Platform sharing has been all the rage for years. The Volkswagen Group is most famous for this, fielding three differing versions of the Up!, Polo and Golf through their array of manufacturers to varying degrees of success. But a lot of people forget another platform merge that set the tone for city car ownership across Europe.
Nine years ago PSA (that’s the Peugeot-Citroen group to you and us) teamed up with Toyota to build three versions of a small car. What resulted were the original Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107 and Citroen C1. It was a hugely successful venture, so the same team has had another go. We’ll be comparing the two modern versions that hve the biggest differences: the 2014 Aygo and Citroen C1, to see which makes the best buy.
Probably the biggest difference between the Aygo and Citroen C1 is the body styling. Although the two cars share almost identical dimensions, you wouldn’t know they came from the same factory at a glance, because they look entirely different.
Both Toyota and Citroen went to great lengths to separate their models from each other, but to our eyes the Aygo is the most entertaining to look at – although it did make a surprise entrance in our top angry-looking cars list. It certainly isn’t for everyone, with the huge multi-coloured cross slapped over its face and running up the wings, but we think it looks aggressive and dynamic.
The sharp bonnet creases, angled daytime running lights and rear-window kink help emphasise this. The rear is just as striking, with the shiny oversized lights and the contrasting bumper insert. This, as well as the front X, wing inserts and alloy wheels, is interchangeable with dealers, who offer a wide variety of colours let you stamp your own mark on your Aygo. This will definitely appeal to the more masculine youth market, and makes it a rather interesting choice as a first car.
The Citroen, on the other hand, is a cuddly teddy bear. The French brand has gone for quirky, cute and funky, and the overall effect is like something the Powerpuff Girls wouldn’t mind driving. There’s no doubt Citroen has aimed for the feminine market, with its soft face and rounded headlamps that feature an unusual dual-lensed design. The rear of the C1 is more conventional, where there’s a one-piece glass tailgate mated to smart little rear lights. The Citroen also has customisation options: you can add coloured graphics and multi-coloured door mirrors to lighten the mood. But it is also available with the £850 option of a roll-back fabric ‘Airscape’ roof (the Aygo does not), which makes a fantastically chic open-air alternative to a sunroof.
There is less to differenciate the two here, because other than one or two small trim features they use the same dashboard design and layout. The Aygo features a little more glossy plastic to brighten things up, but both cars are simple, functional and smart. Both have a funky dial design with a large central speedo, and a laser-like rev counter shoots up the side. Both also have a triangular heating and ventilation screen flanked with switches, and little else other than a radio. But if you spec your version of either car up a bit, you get a rather good seven-inch touchscreen which can not only play music using Bluetooth, but also has a ‘Mirror Link’ function which pairs your phone with the screen, allowing you to use its functions.
The plastics on both are reasonably nice for the class, with only the flimsy door panels and cheap lower trims letting the side down. Neither can match a Volkswagen Up! for quality, but the Aygo/C1 cousins look more vibrant and funky. Space up front is excellent and several testers have said the driving position is much improved over the original models. However, rear passenger space suffers because the designers prioritised more bootspace over legroom. This makes it a very tight squeeze for adults, especially compared to the Up! and Hyundai I10, although it’s ok for kids. The bonus is the boot, which at 196 litres with the seats up, is significantly larger than the previous car and makes them entirely usable for shopping.
Another area where there is only one difference. Citroen has introduced a more powerful 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine alongside the original 1.0-litre unit, whereas Toyota hasn’t, opting to stick with their tried and tested 1.0-litre option. But other than that they are identical in every way, with the same suspension settings.
Around town both cars are very good, and critics suggest they iron out potholes well with their soft suspension, and change direction with ease. Both engines are quite nippy off the line, but need to be revved to get the best out of them. The steering is more precise than before and the gearbox shifts much better, although the automatic is still a little slow. However, both are ideal city and town cars, and the incredibly small turning circle of each car is a bonus.
It’s only on motorways where the smaller 1.0-litre starts to struggle, and where the torquier 1.2-litre engine makes a difference. However, both can be a bit noisy at high speeds, and testers noted that the C1′s optional fabric roof let in quite a bit of wind noise.
Faster driving highlights the soft suspension’s relatively roll-prone ride, although its on a par with most of the class. But these aren’t the conditions these cars are designed for.
Value for money and running costs
Both models seem fairly well equipped for the price. Even the basic models on both start at around £8,000 and come with anti-lock brakes, electric windows and door mirrors, a CD Player with Aux-in and USB input, four airbags, remote locking and even tyre pressure monitors.
But you have to move to the next trim level up for air-con, and we would also pay the extra £400 for five doors as it improves rear access massively. The multimedia touch-screen with DAB is an option on all models, and standard on top-spec versions, and is something we’d recommend to make the interior feel a bit more upmarket. If you opt for a C1, consider the £850 folding cloth roof, because it really adds another dimensions to the car’s appeal – read our C1 test drive for more on the roof. The Toyota, as before, is a couple of hundred pounds more expensive.
Running costs, as you would expect, are as low as they get. Base models are insurance group 1E, meaning the next cheapest thing to insure is a moped. The 1.0-litre can realistically get 70mpg if you’re careful, but the 1.2-litre engine isn’t too far behind that. Both engines fall under the 100g/km CO2 level, meaning free road tax. All this adds up to a car that is perfect for first-timers, or someone who wants a funky runabout without breaking the bank.
Choosing between these two really boils down to whichever you prefer to look at and be seen in. The C1′s extra incentive is the folding roof, which makes it a cut-price alternative the the Fiat 500C. Both cars, though, are stylish choices.
The biggest problem the pair faces is from the competition. Both the VW Up and Hyundai i10 offer more space, better quality interiors and more refinement for a similar outlay, and although they don’t offer the same customisation as these two, they aren’t exactly dull to look at. The Aygo and C1 have definitely upped their game, but don’t shoot straight to the top of the class yet.
Find out more
Read carwow’s Toyota Aygo review and Citroen C1 review sections for more information about these lightweight city cars. Also check our Toyota Aygo deals and Citroen C1 deals to see how much you could save off list price, should you choose to buy one.