In-depth reviews

Citroen Ami hatchback review

"The Citroen Ami is an intriguing ultra-compact electric vehicle designed to be incredibly cheap to buy and run"

Carbuyer Rating

3.3 out of 5

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Manoeuvrable
  • Relatively spacious

Cons

  • Slow
  • Lacks refinement
  • Limited safety kit

The Citroen Ami wasn't originally going to be sold in the UK but serious interest from British buyers persuaded the French manufacturer to sell it here too. Technically a quadricycle, the Ami is a two-seat microcar that's designed for use in cities only, rather like the Renault Twizy.

The Ami was designed to be cheap to produce so that buying and leasing, or even hiring by the minute using a car sharing app, are all affordable alternatives to public transport. In France, the Ami costs just over £5,000 after a government grant, while a lease costs from around £20 a month. Hiring one costs just 23p per minute. In some European nations, it can be driven by anyone aged 14 or over and without a driving licence but UK drivers will need to be older than 17 and hold a provisional licence.

Best small electric cars

There's a surprising amount of room inside the Ami for two adults, thanks to its square proportions and fairly tall roof. It feels basic inside, with hard plastics and seats like those you'd find in a bus or taxi, but everything is neatly designed and the car feels fun. Extra space and large cubbies also makes up for the lack of a proper boot, so there's room for shopping or carry-on luggage. The Ami isn't designed for long trips, just short hops across town.

Power comes from an 8bhp electric motor supplied by a 5kWh battery. This can be charged using a domestic plug in around three hours and provides a range of up to 46 miles - easily enough to get across a city the size of London. With just 458kg to get moving, the motor does a reasonable job but the Ami's top speed is limited to just 28mph. This makes it suitable for driving in built-up areas only; find yourself on a road with a speed limit of even 40mph and the Ami starts to feel out of its depth.

It's not really a proper rival to cars like the Dacia Sandero but anyone looking to commute without donning a helmet or braving wintry weather could find the Ami an appealing solution. It's likely to be the very cheapest ‘car’ to own (or hire) in the UK.

MPG, running costs & CO2

Every aspect of the Citroen Ami has been designed to lower ownership costs

In theory, the Citroen Ami should be the UK's most affordable new car because not only is it expected to undercut the £9,000 Dacia Sandero, every aspect of its design is aimed at saving money. This doesn't just include running costs but even the cost of repairs; the body panels and parts have been engineered to be as cheap and easy to replace as possible. Even its nose and tail are identical for this reason.

As a fully electric vehicle, the cost of charging the Ami will depend on your electricity tariff or the public charger you use. However, the 5.5kWh battery is tiny compared to most models - the Renault ZOE has a 52kWh battery - so even a full charge won't cost very much. Once fully charged, the Ami can travel up to 46 miles. The European Ami we drove came with a domestic plug, taking around three hours to charge. UK cars will come with a Type 2 adapter, making it easy to use public chargers or a home wallbox.

Engines, drive & performance

It's not fast but the Ami is fun and excels in the city

Weighing just 458kg and measuring 2.4 metres in length, it's best not to compare the way the Ami drives with other city cars. The Ami is actually a quadricycle, in the same way as the Renault Twizy, and its motor has just 8bhp. Unlike the Twizy, this is sent to the front wheels and gives the Ami a top speed of 28mph. 

This means the Ami feels at home on city streets and out of its depth if you accidentally stray onto a faster road. Up to its top speed the Ami feels relatively nippy thanks to its light weight, while the no-frills approach to refinement makes 25mph feel more like twice the speed. Negatives include a bouncy ride and vague, unassisted steering that's surprisingly heavy given the Ami's size. 

The Ami still manages to be great fun in the right environment, with its tiny footprint and 7.2-metre turning circle helping it run rings around larger cars in congested streets. Excellent visibility makes it easy to spot gaps normally reserved for motorbikes and park in impossibly tight spaces. We don't expect drivers to take long journeys in the Ami and shorter trips around town should prove great fun.

Interior & comfort

This is motoring stripped back to its bare essentials

The Ami manages to look futuristic but manual side windows that simply flip up and are held with a latch are decidedly old fashioned. Small circular door mirrors sit on manually adjusted stalks and the passenger seat is fixed in place for simplicity. The driver's seat does slide, of course, making it straightforward to find a comfortable driving position. 

The seats themselves are quite hard, but they appear easy to clean and tough. They've clearly been designed for short stints and car sharing schemes, where they will be subject to lots of wear and tear from drivers hiring the Ami in a similar fashion to electric scooters.

Interior quality could be the biggest shock for owners used to a more conventional model because cheap, hard plastics are used throughout. It's cleverly designed and quirky but definitely not luxurious; an infotainment system is replaced with a mount for your own smartphone. 

It's worth remembering the entire Ami will cost less than some of the lavish optional extras offered in luxury cars. We like the bright splashes of colour inside and young drivers are less likely to baulk at the fabric pull straps used in place of traditional door handles.

Practicality & boot space

Considering its tiny dimensions, the Ami is relatively spacious

The first thing you'll notice is that one door is hinged from the front, while the other is hinged at the rear - a cost-saving measure that allows both doors to be the same part. It's also amazing how much room there is inside the two-seater because the wheels are pushed out to the corners. The Ami's relatively high roofline also means there's plenty of headroom and lots of light floods in thanks to a standard glass roof. Many buyers will prefer the idea of sitting next to their passenger too; in the Twizy, the passenger seat is behind the driver’s.

There isn't a traditional boot in the Ami, just some space to fit items behind the seats and a large passenger footwell that can accommodate a small travel bag or some shopping. So long as you don't mind sitting with your luggage, there's a reasonable amount of space. Compared with a scooter, the Ami will at least keep you dry and you don't have to bother with leathers and a helmet like you would with a motorbike.

Reliability & safety

There isn't much to go wrong but safety isn't in the same league as conventional cars

The Citroen Ami has not only been designed to be simple but also robust enough to cope with car sharing; it feels tough as a result. With just a battery, electric motor and simple digital instrument readout, there should be very little to go wrong. If there is a piece of broken trim or the bodywork gets dinged, parts should be easy and cheap to replace.

As it’s classed as a quadricycle, the Ami won't be subject to the same crash legislation as a model like the Dacia Sandero, and this goes hand-in-hand with its limited top speed. For this reason the Ami can't be compared with most other cars but is most likely safer than being on two wheels. If you live in a congested city where hitting more than 20mph is a rarity, this is unlikely to be much of a concern but we'd avoid taking the Ami further afield. 

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