This isn’t a car. And I don’t mean that in the Marks & Spencer “this isn’t just a car” way – more like the opposite.
The Citroën Ami isn’t a car because, although it has four wheels, a motor, two seats, two doors, two pedals and a steering wheel, it’s a quadricycle – a category of small, light vehicle that also includes the Renault Twizy and, if you recall, the Reva G-Wiz.
In some European countries, a quadricycle brings with it certain liberties. You may drive it without needing a full driving licence or from as young as 14 (although not in the UK). They also don’t get crash-tested as rigorously as cars, nor do they have to comply with the latest emissions regulations, as you’ll know if you’ve followed some chugging two-stroke snotter along a French lane, where they seem most popular.
You used to see quite a few G-Wizes in London, too. An anaesthetist who was about to sedate me for some significant dental treatment owned one and asked me what I thought of them. Because he would be in charge of how awake I was while my dentist hammered and screwed things into my jaw, I told him: “I think they’re great.”
Obviously, I was lying through my… er… gums. But since seeing the Ami One concept at the 2019 Geneva motor show, I’ve been quite into the idea of this small Citroën alternative. It has now been productionised and, without the One suffix, the Ami is available for sale or rent in France, with other left-hand-drive countries due to follow in early 2021. Citroën would like to make it available in the UK, too, but its chances depend on public reaction, so if you want one, you will have to tell them.
It’s small – just 2.41m long and 1.39m wide – and light, at 425kg without batteries. Its pre-battery weight of more than 350kg makes it a heavy, not a light, quadricycle, which is why UK drivers can’t pilot it at 16 after just a motorcycle training day (CBT) as they could a light quad.
Anyway, with 5.5kWh of battery under its floor, the Ami weighs 485kg and has a range of 43 miles and a regulated top speed of 28mph. The Ami has changed a bit since the Ami One concept, which was altogether glossier and more slickly finished than the small grey plastic box you see before you, but there are similarities.
The Ami One had some very simple themes to reduce cost, and they’ve been continued onto the production car. The doors are identical left and right, so the driver’s door is rear-hinged while the passenger’s isn’t. Each small corner panel is the same as the three others and so are the front and rear panels. The direction of travel, then, you will tell by different light colours and the slope of the roof and glass area.
A large push button opens the doors from the outside; a pull on fabric releases them from inside. There’s a standard sunroof and the glass area is said to occupy almost half of the interior surfacing, so this is a bright, airy not-a-car. From the driver’s seat, mounted nearer the back than the front, the windscreen is miles away. Everything that isn’t glass, or the exposed steel spaceframe to which the body is mounted or bonded in Citroën’s Moroccan factory, is finished in hard plastic.