Citroen C1

French city car is as fun as it is cheap

6.6
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 15 reviews
  • Characterful engines
  • Very cheap to run
  • Fairly cheap to buy
  • Not very refined
  • Some rivals are better to drive
  • Feels cheap inside
 

£8,715 - £12,545 Price range

 

4 Seats

 

65 - 68 MPG

Review

The Citroen C1 is a small city car that has funky styling and a colourful cabin. The Volkswagen Up!, Renault Twingo and Hyundai i10 aren’t its only rivals as it faces some tough competition from its sister cars – the Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo.

The dashboard inserts and the infotainment system that can mirror your smartphone lift up the cabin, but the build quality and finish leave much to be desired. Same is the case with passenger and luggage space where the C1 is beaten by rivals.

The C1 is perfectly capable of driving around town and thanks to its low weight it feels lively as well. Where it shows its urban focus is on the motorway where the C1 is noisy and unsettled. It’s great fun to drive on a twisty B-road, though.

There are two petrol choices and both are free to tax and decently frugal. Pick the smaller 1.0-litre if you enjoy the sound of three-cylinder engines or pick the more powerful 1.2-litre if you want to overtake.

Basic equipment is pretty poor, but that is expected from Citroens cheapest model. We recommend going for the middle ‘Feel’ trim as it has all the equipment you’ll need in a small city car for a reasonable outlay.

The C1’s interior is simple to use, though it struggles to hide the fact that it’s built down to a price. Some reviewers have had build quality issues and most criticise the fit and finish. A large central touchscreen can link wirelessly to most smartphones and display their layout, and interchangeable inserts on the dash can liven things up.

Citroen C1 passenger space

Space is okay for four, though taller passengers may complain. There are plenty of cubby holes though, and from a subjective point of view, many buyers will like the fun, youthful design of the C1’s cabin.

Citroen C1 boot space

At 196 litres, boot space is vastly improved over the old model, but falls short of the Up’s 251-litre load bay. Both the Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10 are a better bet for both people and their stuff. 

The C1’s light weight works in its favour here, and most testers agree that decent fun can be had behind the wheel. The steering is light and accurate, which combined with great visibility makes it very easy to drive. 

Although testers mention that the ride “copes reasonably well” with the craters that are common to city streets, out on the open road it starts to become a little more unsettled. Most testers agree that the Renault Twingo is both more composed and better fun. 

Wind and road noise harm the C1’s refinement too, virtually all testers noting each unwelcome characteristic. Refinement is where the C1 most lags behind its rivals.

There are two small petrol units to choose from, either the 1.0 litre three-cylinder carried over from the old C1 (with some revisions) or a new more powerful 1.2-litre. Both units deliver excellent economy, and suit the city car brief well. 

When taken on a longer journey they become a little harsher, while the limited power becomes even more apparent. Still, whichever you choose to buy, you won’t be filling them up with petrol very often, with even the least frugal model returning a claimed fuel economy of 65mpg while the 68hp 1.0-litre can do 74.3mpg and all of the engines are free to tax, too.

Many testers find the clutch to be frustrating to use, with a high biting point and inconsistent feedback. They also suggest avoiding the automatic gearbox, which is poor.

The entry level unit develops 68hp, and when equipped with stop start technology emits only 88g/km of CO2, and officially manages 74.3mpg. Performance will hardly set the world alight – 0-62mph takes 14.4 seconds if you really give it some beans – and top speed is just shy of 100 mph.

Unfortunately, despite the engine’s “pleasing noise” and nippy nature at urban speeds, it’s “weedy” out on the open road. The gearing is quite long to help the fuel economy, which means that on motorways it can struggle to keep up. As long as you keep it in town, it's perfectly fine.

If you do feel the need to venture out onto the open road, then the 1.2-litre will be the better bet. A 12hp bump means that the 0-62mph time is reduced to a more respectable 11 seconds and out of town it generally feels more pokey. Many testers feel that the new engine isn't as responsive as the smaller motor though, but in most situations the trade off in power make it worthwhile. It still achieves 65.7mpg, too.

Crash test experts at Euro NCAP gave the C1 a four-star rating for safety. The C1 offers quite generous levels of safety kit for a car this size. They’ve somehow managed to squeeze six airbags into the tiny cabin, whilst you also get stability control and ABS

Thanks to Isofix mountings in rear seats, the C1 makes for an ideal runabout for small families, while a tyre pressure monitoring system offers further peace of mind.

It is marginally more expensive than the Hyundai i10, but cheaper than the SEAT/Skoda/Volkswagen trio. Insurance groups are very low too, though the near identical Toyota Aygo comes with a more comprehensive warranty package.

Citroen C1 Touch

The basic model does without air conditioning, DAB digital radio, and Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, so if you can we’d recommend stretching for a higher spec model. However, you still get electric front windows and an MP3 compatible stereo. 

Citroen C1 Feel

It may be a greater initial outlay, but the extra kit will mean that you’ll enjoy it more and be able to ask for more when you come to sell it on. You get air-conditioning, digital DAB radio, folding rear seats and a seven-inch touchscreen.

Citroen C1 Furio

The Furio trim takes a racier approach to the C1’s exterior and as a result, you get tasty racing stripes, contrasting red wing mirrors, a small spoiler, and a central exhaust. Inside, it’s just the rev-counter that separates it from cheaper Feel models.

Citroen C1 Flair and Flair Edition

The top of the range trim adds a reversing camera, tinted windows, 15-inch alloy wheels and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob. At the top of the range, Flair Edition adds leather seats and heated door mirrors to the city runabout. However, it does bump up the price by quite a bit so we’d stick to the middle-of-the-line ‘Feel’ trim.

Conclusion

In order to choose from among the C1/108/Aygo trio, it comes largely down to which one you think looks the nicest. Otherwise, the Aygo may be the best bet –  the basic model costs marginally less and it has a much better manufacturer’s warranty.

When you compare it to the rest of the class, the C1 is by no means a bad car, but there are rivals that are arguably better. The Renault Twingo is more fun to drive, while the Volkswagen group triplets are better still, and more practical than the Citroen. Most rivals offer a higher quality cabin, too, while the i10 is more roomy for a similar price.

Economy is very good though and the C1 certainly has character. Find one cheap enough from a dealer, and it could be worth a look.

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