First DriveThe Skoda Citigo gets a light refresh that still maintains its winning formula, but it's not the only small car on the market that is big on space and char
First DriveThe facelifted Citigo gets a new infotainment system, but Skoda has wisely resisted the urge to make sweeping changes
What is it?
If the supermini market wasn’t crowded enough already, the Volkswagen Group has served up three new offerings, with this new Skoda Citigo going ‘up’ against the VW Up and forthcoming Seat Mii in their respective dealer showrooms.
All three cars share the same design underpinnings, and even the exterior styling differences between them aren’t particularly dramatic. They can’t be, because the Citigo, Up and Mii have exactly the same dimensions at 3560mm long, 1650mm wide and 1480mm high, with a 2420mm wheelbase.
So, setting aside the badge differences, how do you distinguish a Citigo from an Up? There are some minor styling tweaks – notably to the front-end treatment, the shape of the front headlamps and the rear side-window.
The Citigo’s finned grille set in a chrome-plated frame is a scaled-down version of that seen on the MissionL concept car at the recent Frankfurt motor show, and shows the stylistic way forward for the Czech marque’s ever-expanding range.
Engine-wise, there will be two petrol offerings at launch, one with 59bhp and the other with 74bhp. Both produce 70lb ft of torque from the normally aspirated, all-alloy, 12-valve, unit and come with a five-speed manual gearbox, although an automated sequential gearbox (ASG) will also be available.
Safety equipment includes a head-thorax side airbag – a first in any Skoda, let alone the smallest one – and the ‘City Safe Drive’ brake assist system. At speeds up to 19mph, CSD uses a laser sensor to automatically slow the car if it senses there is a danger of a collision.
The three-door Citigo we tested will launch next June, with the five-door version following about two months later.
What’s it like?
The Citigo is brilliant fun to drive, well engineered and ticks all of the ‘car about town’ boxes that it should.
In 74bhp form, the three-pot, 999cc engine is remarkably refined and as well as its urban prowess, feels capable of handling motorway cruises without any fuss.
The light-but-precise steering reinforces the sensation that this is an agile car that is in its element when nipping in and out of traffic. The ride was on the firm side on some country roads around Prague, and that’s something that will probably hold true on the UK’s largely uneven asphalt too.
Autocar also drove the less-powerful 59bhp Citigo. In that car, the powerplant sounds harsher and doesn’t cruise along with the same willingness as the 74bhp version. Still, both cars have decent fuel economy, with the 60bhp car returning 62.8mpg and 105g/km of carbon dioxide emissions and the 74bhp version offering 60.1mpg and 108g/km Co2.
Although the styling differences between the Citigo and Up are relatively minor, to our eyes the conventional front-end treatment of the Skoda is more attractive than the more adventurous nose of the VW.
In terms of layout, the cabin is sensibly thought-out, with all the key controls in logical positions and easy-to-use switchgear.
Taking centre-stage on the dashboard is a removable 5-inch multi-media device that can be use for navigation, as a hands-free phone and on-board computer and is integrated into the car’s audio system.
The front seats feature integrated headrests that don’t really offer any comfort advantage over conventional ones and some hard plastics on the dashboard provided a reminder that this is a low-cost machine.
Despite those minor drawbacks the cabin is a pleasant place to be, with more width than you’d consider possible when you survey the Citigo’s svelte dimensions from the outside.
There’s enough rear legroom for adults of medium height to sit line astern, but a pair of six-footers might struggle for space, particularly on longer trips.
Boot space is 251 litres – good by small car standards and enough to accommodate the weekly grocery shop – and grows by an extra 700 litres when the rear seats are lowered.
The Citigo shows its town car credentials with the amount of practical and clever storage ideas in the cabin. The boot gets two stowing nets, the dashboard’s glovebox handle features a bag hook (perfect for a handbag, which gives you a hint that Skoda hopes the car will particularly appeal to a female market) and there’s even a clip on the centre console to hold a photograph of your nearest and dearest.
Should I buy one?
If you’re in the market for a small-but-brilliantly-formed city car, it is worthy of your consideration, but by extrapolation so are the Up and Mii.
In terms of fuel economy and low running costs, the Citigo will be a competitive proposition.
Much of the Citigo’s success will be dependent on its perceived value compared to the Up and the forthcoming Mii. Much like the Pepsi Challenge, the decision will largely be informed by personal taste.
Skoda’s offering is set to be the most competitively priced of the three, but there won’t be a great deal in it. The cheapest Up – the one-litre, 59bhp Take Up – costs £7995, and the entry-level Citigo is set to be about £7500.
Price: £7500 (est); Top speed: 106mph; 0-62mph: 12.7sec; Economy: 60.1mpg; CO2: 108g/km; Kerb weight: 929kg; Engine: 3 cyls, 999cc, petrol; Power: 74bhp at 6200rpm; Torque: 70lb ft at 3000-4300rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual