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Citroen C1 1.0 review (2005-2009)
Model: Citroen C1
Bodystyle: 5dr city car
Engine: 1.0–litre, 3-cylinder petrol
Transmission: 5–speed manual
Date of Test: May 2005
What is it?
This tiny Citroen is the French firm’s competitor in the burgeoning city car class. It’s a market that, in the UK at least, has been largely ignored, leaving Ford to clean up with its Ka for the best part of a decade. But its success, and the growing demand for smaller second or entry-level cars has seen the choice for customers grow dramatically in recent years. The C1 is one of a trio of models produced as a joint venture between Toyota, Peugeot and Citroen, the models sharing some 90% commonality, with only badges, trim levels, pricing and some mild styling alterations differentiating the three cars.
Where does it fit?
It’s an entry-level car, so it slots in at the bottom of the range. That means it’s positioned under the three-door only C2 and five-door only C3. The C1 comes with either three or five-doors, despite being marginally shorter than the C2. It also offers passenger space to rival its relative, though admittedly, at the expense of luggage capacity – the boot’s tiny. It’ll compete against rivals like the Kia Picanto, Chevrolet Matiz, Ford Ka and, of course, the Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo, among others.
Is it for you?
While Toyota is aiming its Aygo at young fashionable buyers, Citroen is perhaps a bit more realistic. It sees the C1 as appealing to a range of buyers including, first time buyers, those who usually buy secondhand cars, people looking for a second car and buyers based in the city. There’s no doubting it’s appeal, as starting at around £6,000 it’s a well-built, spacious and enjoyable car, the peppy three-cylinder engine offering respectable performance, while offering superb economy. 61mpg is claimed on the official combined cycle – expect around 50mpg in the real world.
What does it do well?
It does all you could ask of a small car. The cabin is airy and surprisingly spacious, it’s neatly styled inside and out and the trim and materials inside are of far superior quality to its C2 and C3 relatives. To drive it’s got huge charm, the three-cylinder engine capable with the thrust of town traffic, while also offering able performance on the motorway. Refinement at speed is also impressive. The steering is light for parking, the turning circle excellent and legroom in the rear is ample, so long as you’re not sitting behind a pair of six-footers...
What doesn’t it do well?
While the engine provides adequate performance you need to work it pretty hard to access it. That’s fine some of the time, but fully load a C1 and the performance is certain to suffer. Roll through bends can be rather pronounced and feel through the steering is rather lacking, while the suspension also struggles to cope with sharp ridges in the road surface. The gearshift lacks precision, and it really could do with additional ventilation above the centre console. The boot’s tiny, access to it limited by the glass only hatch, and the rear windows in both the three and five-door only pop-out, rather than wind down.
What’s it like to live with?
So long as you’re not covering vast mileages everyday, the C1 is perfectly capable transport. The 1.4-litre diesel alternative will offer a more relaxed driving experience, but it’ll be more expensive and it’ll take years to re-coup its additional expense on the road. The small boot is only really an issue if you need to carry both passengers and luggage, and buyers in this class are aware of their car’s limitations. Servicing should prove inexpensive, and with Toyota involved in the production the C1 should also be ultra reliable. Throw in cheeky looks and real character and it’s difficult not to be impressed by the C1.
Would we buy it?
It’d certainly be on our shortlist. The Ford Ka is still a better drive, but it’s now ancient and everywhere. The Panda is a tough rival too, as is the Kia Picanto. But Citroen is a very aggressive manufacturer on its pricing – the French firm something of a consumer champion these days. Its relatives obviously provide the closest competition, and many buyers may be drawn to the Toyota’s badge and more dramatic styling, despite Toyota’s more ambitious pricing. We’d also seriously consider it over its C2 relative, the C1’s interior feeling better built and the availability of five-doors certainly a draw.
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