them, too; the boot is narrow and not very deep, and only for modest shopping trips. The rear seats are best suited to small people and small journeys. Standard city car fare, of course, but bear in mind that the Fiat Panda and Hyundai i10 are more spacious, practical options in this class. The C1 is best suited to driving on your own or as a (very) small family.