When it’s trying to attract buyers, the most important weapon in the C1’s arsenal is its styling. Not only is it very distinct from its sister cars’ (the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 108), it also offers tremendous scope for personalisation. Buyers can choose from eight body colours, while the roof can be finished in three colours. For the smartest looks, though, it’s worth avoiding the most basic Touch models, which have a black front bumper and are the only models without body-coloured mirrors and door handles. Top-of-the-range Flair models stand out from the rest of the range with standard alloy wheels, chrome window trim and tinted rear windows. Last, but not least, you can also go for an Airscape model, which has a full-length fabric roof that’s available in a variety of colours.
Inside, the design is fresh and funky, with plenty of colour on show, and the cabin offers more scope for personalisation. The centre console, air vent trim and gear lever base, for example, can be customised with bright colours. All apart from the most basic models come with a touch-screen on the top of the centre console, which offers a system called ‘Mirror Screen’. This allows the touch-screen to control and display various functions (including sat-nav) from a connected smartphone. It’s a neat system that helps to give the cabin the air of a more expensive car, even if the quality of materials on show doesn’t match what you’ll find in a Volkswagen Up. On the other hand, we had no problem with the driving position, but that may not be the same for everyone, as the steering wheel adjusts only for height (not reach) and Touch models don’t have a height-adjustable driver’s seat.
The space in the front belies the car’s budget price and small size, with good head- and legroom. However, with a couple of tall people in the front seats, space is at more of a premium in the back: legroom is very tight, while headroom is restricted by the low roofline – especially on Airscape models. The boot, too, is smaller than you’ll find in either the i10 or the VW Group trio (the VW Up, Seat Mii and Skoda Citigo) and, to make matters worse, it’s further spoiled by a high lip that makes loading and unloading awkward.
Ride and handling
We’ve only had a very brief experience of the car in Holland, and while the C1 felt comfortable and composed, we need to test it in the UK before we give a final verdict, as our streets will pose a much bigger challenge than the generally smooth Dutch roads. What we can already tell is that the C1 isn’t quite as mature or refined as the VW Group cars when it gets to higher speeds; but, as a city car, it’s impressive, with light steering and a small turning circle that make it very easy to manoeuvre.
The range will feature just two engine choices – both petrol-powered – but we’ve only tested the most powerful, the PureTech 82, which is only available with the top Flair trim (or Flair and Feel, if you choose an Airscape model). The three-cylinder 1.2-litre unit has a very distinctive thrum to it, with some vibration at idle, and when you rev it hard (which you have to do quite often as peak pulling power only arrives at almost 3000rpm), it’s distinctly noisy. Still, at least it gives decent performance – strong enough in town and with enough power to not feel out of its depth on the motorway.
Low running costs will be vital for the C1 to be a success, and on that score, it’s impressive. Every model has CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km – equating to zero road tax – as well as averaging more than 65mpg.
Citroen has a poor reputation for reliability, but that is rather unfair, as figures from Warranty Direct show that, in fact, its cars are average. What’s more, the previous-generation C1 is one of the most reliable cars on Warranty Direct’s books and – like its predecessor – this latest version was engineered by Toyota, whose cars are among the most reliable in the UK. All in all, that bodes well for the C1, and our only disappointment is that the three-year warranty looks a little poor when the virtually identical Toyota Aygo has five-year cover.
The good news is that every model in the range has the same standard safety kit – six airbags, anti-lock brakes with Emergency Braking Assistance and stability control. However, there’s no option equivalent to the City Safety autonomous braking system that you can buy on the Up, Mii and Citigo. Nevertheless, in tests by Euro NCAP, the C1 (well, technically, it was a Toyota Aygo, but the cars are identical, so the score also applies to the Citroen) scored a very decent four stars our of a possible maximum of five.
As long as you avoid the most basic Touch trim – which is the only one to miss out on air-con, a split-folding rear seat, DAB and Bluetooth – the C1 comes well equipped. Mid-range Feel has all these features as standard, as well as opening rear windows on five-door versions, while the top Flair models have electrically adjustable door mirrors and a reversing camera
The C1 isn’t as impressive as its rivals in several areas – notably quality and refinement – but it’s very likeable and the funky looks and low running costs could well be enough to tempt buyers.