Citroen C1 review
The Citroen C1 is a fun and cheap rival to the Volkswagen up! and Kia Picanto - but it is showing its age
The Citroen C1 broke the mould when it was launched back in 2005, with its agile handling, low running costs and great value price tag. It was co-developed with Toyota and Peugeot and is mechanically identical to the Aygo and 107. The driving experience is geared toward city streets, with a soft ride and light controls that make negotiating tight streets a breeze. It was given a facelift in 2012, with subtle updates to the design, engine and prices, to help it compete with newer rivals like the Volkswagen up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii. It now has an identical starting price to the VW and all manual models are free to tax, as they all fall under the magic 100g/km CO2 threshold. However, it still lacks the refinement and spaciousness of the up!, while the Hyundai i10 and Kia Picanto both deliver better value, higher fuel economy and more equipment. An all-new C1 is currently being developed and will be built alongside the new Aygo and 108 at the existing plant in the Czech Republic, although the new cars are unlikely to go on sale before 2014. Details are still scarce but we don know that they will have a more upmarket interior and improved efficiency.
Our choice: C1 VTR+
The Citroen C1 was given a second facelift at the beginning of 2012. The changes were subtle but included a smaller double chevron badge on the bonnet, a redesigned front bumper with new vertical LED running lights – similar to those on the stylish DS3 and C4 Aircross - and a pair of fog lights. The choice of paint colour now includes Botticelli Blue while mid and top-spec cars get a classy chrome strip on the grille. Inside, the biggest change was an improvement in the quality of materials used. Citroen also introduced a new leather steering wheel, a redesigned manual gearstick and the option of leather upholstery. There are four specifications to choose from – VT, VTR, VTR+ and Connexion - but entry-level cars get a radio but not much else. VTR cars come with front electric windows, LED lights, air-conditioning, a rev counter and rear head restraints. VTR+ adds 14-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, a leather steering wheel, tinted windows, shiny black details on the dash and Bluetooth. Special-edition Connexion was created with input from Facebook users, and comes Caldera Black metallic paint with contrasting Scarlet red detailing on the door handles, mirrors and rear number plate surround, as well as lots of red detailing around the cabin, including Scarlet Red carpet mats, door sills and centre console.
The only engine option is a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol, which produces 67bhp and is shared with the 107 and Aygo. It's not powerful and neither does it feel quick, but it can cover 0-62mph in 12.3 seconds, which is almost a second quicker than the fastest up!. But the real highlight is the great engine thrum, which provides tonnes of character. Citroen says it revised the power steering settings and re-calibrated the suspension to improve agility and ride comfort, too, but the suspension has always been nice and supple. However, one of its biggest problems is its high-speed refinement. With lots of wind and road noise on the motorway, it lags far behind the up! in this area. The C1 comes with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, but an EGS automatic is also available and comes equipped with wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the first time. Choosing it does have a small effect on the official consumption figures, though.
Although the Citroen C1 received a decent four-star Euro NCAP crash result when it was originally tested back in 2005, the rules have changed since and its rating was dropped to just three stars when the facelifted model was tested in 2012. It scored 71 per cent in the safety assist category but just 68 per cent for adult occupant protection, having “failed to keep abreast of latest safety developments and standards.” Newer rivals such as the Volkswagen up! and Fiat 500 both scored five-star ratings, and the C1 is now among the worst in it class. In response to Euro NCAP’s verdict, Citroen has promised to fit electronic stability control, thorax and curtain airbags, a passenger seatbelt reminder and ISOFIX mounts to all C1s sold in Europe by July 2013. Citroen doesn’t have the best reputation for reliability, but it did manage to finish 22nd out of 30 in the 2012 Driver Power survey – well ahead of Renault and Peugeot in 27th and 28th place respectively. No major problems have been reported with the C1, plus as it has been co-developed with the Toyota Aygo - which finished 73rd in the Top 100, just behind the second-generation Audi A3 – it should prove very reliable.
You can’t expect a car with such small dimensions to be incredibly practical, but even so the C1 lags far behind its rivals. The 139-litre boot is tiny – it’s even smaller than the Fiat 500, which has 185 litres of space, and it’s miles behind the VW Group trio’s 251 litres. VT cars get a folding rear bench seat, which expands its total capacity to 751 litres, which is considerably more than the 500’s 550 litres but still behind the up!’s total of 951 litres. VTR+ trim adds the versatility of a 50/50 split-folding rear bench, which means you can seat one passenger in the rear while the other seat is folded down to make way for longer items in the boot. There’s a decent amount of storage around the cabin, too, including a few cubbyholes and large door bins. There’s also enough space for two small adults to fit in the back seats in relative comfort, although choosing the five-door model will make it much easer for them to get in and out again. As for the driver, it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, while the light steering and impressive turning circle make parking and three-point turns easy.
Thanks to some minor tweaks in 2012, the C1 now emits a tax-busting 99g/km of CO2 (down from 103g/km) and has an official fuel consumption figure of 65.7mpg when equipped with the five-speed manual gearbox. If you opt for the EGS automatic, it drops fuel economy and emissions to 62.8mpg and 104g/km respectively. Insurance premiums are also low, making the C1 perfect for first time drivers. Citroen offers a range of zero per cent VAT deals that make the C1 even cheaper to buy, while three-year, 60,000-mile warranty will ensure there are no surprising repair bills, either.