Car group tests

Skoda Citigo vs Kia Picanto vs Renault Twingo

The Skoda Citigo has long been one of our top city cars, but can the revised model beat the Kia Picanto and Renault Twingo?

Since it was first launched in 2012, the Skoda Citigo has been the pick of a packed city car market. Part of a trio of cars from the Volkswagen Group along with the VW up! and SEAT Mii, it had all the elements needed to sit at the top of its class for year after year.

A surprisingly spacious and practical interior was matched to a composed and fun chassis, an eager and efficient 1.0-litre petrol engine and a relatively upmarket feel for a city runabout.

A low price helped the Czech model secure the top spot above its sister cars, so following a recent facelift that’s added more technology and some very minor tweaks to the styling, here we’ll find out if it still has star quality.

Best city cars on sale

The new Kia Picanto will be the Citigo’s first challenger, because it’s the freshest car in this class; the third-generation Korean model arrived this year as well. It’s more upmarket than ever and our GT-Line version has racy styling, too, matching the relatively high-spec Citigo Monte Carlo.

Then there’s the Renault Twingo, a city car with a difference: it’s rear-wheel drive and the engine is in the back. Are these unique selling points enough to usurp the Skoda? Read on to find out our verdict.

Skoda Citigo

Model:Skoda Citigo 1.0 MPI 60PS Monte Carlo 5dr
Engine:1.0-litre 3cyl petrol, 59bhp
0-60mph:13.4 seconds
Test economy:55.5mpg/12.2mpl
Annual road tax:£140

Skoda’s first and only city car, the Citigo, has been one of our favourite choices in this sector for years. Now it’s been updated with a subtle new design and some extra kit. Here we’re driving the sporty-looking five-door Monte Carlo model with a 59bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine, which starts at £11,520.

The Citigo is at a small power disadvantage, because it makes do with 59bhp, trailing the Picanto’s 66bhp and the Twingo’s 69bhp. All three engines are 1.0-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinders, and the Skoda’s 95Nm of torque is closely matched with the Kia’s 96Nm and the Renault’s 91Nm.

There are a lot of similarities between the three, including their characterful soundtracks, but the Skoda is the most fun. It’s quiet when you want it to be, although it has plenty of personality and can be driven surprisingly hard for a small, low-powered car.

Still, at our test track it did trail the Kia in terms of performance. The 0-60mph sprint took 13.4 seconds in the Citigo against 12.4 seconds in the Picanto – although because neither is particularly quick, that one-second difference isn’t as noticeable as it seems. The Twingo trailed both, taking 16.1 seconds, and it does feel more lethargic than its rivals.

So the Skoda is second to the Kia in a straight line, but from a driver’s perspective it finishes first. The steering and gearshift both feel slick and accurate, and the grippy chassis is a nice surprise and means you can throw it into corners. It’s great fun, and while our Monte Carlo’s lowered suspension does add a slightly firmer edge to the ride compared with other models, it’s still compliant enough. Standard cars are still great to drive, and a bit more forgiving on rutted roads.

Kia Picanto

Model:Kia Picanto 1.0 66hp GT-Line
Engine: Engine:1.0-litre 3cyl petrol, 66bhp
0-60mph:12.4 seconds
Test economy:49.8mpg/11.0mpl

The latest Kia Picanto is more sophisticated and upmarket than ever, and like the Citigo Monte Carlo, this GT-Line version is aimed at buyers after something sporty-looking without the associated higher running costs. This 66bhp 1.0-litre model costs from £11,950.

The 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is smooth and fun to work on the road, and the Picanto managed to beat both of its rivals in our performance tests. It was a second faster than the Citigo from 0-60mph, but it also performed strongly in gear.

In our tests the Kia beat its two hatchback rivals from 30-50mph in fourth, taking 9.5 seconds, which was significantly quicker than the Skoda (13.1 seconds) and Renault (12.5 seconds).

Going from 50-70mph in fifth gear took 13.9 seconds in the Picanto – a very respectable time for a city car. It was certainly well ahead of the Citigo, which completed the same test in 18.9 seconds, and the Twingo, which took 21.3 seconds.

That’s useful for overtaking on the motorway, and the Picanto was also just as quiet as the Skoda at 70mph (71dB) – and just one decibel louder than the Renault at that speed. It does sit at higher revs than the Citigo in top gear, though, which explains its superior in-gear performance as well as the extra vibration inside, even if it’s slightly quieter.

It feels at home at that speed, too, thanks to the decent body control. A more severe bump will unsettle the car slightly, however, so it’s not quite as composed as the Skoda. At low speed there’s less of a difference, and the Kia rides smoothly enough.

The steering isn’t quite as direct as the Citigo’s, but it is a bit heavier. It’s still enjoyable to nip about in, but as with the steering, the gearbox isn’t as sharp as the Skoda’s. However, both the Picanto and the Skoda beat the more numb-feeling Renault when it comes to driver engagement.

Renault Twingo

Model:Renault Twingo SCe 70 S&S Dynamique
Price:Price: £11,810
Engine:1.0-litre 3cyl petrol, 69bhp
0-60mph:16.1 seconds
Test economy:40.9mpg/9.0mpl
Annual road tax:£140

Renault’s funky Twingo is the most powerful car in this test, producing 69bhp from its 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. Our pictures show a Dynamique S model, but we’re testing the cheaper Dynamique version here; this starts at £11,810.

One of our favourite things about driving the Twingo is making use of its tight turning circle. The variable-rate steering means the wheel is light and easy to turn at low speed, boosting manoeuvrability. The steering does weight up as you gain speed, but the set-up is far from perfect. It makes the Renault seem unnatural and vague in corners, whereas the Citigo responds more keenly to your inputs.

The Renault also feels more unsettled by bumpy roads than its rivals here, and since the engine isn’t as willing as the Kia or Skoda’s unit, the French hatchback seems a bit unrefined when revved out in comparison, with a lazier character.

Unfortunately, despite having more power than its rivals, the Renault didn’t fare well in our acceleration tests. It actually has the lowest maximum torque of these three models, and its gearbox is hampered by long ratios.

The Renault took 21.3 seconds to go from 50-70mph in top gear, which was well behind the Picanto’s 13.9 seconds and the Citigo’s 18.9 seconds.

Even at lower speeds the gap in performance was still wide. While the Picanto took just 6.3 seconds to go from 30-50mph in third, the Renault took 9.4 seconds. That wasn’t too far behind the Citigo, however, which took nine seconds exactly, but the Renault’s lethargic performance is disappointing and the engine isn’t as fun to use as its rivals’ here.


First place: Skoda Citigo

The Citigo beats the Picanto thanks to its low running costs, fun handling and higher-quality interior. Although it’s not at its best in pricier Monte Carlo spec, it’s still the cheapest car here and is just as practical as the Kia, but comes better equipped. The Skoda sets the benchmark for city cars with its spacious interior and refinement. Its next challenge will be the VW up!.

Second place: Kia Picanto

While the Picanto isn’t quite as fun to drive or as well equipped as the Citigo, it’s still a smart city car and only just loses out here. It’s comfortable and delivers willing performance without compromising economy. It’s let down by its more cramped interior and poor infotainment set-up compared with the Citigo’s, though, so it can’t match the Skoda in the final reckoning.

Third place: Renault Twingo

With its unusual powertrain, funky looks and tight turning circle, the Renault offers something different. Sadly, it’s not as fun to drive and nor will it be as cheap to run. It’s the most expensive car to buy and its practicality is hampered by that rear-mounted engine. It’s roomy enough inside, but next to these very talented and versatile rivals, it feels outclassed.

Other options in this category

Volkswagen up! beats 1.0 60PS 5dr

Price: £10,955Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 59bhp

The VW up! shares its chassis and powertrain with the Citigo, while it’s also slightly more upmarket. However, it’s actually better value in youthful beats trim, which features a powerful stereo for a small, five-door city car.

Toyota Aygo x-press 1.0 VVTi 5dr

Price: £12,055Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl, 68bhp

Another option for those after a sporty-looking urban car is the Toyota Aygo. That distinctive X-shaped front end has real appeal, and while it trails on refinement, the eager three-cylinder engine and scope for customisation are strong.


 Skoda Citigo 1.0 MPI 60PS Monte Carlo 5drKia Picanto 1.0 66hp GT-LineRenault Twingo SCe 70 S&S Dynamique
On the road price/total as tested£11,520/£11,570£11,950/£11,950£11,810/£14,005
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£4,512/39.2%£4,325/36.2%£4,350/36.8%
Annual tax liability std./higher rate£430/£861£447/£893£409/£818
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,160/£1,933£1,293/£2,154£1,574/£2,623
Insurance group/quote/road tax2/£478/£1406/£495/£1403/£478/£140
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£279 (2yrs)£359 (3yrs)£659 (3yrs)
Engine3cyl in-line/999cc3cyl in-line/998cc3cyl in-line/999cc
Peak power/revs59/5,000 bhp/rpm66/5,500 bhp/rpm69/6,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs95/3,000 Nm/rpm96/3,500 Nm/rpm91/2,850 Nm/rpm
Transmission5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd5-spd man/rwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel35 litres/repair kit35 litres/repair kit35 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down)251/959 litres255/1,010 litres188-219/980 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight854/436kg935/465kg865/495kg
Turning circle9.8 metresN/A8.6 metres
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs7yrs (100,000)/1yr4yrs (100,000)/4yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers10,000 miles (1yr)/13510,000 miles (1yr)/18712,000 (1yr)/158
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.2nd/5th3rd/6th22nd/11th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars89/80/46/86/5 (2011)87/64/54/47/4 (2017)78/81/68/56/4 (2014)
0-60/30-70mph13.4/14.0 secs12.4/12.4 secs16.1/17.4 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th9.0/13.1 secs6.3/9.5 secs9.4/12.5 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th18.9 secs13.9 secs21.3 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph100mph/3,000rpm100mph/3,400rpm94mph/N/A
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph50.3/36.9/9.2m51.5/34.0/10.1m54.3/36.9/9.8m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph62/43/61/71dB67/53/64/71dB63/47/60/70dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range55.5/12.2/427 miles49.8/11.0/383 miles40.9/9.0/315 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined51.4/74.3/64.2mpg50.4/76.3/64.2mpg56.5/76.4/67.3mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined11.3/16.3/14.1mpl11.1/16.8/14.1mpl12.4/16.8/14.8mpl
Actual/claimed CO2 /tax bracket118/101g/km/19%131/101g/km/19%160/95g/km/18%
Airbags/Isofix/park. sensors/cameraFour/yes/£450^/noSix/yes/no/noFour/yes/£200/£600*
Auto box/stability/cruise control/AEBYes/no/£400*Yes/artificial/noYes/no/£250
Climate control/leather/heated seatsNo/yes/£340/£275No/yes/no/yesNo/yes/yes/no
Metallic paint/xenon lights/keyless go£520/no/no£495/no/no£550/£850/no
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothNo/yes/£155/yesNo/yes/no/yes£600*/yes/yes/yes

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