Citroen C1 Flair VTi 68 Manual 5-door

July 2014

picture of car from the front

Cute and mischievous front styling will win buyers

Ratings

Overall Rating 7Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 8Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 5Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 7Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 7Car safety


Likes

  • Impressive ride quality from new suspension setup
  • Myriad personalisation options help to create unique designs
  • Instantly comfortable driving position and intuitive control layout
  • Good visibility helps with parking

Gripes

  • Small boot lags behind Volkswagen Group and Hyundai rivals
  • List prices are among the sector's highest
  • Restricted rear legroom makes carrying friends more difficult
  • Touch-screen can be difficult to use while on the move

After a long wait, the new C1 has arrived to keep pace with the city car class leaders. With it comes a huge emphasis on customisation, but the forward-thinking Fiat 500 offered the same in 2007. Citroen hopes that the impressive on-board technology in the C1 will help it fly off forecourts even quicker than ever.

The first Citroen C1 was such a success that it was continued for almost a decade; several years longer than most ordinary car life cycles. Despite a lack of technology, a bouncy ride, comparatively poor interior quality and a surprisingly expensive list price, the C1 was heavily discounted and undeniably cute, leading to big sales numbers.

Cuteness is a hugely important factor in this market sector, and Citroen has definitely drawn the long straw against its Peugeot and Toyota partners who both have cars built on the same chassis. The C1 is the most immediately appealing of the three, which should give it pole position when it comes to showroom appeal.

Although it looks substantially longer than before, the C1's wheelbase is the same and there's only an incremental increase in overall dimensions. Its competitors have evolved around it, with some now quite a bit bigger, but the C1's designers wanted to maintain its middle-ground position to make sure that the new model remained easy to park in the city.

The city car segment has grown ever larger since the C1's original arrival in 2005. The Volkswagen Group offer three options, while sister companies Hyundai and Kia have two between them. Ford, Fiat and Vauxhall all offer rivals, not to mention the genetically similar offerings from Peugeot and Toyota. The C1 has its work cut out.

Our verdict on the Citroen C1 Flair VTi 68 Manual 5-door

While it has an advantage in the styling stakes over most of its rivals, in practicality the C1 is still some way behind. The battle plans have been drawn up, and Citroen hasn't offered the cleverness of engineering on display from the Volkswagen Group, but arguably the C1 is one of the most characterful city cars you can buy. There are more spacious options, but few are cheekier.

Costs
Costs rating 8

The smaller and cheaper of the two engine options is the better choice, offering excellent potential efficiency and tax-friendly emissions. A small fuel tank means that a full fill won't cost the earth, but it should last a while. Modest overall running costs should prove attractive to all ages.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 5

The boot is, probably by coincidence, exactly two-thirds of the size of the class leading car. Citroen's own figures cheat a little by including the partly empty bare metal spare wheel well beneath the boot floor, but it's only really suitable for emergencies. There are cupholders in the cabin and the glove box is a good size, plus there are one or two extra cubbyholes to slot oddments into.

picture of car from the rear

Black gloss tailgate is designed for a more premium look

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

The big news here is the seven-inch touch-sensitive colour screen, which does a sterling job with fresh, bright and colourful graphics. It responds quickly to inputs and its resolution is high enough to give an unexpectedly premium look. As the car moves up and down over bumps, though, it can be difficult to hit the right part of the screen; a problem that afflicts all cars with touch-operated controls. The more traditional dials and stalks are in the usual positions and fall easily to hand.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 7

Citroen seems to be beginning to move back towards its soft seat policy of old. Front seat occupants sink into the chairs a little, and the soft padding helps the car to feel both relaxed and relaxing while crawling through the city sprawl. They'll also find plenty of arm and headroom, too. It's not such good news for back-seat passengers, though, who'll find a shortage of legroom and potentially tight headroom too.

Car security
Security Rating 7

An engine immobiliser is standard-fit on all trim grades, and remote central locking has now been made a standard feature across the range too. Deadlocks can then be activated with a second press of the 'lock' button on the key fob to prevent thieves opening the doors from the inside after smashing a window. While on the inside of the car a locking mechanism can be activated that locks not only the doors, but the boot as well.

Car safety
Safety Rating 7

Anti-lock brakes with systems to help apply maximum braking force in the event of an emergency stop are standard. Stability control - including cornering stability control - is standard to keep all four tyres on the road, while hill start assist prevents the car rolling backwards during the gap where a driver moves their foot from brake to accelerator. Top-spec Flair models get a speed limiter, but otherwise share the same equipment as all other models.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 7

Big strides have been made with the C1's ride, which is much more stable, settled and comfortable now despite having much the same footprint on the road. The 1.0-litre engine, a three-cylinder unit descended from the one that powered the last C1, has a pleasant thrummy note under power that fades away almost completely when cruising at urban speeds. Refinement and nimble low-speed handling are the highlights.

picture of car interior

Large colour screen is the highlight of a very modern cabin

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 6

There's little to justify the C1 as a main family car. It's too small to make an effective choice, despite Isofix child seat mounts and a switchable passenger-side airbag, but those touches do make it a prime candidate as a second car alongside something perhaps taller and more spacious. It's efficient, affordable and cheerful; three desirable qualities in a car that will be used to transport the kids around town.

First car appeal
First car Rating 9

While the average age of a new car buyer is still pretty high, many C1s have been bought by parents looking to give their kids a brand new car. That trend could well continue with the new car. With a small, easily manageable body, a fuel-efficient engine and modest insurance groupings, the C1 will be high on the first-time car buyer's shopping list.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 8

There are some visible mould lines on certain pieces of plastic trim, which lowers the sense of quality for those that look for such things, but many buyers simply won't notice. There are some cheap-feeling surfaces in the cabin but in the main the C1 feels surprisingly solid out on the road, especially when compared to the precious model. Citroen's brand image is likable and sometimes quirky, but electrical reliability is a bugbear.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

The five-door option tested here has an obvious advantage over the three-door C1, but rear passengers will still need to slot their feet into the footwells forwards rather than sideways, because there isn't that much room between the rear of the front seats and the front of the rear ones. The roofline is high enough for young people never to notice the ducking motion, but low enough to trouble some older folks.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Music is important to the younger buyers Citroen is aiming to appeal to, so while there are only four speakers, the company's 'Connecting Box' is present and correct, allowing USB and Bluetooth inputs - and hands-free telephone calls. The media interface is displayed on a large colour touch-screen at the top of the centre console, which offers clear graphics but can be a pain to operate on the move.

picture of car in detail

Boot bigger than before, but some way off class lead

Colours and trim

There isn't the range of colours that you might expect. Two reds are the bolder choices, but monochrome options covering white, grey and black are dominant on the palette. Citroen has defaulted on colour choice and left it up to the user to pay for coloured graphics if they want them. On the inside the seats and dashboard can be as sober or sunny as taste desires, but either way there's a discordant array of materials and finishes.

Parking

The C1 has different shape rear windows compared to its Peugeot and Toyota siblings, and they afford arguably the best rear three-quarter visibility. On that basis the C1 is the easiest to reverse-park, although the C-pillars either side of the rear screen are still thick. Overall, thanks to its tiny dimensions, good turning circle and light steering the C1 is extremely easy to park. The Flair model also has a reversing camera.

Spare wheel

Emergency tyre repair kit supplied as standard.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.0-litre (67bhp); 1.2-litre (81bhp). Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox, plus automated manual gearbox. Trim levels: Touch, Feel, Flair.

 

Alternative cars

Skoda Citigo Intelligent interior design maximises cabin and boot space

Hyundai i10 Largest car in the class boasts big-car feel and refinement

Vauxhall Adam Ultra-customisable and chic option with willing engines

Fiat 500 Significantly down on luggage space but looks fantastic



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July 2014