The new Skoda Citigo is the Czech car maker’s rebadged and subtly restyled version of the Volkswagen Up and Seat Mii city car. It shares its engines, gearboxes, underpinnings and chassis components with its more premium VW-badged sibling and rival, so, setting aside the badge differences, how do you distinguish a Citigo from an Up?
There are some minor styling tweaks – notably to the front-end treatment, the shape of the front headlamps and the rear side-window. The Citigo’s finned grille set in a chrome-plated frame is a scaled-down version of that seen on the MissionL concept car, and shows the stylistic way forward for the Czech marque’s ever-expanding range.
Engine-wise, there are effectively two petrol offerings, one with 59bhp and the other with 74bhp. Both produce 70lb ft of torque from the naturally aspirated, all-alloy, 12-valve unit and come with a five-speed manual gearbox, although an automated sequential gearbox is available. Greentech versions are also offered, which deliver marginal improvements in efficiency thanks to lowered suspension, low rolling-resistance tyres and other minor upgrades.
Safety equipment includes a head-thorax side airbag – a first in any Skoda, let alone the smallest one – and the City Safe Drive (CSD) brake assist system. At speeds up to 19mph, CSD uses a laser sensor to automatically slow the car if it senses there is a danger of a collision.
The Citigo is willing and peppy to drive, well engineered and ticks all of the car-about-town boxes. In 74bhp form, the three-pot, 999cc engine is quite refined and, as well as its urban prowess, feels capable of handling motorway cruises without any fuss.
The light-but-precise electro-hydraulic power steering reinforces the sensation that this is a fairly agile car that's easy to guide in and out of traffic. The Citigo's low- and medium-speed ride, however, isn't as outstanding as that of the related Volkswagen Up. Lower-end versions on 14in steel wheels cross uneven town surfaces with noticably less comfort and finesse than the most refined cars in the class.
In the less-powerful 59bhp Skoda Citigo, the powerplant sounds harsher and doesn’t cruise along with the same willingness as the 74bhp version. Still, both cars offer decent fuel economy, with the 59bhp car returning a claimed 62.8mpg on the combined cycle while emitting 105g/km of CO2, while the 74bhp version offers 60.1mpg and 108g/km.
In terms of layout, the cabin is sensibly thought-out, with all the controls in logical positions and easy-to-use switchgear. Taking centre-stage on the dashboard is a removable five-inch multimedia device that can be used for navigation, as a hands-free phone or on-board computer, and is integrated into the car’s audio system. Some hard plastics on the dashboard, however, provide a reminder that this is a low-cost machine.
Despite that, the cabin is a pleasant place to be, with more width than you’d consider possible when you survey the Skoda Citigo’s svelte dimensions from the outside. There’s enough rear legroom for adults of medium height to sit line astern, but a pair of six-footers might struggle for space, particularly on longer trips.
Boot space is 251 litres – good by small car standards and enough to accommodate the weekly grocery shop – and grows by an extra 700 litres when the rear seats are lowered.
The Citigo shows its town car credentials with a number of practical and clever storage ideas in the cabin. The boot gets two stowing nets, the dashboard’s glovebox handle features a bag hook (perfect for a handbag, which hints that Skoda hopes the car will particularly appeal to a female market) and there’s even a clip on the centre console to hold a photograph of your nearest and dearest.
If you’re in the market for a small but practical city car, the Skoda Citigo is without doubt worthy of consideration. In terms of fuel economy and low running costs alone, the Citigo will be a competitive proposition, but unlike many of the Czech brand's other models, it seems to lack originality - as well as the highly developed dynamic feel of its Volkswagen sister car.