It’s funny how different siblings can turn out, despite their shared up-bringings.
You’d think that three brothers of the same age and from the same parents would all have similar personality traits, but somehow it rarely works out that way.
And so it is with city cars.
The Citroen C1, Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo all share the same DNA, but each has their own character. There’s the angst-ridden emo kid – that’s the Toyota – who’s heavily into his manga and swears at his parents a lot, regularly telling them to go ‘fun’ themselves. There’s the slightly bookish one that’s into politics and wears sensible chinos – that’s the Peugeot.
And then there’s the cheeky, outgoing one with lots of friends on Facebook and a wardrobe full of wacky colours. That’s the Citroen.
Behind the differing personas, each is broadly the same. They’re all available with either three or five doors, and they all come with the same 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine with 68hp, although the two Frenchies are also available with a 1.2-litre PureTech unit with a more interesting 80hp.
The Citroen differentiates itself by wearing a cheery expression on its uniquely-styled face, while blackened A-pillars create a wrap-around look to the glass area.
Also available is an electric folding fabric roof dubbed Airscape that opens at the touch of a button. It can be opened even at motorway speeds, the only minor annoyance being that the auto-close function only goes so far – to close the roof completely, you have to hold the button for the last half of its travel.
Still, it includes a pop-up wind deflector to help keep buffeting down, and it gathers itself into an attractive series of folds when fully open. It’s available in a choice of three different colours, so as well as letting in a little of the outdoors, it’s also a good way to personalise your C1.
The interiors are largely the same, although the C1 – as befits its character – has a more vibrant selection of trims such as the stripy seats of our test car, plus a couple of styling packs to change the colour of various parts of the dashboard.
The high-backed seats look the part, and there’s a good range of travel on offer, with height adjustment for the driver’s seat on all but the base model. It’s a shame the steering column adjusts for height only, although we like the way the instrument pack tilts with the column, keeping the dials perfectly in view.
Speaking of which, the dials are clear and easy to read, based around a large central speedo with an inset trip computer, although the side-mounted rev counter is an option on all but the top spec model.
Dominating the centre console is a seven-inch colour touch-screen that’s home to the car’s audio and connectivity systems. A reversing camera can be added for a modest £150, although there’s no navigation option. It does, however, include MirrorLink which allows the touch-screen to control your phone once you’ve downloaded an app, although the system isn’t compatible with all smartphones.
While space in the front is good even for tall adults, the C1 is a little less accommodating in the back, and although kids will be happy enough, adults will struggle for both head- and legroom.
The boot isn’t huge, either, its 196 litres requiring the negotiation of a substantial load lip. Folding the rear seats forward increases space to a creditable 780 litres, although doing so leaves the seats in an awkward lump that can be tricky to load around.
Let’s keep some perspective, however: the C1 is a small city car, not a large estate, so load-lugging abilities are unlikely to figure too highly on the agenda. To compensate, there are plenty of neat touches to make everyday life with the C1 easier: we like the little hooks for hanging shopping bags on, and the way the cargo cover – which is attached to the tailgate – is pulled automatically out of the way by a simple bit of cord.
Venture out onto the open road and the little three-cylinder engine gives off quite an appealing rasp, and although a few vibrations make their way through to the steering wheel and pedals at low engine speeds, on the move these settle down. In fact, you could say this buzziness gives the C1 character; like it’s powered by an army of friendly bees.
This 1.0-litre beehive can be mated to an optional five-speed ETG ‘auto’ while a five-speed manual is standard on this and the larger 1.2. It’s perhaps not the most precise, but it changes gear smoothly and cleanly, and while the throttle can be a touch too keen at low speeds, once on the move this makes the C1 feel eager and responsive.
That same responsiveness is evident in the steering, giving the little Citroen just enough of an engaging demeanour to be fun without becoming tiresome. It rides well, too, with an ability to smother speed-bumps and pot-holes into submission better than many a car twice the price, although at speed it can fidget slightly, with mid-corner bumps causing a little sideways skip.
Despite its distinctly modest power reserves, the 1.0-litre car feels urgent at town speeds, and even out on the open road the C1 is happy to overtake slower-moving traffic without embarrassing itself.
Of course, with only 68hp on tap, turning on the air con has a noticeable impact on its performance, and making the most of gaps in traffic will require extending the little engine into the upper reaches of its rev range, but in everyday driving the C1 is more than capable of keeping up with the big boys.
It’ll use less fuel while doing it, too, with the stop/start-equipped models recording 74.3mpg in government tests, while the 1.2 PureTech achieves up to 65.7mpg. During our time with it, we averaged around 56mpg, with a figure in the low 60s perfectly possible on a longer run. All engine and transmission combinations have CO2 emissions below the magic 100 g/km making road tax a thing of the past.
Prices for the Citroen C1 start at £8,245, with three grades to choose from: Touch, Feel and Flair. All models feature ABS, stability control, hill holder, remote locking, electric front windows and a USB socket; Feel adds larger 15-inch wheels, body-coloured mirrors, air conditioning, driver’s seat height adjustment, split rear seats, touch-screen infotainment system and an extra pair of speakers. The range-topping Flair model, meanwhile, brings alloy wheels, tinted glass, electric door mirrors, reversing camera, rev counter, and a dash of chrome and leather.
Whether you prefer the angsty Aygo, the plush Peugeot or the cheery Citroen is as much a matter of personal preference as anything else. For us, however, we’ll stick with the popular kid with the winning smile.
|Entry-level Price||£8,245||Price as tested||£11,830|
|Engine||3-cyl petrol, 998cc||Transmission||Five-speed manual|
|Power||68hp @ 6,000rpm||Torque||95Nm @4,800rpm|
|0-62||14.3 secs||Top speed||99 mph|
|Economy||68.9 mpg||CO2||95 g/km|
|Dimensions||3465 x 1615 x 1460 (LWH)||Kerb Weight||855 kg|