Skoda Citigo: Second report

6 Feb, 2013 10:15am Owen Mildenhall

We put our new Skoda Citigo to the test on a marathon cross-Europe drive

Normally, the thought of driving nearly 1,000 miles across Europe in a three-cylinder city car would fill me with dread. But having collected our new Skoda Citigo from the factory in Slovakia, I was relishing the prospect of taking the wheel for the journey back to the UK.

After all, it’s our reigning Car of the Year – and there’s no better way of really getting to know a car than on a proper road trip.

Leaving the Slovak capital, Bratislava, first impressions were good. Our Elegance-spec Skoda’s standard touchscreen navigation is really easy to use, and the mapping is clear.

It’s just what you need when you’re finding your way out of a busy city in the middle of rush hour. Unsurprisingly, the little Skoda is great around town, too.

And things stayed positive on the dual carriageway to the Austrian border, as high-speed refinement is really good. The three-cylinder engine works away happily without fuss, and there’s remarkably little road or wind noise, plus the ride is fantastic.

While the phrase ‘little car with a big-car feel’ is something of a cliche, it still applies to the Citigo. The seats are comfortable and there’s plenty of stowage for snacks and drinks. The audio system isn’t bad, either, and after a couple of hours behind the wheel my respect for the Skoda grew.

By the time we left Austria for Germany I was thoroughly enjoying myself, and after a brief overnight stop in the Bavarian city of Nuremburg, I was up early and back on the autobahn, hoping to cover some big miles.

Light traffic and plenty of derestricted sections meant I had the chance to drive the Citigo flat out. With only 74bhp, it’s a little sluggish on steep hills, but once cruising it can hold its own and feels stable at speed.

Better still, the first couple of fill-ups revealed economy around the 36mpg mark, which is really impressive given that the throttle pedal was pinned for long periods. In fact, it’s only the 35-litre fuel tank that makes the range relatively short.

Heading deeper into Germany, the temperature plummeted as low as minus seven degrees Celsius, but as we’d specced our car with winter tyres, we decided to turn off the autobahn and travel across the Eifel mountains towards Belgium.

Here, the nicely weighted steering, strong brakes and snappy gearshift meant the Citigo was fun and reassuring on tricky roads, while the stunning scenery helped the miles pass by easily. But with all of Belgium and a brief final leg through France still to go, there was no time for sightseeing.

It’s a testament to the Citigo that when I finally reached the Channel Tunnel, I still had a smile on my face. And if I’m honest, I was actually feeling a little disappointed the road trip was nearly over. In the end I covered 998 miles, averaged a decent 40.6mpg and enjoyed every minute of the trip.

Our new Skoda was left dirty but unflustered by its rigorous introduction to life on the Auto Express fleet. And so far it has continued to impress in more mundane day-to-day motoring, too.

Our view

“Gone are the days when you’d need a big car for an epic road trip. Owen’s pan-European jaunt proves that the Citigo is far more than just a talented urban runabout.”
Dean Gibson, Deputy road test editor

Your view

“I got my Citigo last month and it’s a great little car. It has won me over with its peppy engine and sharp handling.”
aprilflowers, via www.autoexpress.co.uk

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That mpg figure is disappointing.....40mpg overall, you could have got that out of large luxury diesel saloon, and the journey would have been far more comfortable. I found the seats and driving position very poor in the Citigo, so much so, I could only see half of the speedo in the end. The engine idled like a diesel in terms of noise and vibration, and the interior was no better than a late 80's Twingo...which when you compare, shows small, basic cars have not come far at all in that time....especially small cars that command a premium. The dash looks like a regular VW version, but I for one look past that.....

I'm not a fan of the removable sat-nav idea (nor the pop-up screens Audi uses). I realise it helps keep the price down, but remembering to take the unit with you whenever you leave the car would be a major pain.

Interesting to read that the throttle was pinned down for periods. I wonder what the manual says about running in and treating the car gently in the first 1000 miles. Even when dealers tell you that you don't need to run it in there's always something in the manual about it.

Well, I was going to buy one but you've put me off with the MPG figures. Thanks. I'll stick to a Diesel

I've got a Yaris with removeable sat-nav and one does need to think about not leaving it in the car. Not forgotten yet! Of course it also means having a sat-nav to use in another car. As well as bluetooth and the handsfree system in the Yaris.

Some of these citycars do seem a bit van like with all those painted bits inside. I almost bought a Toyota Aygo but bought a Yaris instead. And can a 3 cylinder really give good MPG when driven hard?

Yes, I am always suspicious when journos go burbling on about "three cylinder thrum" when this really means "coarse and vibratory". A good diesel (they do exist) is scarcely detectable as such and 60mpg is easily obtainable on a journey in a bigger vehicle than this. It suits manufacturers to build three cylinder engines as profit margins are higher.

Surely if the throttle was pinned for large periods of time the car will have being doing about 100mph average down the autobahn so the 40mpg doesn't bear any relation to what the car is really capable of. A diesel can manage 60mpg at sensible speeds but at 100mph it won't be getting near that either. A 3 cylinder engine makes sense in a small car as it gives a torquier response compared to an equivalent displacement 4 cylinder. I don't see a problem with this especially now the inherent inbalance of this configuration seems to have been largely overcome by newer designs.

The inherent imbalance cannot be overcome but the effects can have palliative measures applied, such as balancing shafts. Surely almost as complicated as providing an extra cylinder though.

I love my Citigo, and regularly get over 60mpg at 75mph on the motorway, plus it's a joy to drive. remember that their car was brand new, and was being driven hard, as they state in the report. I suggest people stop being so negative about the car, and try one. It's car of the year for a reason - it (along with the up!), redefined the citycar class. I'd never consider downgrading to a Korean, or japanese or italian car again.

Key specs

  • On fleet since: December 2012
  • Price new: £10,210
  • Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 74bhp
  • CO2/Tax: 98g/km/£0
  • Options: Convenience Pack (£310), Entertainment Pack (£100), spare wheel (£50), metallic paint (£460)
  • Trade-in now: N/A
  • Insurance group/quote: 2/£299
  • Mileage/mpg: 3,150/47.3mpg
  • Costs/Problems: None so far

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