The Citroen C1 is a fun and funky little city car, but some of the alternatives feel more grown up and higher in quality
The Citroen C1 is a small city car with funky styling and a colourful cabin. It’s an alternative to other city cars like the Volkswagen Up!, Renault Twingo and Hyundai i10, as well as its sister cars – the Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo.
As you can see from the pictures, it’s a bright and cheerful little thing, but what these photos don’t show is the sheer range of colours you can choose from. And, that’s before you start to consider the options of a contrasting colour for the roof, or replacing the roof with a retractable canvas roof.
Inside, too, you can choose from a variety of colourful options that give the cabin a youthful look and feel. And, if you can’t make up your mind, there are some special editions that make all the important style-related decisions for you.
With a large central touchscreen that can be linked to a smartphone fitted to all but the most basic models, the C1 also looks pretty modern, but none of this can hide the fact that the car is built down to a price. The quality of the materials and the construction is not up with what you can find in the Volkswagen Up, for example.
On the other hand, there is plenty of space in the front – perhaps more than you might expect, given how small the car is. The driving position is fine, too, but it’s worth noting that the steering wheel adjusts only for height, not reach, and the driver’s seat has no height-adjustment on the most basic version.
It’s in the back where the Citroen C1 has to give second best to many of the alternatives. Both the Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10 have much more room in the rear seats, with legroom particularly in short supply. Headroom is also pretty tight, and worse in models with the retractable canvas roof.
The boot, too, is smaller than you’ll find in, say, a Volkswagen Up, while the high lip makes it awkward to load and unload luggage.
With a cheap car like the C1, it’s easy to focus on how little it can cost, but don’t. You’ll get a much better car if you spend a little bit more on it
If you spend most of your life in town, the C1 will suit you down to the ground. It’s a light car, so it feels pretty nippy, even with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine; and, because it’s so small and has light steering, a tight turning circle and good visibility, it’s easy to manoeuvre and can dive through traffic. For the same reasons, it’s quite fun to drive on a twisty B-road.
However, if you need to take to the highway rather than the High Road, the C1 isn’t as good as the likes of the Up or i10. Although it can cruise at the motorway limit, it makes a lot of noise getting – and staying – there. It’s also far less comfortable at these higher speeds, with the suspension letting passengers feel lots of bumps in the road.
There’s only one engine to choose from, but with almost every trim level, you can pair it with either a manual or an automatic gearbox. The manual is the better bet, but both combinations return official fuel economy of more than 50mpg.
Overall, the car is cheap to run – if a little more costly to insure than the Up and Skoda Citigo – but the most basic models don’t have much equipment at all. The basic trim is the only one without air-conditioning, DAB radio and the central touchscreen, as well as missing out on practical touches like a height-adjustable driver’s seat and split-folding rear seats.
On the other hand, the safety package is pretty good, with Citroen somehow managing to squeeze six airbags into the tiny cabin, while you also get stability control and ABS.
Overall, there’s certainly something very appealing about the characterful and colourful C1, but there are lots of arguably better alternatives. To some eyes, the Citroen’s sister cars, the Aygo or 108, may be better-looking, whereas the Up and Citigo are much more grown up and more capable beyond the city limits.