What is it?
This is the new five-door Skoda Citigo. Tested here, it carries the range’s lower-powered 59bhp three-pot petrol engine and five-speed manual gearbox. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but Skoda has said that the more practical of the two body variants (which will account for between 60 and 75 per cent of sales in Western Europe) will carry a £350 premium over the £7500 (estimated) three-door car. Built into the rear doors come cost-cutting pop-out windows, a first for these eyes and a questionable decision.
Both three and five door Citigos share the same 3560mm length, 1650mm width and 1480mm height and both offer the same class leading 251-litre boot space, which increases to 959 litres with the rear seats folded. By contrast a similarly sized Kia Picanto serves up 200 and 605 litres respectively.
What’s it like?
Around town, the Citigo’s 59bhp, 70lb ft torque 12-valve dishes up enough power for low speed sprints and cheeky lane changes. The five-speed manual gearbox is a good pairing thanks to slick, light shifts and suitable gearing ratio. A five-speed automatic gearbox is also offered, but we're yet to test it.
The Citigo’s electromechanical steering is also light and accurate, although steering feel is on the numb side. Rear parking sensors, which are relayed through the optional sat-nav (more on that later) are useful, but great all-round visibility makes them slightly redundant.
Most impressive, is the Citigo’s chassis and suspension set-up. Driven on Portugal’s cobbled inner-city streets, lumps and bumps are absorbed well by the dampers; minimal scuttle shake gives the feeling that the Citigo is a solid little machine.
Outside the Citigo’s intended habitat, Skoda’s smallest model also makes a good fist of a twisty B-road. Thrown at tight bends and the occasional hairpin corner, the Citigo resists understeer heroically and at speed the car feels planted despite its 929kg weight. With this engine, however, its lack of shove out of corners won’t appeal to enthusiastic drivers.
At motorway speeds, wind noise is kept to a minimum (thanks to its 0.33 drag co-efficient) so it’s the barky three-pot you’ll notice more. Given the engine’s power-anaemia, this Citigo doesn’t glide with the same grace as the 74bhp variant, but keeps up with traffic well.
Braking is courtesy of ventilated front brake disks and rear drums, which halt the car smoothly. Brake feel through the pedal is very good.
The model we tested came equipped with the optional Navigon sat-nav system. We’ve been assured that it works well in the Czech Republic, but on our Portugese test route, it dropped GPS signal with a change in the winds and wasn’t as intuitive as we’d have hoped. Whether or not it performs well in the UK remains to be seen.
Something Skoda has been very keen to show off is the model’s optional ‘City Safe Drive’ braking system. The emergency braking function activates itself at speeds below 19mph if lasers in the rear-view mirror detect a danger. When we tested the system, however, our soft 1.5-metre cubed target was launched into the air, much to the surprise of Skoda technicians; perhaps some finessing is needed.