“The Citroen C1 is basic, but cheap to run and capable of carrying four people on short journeys.”
You don’t get much luxury inside the Citroen C1. Even following a 2012 update, it remains very back to basics, with performance, equipment and quality that is no match for the likes of the Skoda Citigo and Volkswagen up!. Also, you’ll pay less to buy a Hyundai i10 or Kia Picanto and they’re both more fun to drive. As of late 2013, the Citroen C1 comes in three main specifications – entry-level VT, mid-range Edition and top-of-the-range Platinum. As is still frustratingly common with Citroens, the base model C1 lacks a lot of equipment that is now considered standard, while the interior is dated by some hard plastics and metal pillars – there are times that it still feels very much like a car that was launched in 2005. But it does share its engines and parts with the very dependable Toyota Aygo and buyers get a comprehensive three-year warranty, great fuel economy and low running costs, so the C1 – even with its many faults – is still a good shout for young first-time drivers.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Citroen removed the diesel engine from the C1 in 2012, leaving only the 1.0-litre petrol engine manufactured by Toyota – so at least it should prove reliable. It's economical, too, thanks to fuel economy of 65.7mpg when paired with the manual gearbox. CO2 emissions fall just below the magic 100g/km mark, so it's free from annual road tax and insurance should be cheap, even for first-time buyers. But be warned that adding the automatic ESG gearbox does drop the mpg and up the emissions, but not be much. Any unexpected costs should be kept to a minimum by all-inclusive servicing packages and a three-year warranty, plus parts are readily available because the C1 shares its major parts with the Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo.
Interior & comfort
The tiny C1 city car actually rides surprisingly well, thanks to its supple suspension. The steering is handily light, especially around town, and the gearbox is really enjoyable to use, with manoeuvres pretty much a doddle. However, the driving position is too cramped because the pedals are positioned a bit too close together to be comfortable. In the back, leg and headroom is an issue, too, while getting in the back in the three-door model is only really good for children – adults will definitely struggle. Wind and road noise is an issue at higher speeds and, due to a lack of proper sound insulation, the three-cylinder engine can be pretty intrusive at speeds above 50mph.
Practicality & boot space
Cars with tiny dimensions like the C1 are designed to be nimble and agile when driving through city streets, so overall practicality takes a back seat. As does maximising comfort for long motorway journeys, with the C1 getting intrusively loud when driven at higher speeds. Also, don’t try and squeeze adults into the rear seat, because there really is only space back there for small children to fit with any degree of comfort – but at least you can fold the back seat down to expand the tiny 139-litre boot to a more useful 751 litres of luggage capacity. The higher-spec models are a bit more practical, thanks to the addition of a 50:50 split-fold rear bench that means longer objects can be carried next to a passenger. The front has a good range of storage options, with lots of cubbies and deep door bins.
Reliability & safety
While you won’t find the C1 in the list of the top 150 cars in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, it has enough of the Toyota Aygo's parts and components that you can use its 146th place as a good measure. The Aygo placed 73rd in the 2012 survey, so has dropped a whopping 73 places, which could be down to the model's age, with the 2012 update unlikely to be factored in yet. Citroen itself ranked a disappointing 24th in the poll's manufacturers rankings, falling two places on its 2012 result. In terms of safety, all models of the C1 come fitted with anti-lock brakes (ABS) and electronic traction control (ESP) as standard but side airbags are only available as an optional extra on entry-level models. When crash safety body Euro NCAP tightened their criteria in 2012, the C1, Ayo and Peugeot 107 were all downgraded to a three-star rating, thanks to a swath of new cars coming on to the market that raised standards, including the Fiat 500 and Volkswagen up!. Citroen has promised that it will fit more safety equipment as standard, so the C1 should improve its Euro NCAP score fairly soon.
Engines, drive & performance
With only one 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol engine available in the C1, you’d hope that it covered all your city car needs, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t feel especially speedy, lacks any real acceleration and struggles to keep pace on the motorway. However, it may not feel it but it actually accelerates from 0-62mph one second faster than the quickest Volkswagen up!, in 12.3 seconds. It does have some agility about town thanks to its light steering and efficient gearbox. Maneouvres are easy, with parking nice and straightforward thanks to good visibility. The suspension is soft and nicely cushioned, making as easy work of ironing out any major bumps or potholes as many of its bigger brothers in the Citroen range – and is better in this regard than many of its competitors. But if you plan to spend a lot of miles on the motorway, we’d suggest looking at the VW up! or Skoda Citigo instead, if only because of the frustrating amount of intrusive tyre and wind noise inside the car.
Price, value for money & options
The C1 is in danger of pricing itself out of the market, being more expensive than either the Hyundai i10 and the Kia Picanto, both of which offer extensive five and seven-year warranties, respectively, which Citroen certainly does not. That said, at least Citroen dealers will be ready for some haggling, so a good deal should be easy enough to find. There are also some good-value option packages on offer, too, like the ‘Plus Pack’ that adds accessories such as daytime running lights, remote central locking and electric windows to the entry-level VT model. But equipment like this really should be standard nowadays. Resale values should be fine, though, thanks to the car's popularity with first time buyers.