Citroën C1 hatchback
Price: £8,095 - £11,245
- Cheap running costs
- Low price tag
- Great to drive around town
- Three star safety rating
- Poor build quality
- Noisy on the motorway
"The Citroen C1 is a basic and cheap-to-run city car. It's fun to drive but it's also pretty basic, and is outclassed by newer rivals."
The Citroen C1 is a city car like the Volkswagen up!, SEAT Mii and Hyundai i10. It's getting on a bit now, though – it was launched in 2005, and it is starting to get shown up by newer rivals. It's a pretty basic car, offering low running costs, low equipment levels and a low price tag. But its tiny dimensions and nippy Toyota engines (it's based on the Toyota Aygo) make it good fun to drive.
There is a choice of three specification levels: VT, Edition and Platinum. Entry-level cars come with very little equipment and interior quality feels a bit shabby, with plenty of hard plastics. It still makes for a decent first car though, thanks to those low running costs, the comprehensive three-year warranty and those dependable Toyota engines. The only trouble with the C1 is that the competition in the city car class is really, really strong. The Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto and the trio of Volkswagen group models (the VW up!, Skoda Citigo and SEAT Mii) all cost similar amounts or less than the C1, but are better in every way.
MPG, running costs & CO2
No diesel option but petrol engine is free to tax
There is only one engine in the C1 line-up because Citroen scrapped the diesel option a couple of years ago. That leaves a Toyota-made 68bhp three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine. It's very economical and will do 65.7mpg and 99g/km CO2 when fitted with a manual gearbox, making it exempt from road tax. Go for an automatic and the figures aren’t quite as good, but at 62.8mpg and 104g/km CO2, they’re still pretty decent – decent enough to put it in tax band B which is free for the first year and £20 per year there after.
Citroen offer a number of pre-paid packages that help you to keep down other costs like servicing, insurance and roadside assistance, too. Plus the C1 should prove to be very reliable seeing as it's based on a Toyota.
Interior & comfort
The C1 is reasonably comfortable around town, but struggles on motorways
The C1 has a soft and supple suspension, so it glides over potholes and speed bumps surprisingly well for a city car. It's good to drive around town because the light steering and slick gearbox makes tight manoeuvres easy. But comfort levels are compromised by a number of issues. Space is really tight in the back, which means adult passengers are not going to enjoy a journey of any length. Noise is a problem at higher speeds, too. The engine starts to get pretty ragged at speeds over 50mph, plus the cabin is not well insulated from wind and road noise, which makes long motorway journeys really draining. The driving position isn’t great either because the pedals are too close together to be comfortable.
Practicality & boot space
Boot space is tiny and rear seats only suitable for children
There is only 139 litres of capacity in the C1's boot, which is small even for a city car. The Hyundai i10 has a 252-litre boot and the VW up! has 251 litres of capacity. You can fold down the rear seats to free up more space, but even then there's only 751 litres available, compared to 951 litres in the up! and a huge 1,046 litres in the i10. Higher spec C1 models come with 50:50 split-folding rear seats, which does make the space a bit more flexible, but even on this the Citroen is behind rivals, many of which offer split-folding seats as standard on even entry-level models.
Head and legroom in the rear of the car is very tight, too. Only children will be able to fit in the back seats in any kind of comfort.
Reliability & safety
C1 has a very poor safety score, but should benefit from Toyota-levels of reliability
A big stumbling point for many potential buyers of the C1 will be its poor safety score. It has a very low three-star rating from Euro NCAP, which looks worse when you consider the vast majority of its rivals boast the maximum five stars. Why is it so poor? Because it's an old car and Euro NCAP downgraded it in 2012 when it made its testing criteria stricter. Citroen has subsequently added electric stability control and some other safety features to the C1, but it's still no match for rivals like the Fiat 500 and Volkswagen up!.
Citroen doesn’t have a particularly good reputation for reliability, either. The brand came 24th out of 32 in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturer rankings, which is a disappointing result for such a big brand. The C1 is, however, based on the Toyota Aygo and uses a Toyota engine, so we would expect it to benefit from the Japanese brand's legendary reliability.
Engines, drive & performance
C1 is fine around town but really struggles at higher speeds
There's only one engine available with the Citroen C1 – a 67bhp 1.0-litre petrol unit, and it's pretty good around town. It may not have a lot of power but it will accelerate the C1 from 0-62mph in 12.3 seconds, which is faster than a VW up! can manage. It's got enough pace to nip about town, where its light steering and good visibility makes it easy to manoeuvre, but it struggles on the open road bcause the engine starts to strain and get noisy at speeds above 50mph. Getting the C1 up to motorway speeds requires real effort, and overtaking is a pain.
Wind, road and engine noise is also really intrusive at higher speeds, which makes long journeys particularly draining. The C1 is comfortable – more so than most of its rivals – which definitely adds to its appeal around town, but is completely offset on motorways and A-roads by the underpowered engine and noisy driving experience.
Price, value for money & options
Equipment levels are poor and the price feels too high but there are discounts to be had
The Citroen C1 has a similar price to rivals – but that becomes harder and harder to justify each year. For similar money you can have either the Hyundai i10 or Kia Picanto, both of which are better cars, come with more equipment and have comprehensive five and seven year warranties respectively, compared to the C1's three year guarantee. You’re more likely to get a deal on the Citroen, though, so you may be able to knock a decent chunk off the official list price.
Resale values aren’t too bad either, partly because the car is cheap to begin with, so they don’t have much room to devalue, but also because the C1 remains a popular choice for first time buyers. Used values could start to decline in the coming years though, as newer and more desirable rivals start filtering through to the used market.
What the others say
The Citroen C1 is mechanically identical to both the Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo and recent updates help keep them competitive against a strong set of rivals. It's got a quirky design both inside and out, while the driving experience is geared towards city environments. A soft ride and light controls make negotating tight streets a breeze.
The Citroen C1 is a sound financial bet for anyone looking for a city car. Discounts from Citroen, low running costs and decent used values, coupled to low CO2 emissions, make it appealing.
The C1 is Citroen's version of the Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo. It has different looks front and rear and the specification levels are slightly different, but otherwise it's essentially the same as its counterparts - it's even built in the same factory. Available with three or five doors, it's an excellent small car, with a roomy interior and a pleasant driving experience - although it can be a little noisy on the motorway.
Last updated: 7 Mar 2014