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Chirpy baby Citroen C1 looks fresh but performance and quality let it down

What is it?

Another installment in a crucial year for the humble city car. And the not-so-humble one, come to mention it. This is the facelifted, 2012-model-year Citroen C1.

No prizes for guessing why it’s here. The arrival of Volkswagen’s Up right at the top of the class, as well as its Seat and Skoda sister models, is forcing the city car segment’s established entrants to sharpen up or suffer the consequences. We’ve quite recently seen all-new or improved versions of the Fiat Panda, Renault Twingo, Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10. Which leaves, among few others, the Aygo/107/C1 triplets introduced jointly by PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Toyota nearly seven years ago.

All three cars will be getting cosmetic and minor mechanical revisions this year, but Citroen was first to give us access to an updated car. Its C1 has been given new front-end styling, revised engine mapping, a new chassis specification, equipment level upgrades and better quality cabin materials. All of this comes hand-in-hand with a price realignment that’ll slash the entry-level C1 VT three-door’s price to less than £8000.

What’s it like?

There remains only one engine option in the C1: a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine with 67bhp and 69lb ft of torque. Our test car was a range-topping manual in VTR+ trim, positioned directly against the very plushest VW ‘High’ Up, and more powerful versions of the Picanto, i10 and Twingo.

The Citroen’s relatively weedy engine is only the beginning of the C1’s troubles. Beefier shock absorbers have improved the car’s high-speed body control and do make it ride and handle like a larger hatchback. The car has tidier roll control and doesn’t gently buck or dive as much as the outgoing car over uneven surfaces taken at high speed. But the new dampers have taken away some the C1’s pleasing ride compliance too, particularly at low speeds. The car feels more secure and grown-up – but also a bit less comfy and characterful. A bit less fit for its primary purpose around town, you might even say.

More glaring, by the class’ new standards, is the C1’s mediocre cabin quality. Citroen’s upmarket push has brought a leather-covered steering wheel for higher-end versions, but has done little about the car’s shiny, unyielding, bargain basement fascia plastics, nor the fit-and-finish of some of its lesser cabin features. With fewer than 1000 miles recorded, our test car had loose trim on the driver’s door console and in the footwell, ugly visible boltheads around the handbrake and exposed wiring at the 12-volt power supply. All the convenient storage cubbies and standard Bluetooth connectivity in the world don’t make up for oversights like that.

Should I buy one?

The C1’s plentiful, youthful charm might have offset some of its shortcomings thus far – but in the face of much stiffer city car competition, this is fast becoming a hard car to recommend. It’d take a generous incentive by the local Citroen dealer to pick one – and even then, after sampling one of the new wave of microcars, the C1 would feel a bit second-rate.

Citroen C1 1.0 VTR+

Price: circa £10,000; Top speed: 98mph; 0-62mph: 13.7sec; Economy: 65.7mpg; CO2: 99g/km; Kerbweight: 805kg; Engine type, cc: 3 cyls, 998cc, petrol; Power: 67bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 69lb ft at 3600rpm Gearbox: 5-spd manual

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Mini1 17 March 2012

Re: Citroën C1 1.0i VTR+

Buzz Cagney wrote:
I just don't understand why anybody would spend anything north of £5995 on one of the Aygo triplets. And with that i'd definitely need the 5 year warranty. Sure, they are a hoot to blast around town but my knuckles would go white gripping the wheel on a draughty motorway. I've never felt so in danger of blowing away.
Maybe you need to man up ;) I'm on the motorway nearly every day in mine. Better to learn how to control a car in windy weather on a motorway rather than take it all for granted in something much bigger.
Buzz Cagney wrote:
Add to that they aren't the best built nor strong mechanically
Not strong mechanically, eh? News to me.
Buzz Cagney wrote:
I assume they'll be heavily cutting the price of the triplets now that the up! and brothers are out. They'll need to.
Actually they're bringing them in line with the up! and stepping up equipment levels, the difference being that you can save considerable amounts on the PSA triplets. The people in the VW showroom almost looked down their noses at me when the mention of "offer" or "discount" arose.

Buzz Cagney 17 March 2012

Re: Citroën C1 1.0i VTR+

I just don't understand why anybody would spend anything north of £5995 on one of the Aygo triplets. And with that i'd definitely need the 5 year warranty. Sure, they are a hoot to blast around town but my knuckles would go white gripping the wheel on a draughty motorway. I've never felt so in danger of blowing away.

Add to that they aren't the best built nor strong mechanically and I just wouldn't. I assume they'll be heavily cutting the price of the triplets now that the up! and brothers are out. They'll need to.

scgf 17 March 2012

Re: Citroën C1 1.0i VTR+

Seat and Skoda are launching the Mii and Citigo in June - looks like the five door versions will be available from launch.