It’s about the same size as the original Smart Fortwo and, you might think as you prepare to board, will likely offer a fairly similar experience. But in spite of being another French-made wheeled cube for city streets, the Citroën Ami One provides a different experience than a Smart and indeed has been conceived for a different mission besides.
This is a car that not only explores new modes of urban transport for the near future but also explores the challenge facing all makers of small city cars. Soon, they will all face European CO2 and particulate emissions standards that threaten either to push their prices up substantially, prompt them to go electric or even let their city cars go extinct. The Ami One is an answer – but only one possible answer – to this challenge.
Citroën’s marketing boss, Arnaud Belloni, adds that the Ami One and the methods of selling it are designed to tempt the young into driving, by making it a lot more accessible, a lot more affordable, and a lot more convenient. The accessibility is about enabling people as young as 14 drive the Ami One, because it's classified as a quadricycle, and that's the minimum age requirement to use one in the EU. In Britain, it’s 16.
On affordability, Arnaud point out that in France, it costs around €1000 to get a driving licence, €100-150 per month to park a car (if you live in Paris), about €50 per month to insure a car, plus petrol and buying the vehicle itself. "These are five reasons not to buy a car," he says. Citroën's idea for the Ami One is that it could be used "for five minutes, five hours, five days, five months or five years", the point being to underline the on-demand convenience of this approach.
In the first three cases, the driver would access the Ami One through a car-sharing scheme such as Zipcar, while the longer periods would mean ownership, probably through a PCP finance deal. It’s the first three methods that would ease the way for young drivers, who Arnaud reckons "still love cars" but are priced out of the market.
Keeping the price low has also led to plenty of ingenious solutions for removing cost from the Ami One itself. Its big doors are identical and hinged at different ends as a consequence, the front panels are the same but don’t look it because they’re mounted at different heights and the wheelarches are identical, as are the tail-lights.