Currently reading: Citroen Oli concept car first drive
Autocar drove the innovative Oli concept before anyone else. Is it more than a show piece?

During an enthusiastic one-on-one chat with now-departed Citroën chief Vincent Cobée, he proved that the best-laid plans can always be subject to a whim. 

It had been set out in writing that under no circumstances was I to drive the Oli, the one-off, £1 million concept car set to go on a nation-tonation tour to energise dealers and customers prior to anyone outside the firm getting behind the wheel.

But who did the person who set it out in writing report to? Well, Monsieur Cobée, of course, and as he was the one asking, who’s to argue? Everyone hurried to prepare the Oli. Autocar had an exclusive.

Citroen oli prototype drive side

Of sorts. Full disclosure: we were in an empty show hall in the NEC, Birmingham, not on the open road. But it was a special opportunity, for both giving us an early insight into the Oli’s capability and underlining Cobée’s reputation for forging his own path - albeit just a few weeks before it was announced he had stepped down from his position to pursue "personal projects".

Cobee’s exit is a blow for Citroen, motorists and journalists

The overwhelming impression as I weaved round the pillars, stopping, going, turning and only slightly aware that Cobée was in the passenger seat watching over me, was just how remarkably normal the Oli felt to drive. It may look, feel and be remarkable for how it challenges conventions in almost every way, but it’s clear that, with the benefit of a well-sorted electric platform to sit on, there’s no hint of a compromise in how it drives as a result.

Citroen oli prototype drive driving side

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The view? Terrific. The seats? Comfortable. The minimalist interior? A perfect statement of the point the Oli makes. Not all will make production soon, but they hinted at a process that is likely to drip feed into showrooms, starting with the upcoming C3 Aircross. Acceleration was ample, steering alert, progress silent even on what were presumably rock-hard tyres, and ride impossible to judge on a show hall floor.

“How long can I keep going?” Nerves faded and enjoyment rose as we drove round and round. “As long as you like: it’s just you and me now. Do donuts if you want!” Cobée laughed, sensing my rising enjoyment and awe, if not the head-scratching my continuing lappery was evidently causing the assembled team.

I didn’t donut but I did complete a few more runs. Why not? If this is the future, I’m all in.

Citroen Oli concept is radical vision of £23k family EV

The Citroën Oli is a new concept car illustrating the brand’s renewed commitment to affordability and sustainability, heralding an array of new technologies earmarked for upcoming cars.

An adventure-oriented pick-up similar in stature to the Citroën C3 Aircross, it doesn’t preview a production car (despite being road-legal) but rather serves as an embodiment of the marque's new ‘back to right’ philosophy.

Design director Pierre Leclercq said the concept shows “the future is bright” and that “making something clever and affordable doesn’t mean that it has to be horrible; it [can] be fun and exciting.”

The headlines are a hypothetical price tag of around €25,000 (£22,560), a weight of around 1000kg, plus a 248-mile range from a relatively small 40kWh battery and a single electric motor.

However, it’s the concept’s design and construction that have the biggest implications for production-bound cars.


Citroen oli 2022 front static

The front and rear bumpers are identical, as on the Citroën Ami. This reduces costs, both in manufacturing and repairing, as well as environmental impact, because only one set of moulds is required. On the whole, the car is made from 50% recycled material and is 100% recyclable.

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Citroen oli 2022 side static

Range-boosting aero was a key part of the brief, but the vertical windscreen is a defining design cue. It was mainly about challenging convention but also yielded benefits including significantly reduced material and labour requirements. Trick ducting in the headlights and bonnet directs air over the windscreen, mitigating drag. The exact same screen features at the rear, too.

Top surfaces

Citroen oli 2022 roof

The roof and bonnet are made from a cardboard compound, rather than steel. That might sound suspect, but creator BASF’s use of a honeycomb pattern has resulted in something strong enough for you to stand on. A coating provides additional strength while helping to keep out the rain and UV rays.


Citroen oli 2022 wheel

The custom-made 20in aluminium-and-steel wheels are cheaper to produce than equivalent alloys and weigh only 6kg more. They’re shod in experimental Goodyear Eagle Go tyres that will supposedly last 500,000km (310,000 miles) and two re-treads, which means less waste. What’s more, the wheel arches can be removed with household tools, allowing for quick damage repairs.


Citroen oli 2022 front quarter charging

A small 40kWh pack was chosen for cost, weight and environmental reasons, and the car was effectively designed around this. Top speed is limited to 68mph (110km/h) and the 0-62mph time was briefed to engineers in ‘slower than’ terms, rather than a target to beat. Ultimately, Citroën is targeting an efficiency of 6.2 miles per kWh – almost double that of most EVs currently on the market – for a range of 400km (249 miles).


Citroen oli 2022 infotainment

Much like the Dacia Manifesto, the Oli employs a ‘bring your own device’ approach to infotainment. A cassette-player-like slot connects your phone to the wide infotainment screen and uses its computational power to drive the system. This means fewer on-board computers (and thus semiconductors) are required, reducing the Oli’s cost and environmental impact. Physical climate controls are also included for ease of use when on the move.

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Citroen oli 2022 interior

Tubular seat frames with 3D-printed backs reduce material use, while removable covers are meant to be easier to refurbish in years to come. Seat adjustment is limited to save on costs, but ‘suspension’ foam balls on the seat bases sink down as you sit, helping to position you at a more natural angle. Citroën also says they help to take some of the sting out of potholes.

New logo

Citroen oli 2022 charging port logo

Citroën’s new branding is a modernised version of its 1919 logo, appearing for the first time on the Oli. It signals a big change for the frontal design of future cars: where the Citroën C3, Citroën C4 and Citroën C5 X all have prominent chrome pieces flowing out from the badge, the Oli wears a simple shield. At the front, this lifts to reveal the charging port.

Additional reporting by Charlie Martin

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martini98 31 March 2023
Ginny Buckley drove it around Paris 5 months ago so Autocar didn't really drive it before anyone is they?
streaky 29 March 2023

I hope much of the interior: the overall design, colour scheme and removable seat covers, makes it to production.

jason_recliner 20 February 2023

If you have lived in a hot country and felt the heat that comes through a windscreen when parked, you understand the brilliance of a vertical windscreen.