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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.


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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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Join the debate


9 March 2012

Agreed that £10,000 is too much to pay for what is effectively a run-out model in the last year of its life. But back in the real world, our local Citroen dealer was recently offering pre-registered, pre-facelift C1s brand new for just £5995.

Personally I'd have been rather more interested in how the entry model fared rather than the tarted up model tested.

9 March 2012

[quote Autocar]The arrival of Volkswagen’s Up right at the top of the class,[/quote]

It may well be that the UP is a better car than the Citroen C1 but it is also far more expensive to buy. The C1 can be bought brand new unregistered from a UK Citroen dealer for under £7k, try getting an UP for that price.

9 March 2012

I don't get this 'pleasing ride quality' at all.

There's nothing very pleasing about the ride quality in the pre-updated c1/107/aygo (i'd imaging they'd all have exactly the same settings.

I drive a 2007 107 daily and its ride is firm and a bit clattery, its mechanically fine, i've also been in a friends C1 which is the same, admittedly, i've only had a v short drive in an Aygo so i don't know how good/bad that is, i'd imaging it would be the same.

So if the pleasing ride quality has been slightly removed for this must be pretty poor!

9 March 2012

Autocar have fairly torn it to pieces! The "exposed bulkheads" by the handbrake are in the bottom of a cubbyhole, one that has been there since the car's launch. Autocar are only picking up on this now because of the latest models. The dashboard plastics are no worse than those found in a Picanto or Twingo. The Up is of course a very nice car - I haven't sat in one yet as both of my local VW dealers don't have examples of it in the showroom - only demo models parked round the back! Which seems a tad ridiculous given how many VW are hoping to sell. BUT I think that people after a budget car aren't going to be put off by some of the things Autocar have mentioned. And oddly, they conveniently left out the fact that the C1 IS more economical than the Up. Still, I'm sure PSA/Toyota will improve them in the next incarnation due next year, because they do in all honesty need a bit of a revamp.

9 March 2012

It's been a whiles since I drove a C1 / Aygo / 107 but my strongest memory was how honest a car it was to drive. No, the plastics aren't great and there are exposed sections of the car but that adds to it's charm.

I haven't driven the Up! yet but I would imagine that has none of the character of this car, the youthful verve that the Citroen displays. Certainly the other offerings from Hyundai etc offer it.

No, it isn't for everyone, I've always thought that about this car but as cheap, honest, economical transport, there still isn't anything else to touch it. And that's before you even start talking about fun!

If I wanted a mature, slightly bland run around the market is full of them. I'm glad this is different!

9 March 2012

Sounds like it's the least of it's worries but that tinted passenger glass looks awful. White paint probably accentuates it though.

9 March 2012

Although this model looks expensive you should get a massive discount, so end up getting this for pretty much the base price for the up, which is less powerful, slower, less economical, and from all accounts doesnt have the same 'fun' factor. Of course the Up will feel like a higher quality product, thats what VW do, give their cars the 'feeling' of quality.

I havent been to look at an Up, but suspect if i were in the market for one of the city cars right now the deal on one of the 107/C1/Aygo triplets would probably do it for me. Less than £7,000 will put a 107 with aircon on the road.

Of course the promised Up Gt might change that, although i hope the replacement C1/108/Aygo next year will give up a warm hatch option too. The 106 Rallye was one of the most fun cars i have driven, the fact that we never got even a warmed over 107 is a real shame and i hope will be rectified with the next car.

9 March 2012

[quote artill]The 106 Rallye was one of the most fun cars i have driven[/quote]

Did you own one? If so, why did you ever sell it! Imagine owning a mint one of those now.

9 March 2012

There is a really endearing honesty about the C1 (minus the stupid new twinkly lights) that has stood the test of time very well. You could argue it has more relevance today than it did in 2005.

Not sure about the UP, apart from a thin layer of upmarket veneer its all a bit fake in my eyes, is that really all they can add with a 7 years gap to get a product to market.

9 March 2012

We've sold a few up!'s already, about 10 i think at our showroom, and probs 10 at our other one.

I do think they have been a bit harsh on the C1 is basically a 7 year old design that will soon be replaced.

I've driven the up! now a few times - and coming from someone who likes our 107...i wasn't really...'wanting' the up! to be better......but i feel it may be!

You probably do get more for your money with Citroen/Peugeot, especially so when discounts are taken into account (no discount at all on the up! for the forseeable future...

However...i think the up! as most of the mags the better car now.

To drive, its nippier, has a better gearshift, ride quality and the interior, whilst built to a budget...does look and feel classier than that of the 107. I parked the up! next to a C1 the other day...on purpose, to compare the two, and i think the up! was longer...which is a shame as i dont think it has more space inside maybe its not as space efficient as a C1 etc, although the boot is indeed bigger.

However...back to the topic in hand, the C1 - i think this venture was ahead of its time, and will now be copied more and more. Although i'm not keen on this revision, thought the previous C1 looked better.

[quote jonfortwo]

There is a really endearing honesty about the C1 (minus the stupid new twinkly lights) that has stood the test of time very well. You could argue it has more relevance today than it did in 2005.

Not sure about the UP, apart from a thin layer of upmarket veneer its all a bit fake in my eyes, is that really all they can add with a 7 years gap to get a product to market.


Agree with the first bit.

Agree partly with the second bit too actually....but it is actually a really good little car.


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