Skoda Citigo

22 Aug, 2012 11:00am

Can a traditional city car match the clever new alternatives?

Gridlocked roads and heavy taxes are taking their toll on conventional city cars. The Twizy presents an interesting and environmentally friendly alternative to the mainstream, but it still needs to beat our reigning Car of the Year.

In stripped-down S spec, the Skoda Citigo costs only £940 more than the entry-level Twizy. And while it fails to drop below the 100g/km emissions threshold for free road tax, there are no battery leasing charges, which come to at least £540 a year.

With its smart but understated styling, the Skoda attracts much less attention on the road than its electric rival. There’s no wow factor, although its chic, simple looks are appealing.

The Citigo’s cabin is basic yet functional: the manual windows, plastic controls and lack of a rev counter remind you that at this budget, you only get the bare essentials. Yet despite the limited kit, the car still feels more spacious and solid than the Twizy inside, while its narrow pillars give you better visibility, even though this car takes up a lot more space on the roads.

Finding a natural driving position is easy, although height-adjustable seats are a £50 option. Seeing as our car came with the £275 optional Portable Infotainment Device (PID), we could check for any congestion hotspots along our route before leaving. On joining the dual-carriageway at the start, the Skoda built up an early lead.

Thanks to its superb refinement and supple ride, the Citigo can cruise at higher speeds than the Twizy, while feather-light controls make it a relaxing drive. However, after 20 minutes of progress, traffic began to build up and the Skoda got caught in the queues. The Piaggio flew through the traffic, but both the Citigo and the Renault were held up behind the usual obstacles: buses, roadworks, delivery vans and traffic lights all slowed everything to a crawl.

With no air-con fitted to this entry-level model, and warm weather outside, it was tempting to wind the windows down. But as this would let in some of the exhaust fumes the Twizy driver was enduring, we resisted. Instead, we focused on the nippy pace of the 59bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine. It doesn’t have the Twizy’s instant torque, but with over three times the power, it feels agile and responsive.

Despite the Skoda’s highly impressive performance, the restrictions of traffic meant that it arrived almost half an hour after the Piaggio scooter. There’s no shame in second place, though: almost anyone could have done the journey in the same time, while only a skilled rider could match the speedy progress of the three-wheeler.

The Skoda is also the only car that could have taken all four of our testers to the office together. If it was your only transport, that extra flexibility would be invaluable.

So while other running costs like fuel bills, servicing and tax are higher than for the Twizy, you’re getting a lot more for your money with the Citigo. It’s not the best commuter here – but for everything else it beats the other vehicles, hands down.

Details

Chart position: 1
Why? Can our reigning Car of the Year win the commuting race? The Skoda is the priciest option, even in base S specification, but offers the most versatility by far.

Key specs

  • Price: £7,630
  • Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 59bhp
  • 0-60mph: 14.4 seconds
  • Test economy: 38.7mpg/8.5mpl
  • CO2: 105g/km
  • Annual road tax: £20

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