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CitroŽn C1 review

Citroen C1

“Here is the key for your go-kart.”, said the service receptionist at Wyatt of Winchester, my local CitroŽn dealer when I delivered my C5 for a service.

First impressions were that there was an awful lot of painted metal in the interior and that the gearlever was spindly although the knob felt quite nice. Similarly the textured steering wheel had a pleasing tactile quality. The clutch was light and progressive and the brakes were reasonably light too. The steering was quick and direct, albeit rather heavy.

The drive home from Winchester is on a mix of country lanes, and single and dual carriageway main roads, plus of course driving in Winchester. In town traffic, it felt nippy and, thanks to its small size, very manoeuvrable. There was a nice, rorty exhaust note and the engine was prepared to rev. There was enough torque at lower engine speeds to mean that one didn’t have to drive it on the gearlever – which is a good thing since the gate is not the most clearly defined and several times I found myself in the wrong gear – usually in the first-third-fifth plane.

Once I got out onto the dual carriageway, it was obvious that there was enough power to keep up with the traffic in the outside lane. However, what had been a pleasing exhaust note in urban conditions soon became “too much noise” at speeds above 60 mph. Additionally, there was an awful lot of road noise transmitted into the cabin – a mixture of tyre noise and bumps and thumps.

There was not enough room to the left of the clutch pedal to rest my foot.

I was also aware of the very thick C pillar in my peripheral vision to the extent that from time to time I had to check that someone wasn’t passing me on my nearside.

The ride was very firm indeed and this, coupled with firm seats meant that progress on roads with indifferent surfaces was unpleasant. “Jiggly” is the word that springs to mind. In fact I would go as far as to say that this is the worst riding CitroŽn I have ever driven.

On the other hand, its handling and grip were superb. And of course, some people actually like to “feel the road”. In the C1’s case, I could feel the paint on road markings.

Not only were the seats firm, they also lacked lateral and lumbar support and the squab was too short for comfort. There was plenty of room in the front but I wouldn’t wish to be consigned to the rear for any length of time.

The boot is miniscule. A person doing the weekly shop for one would need to place shopping bags on the seats or fold the rear seats down.

The C1 is clearly a budget car. The painted metal on the interior door panels, manual window winders, aforementioned spindly gear lever and the even more spindly interior door locks and the lack of central locking all show it has been built down to a price.

The dash also has a cheap and tacky appearance although the design is quite clever and the bits you touch feel quite nice.

Thanks to an oversized door pull, there is nowhere to rest your right hand – apart from on the wheel. Perhaps that is the intention.

But the worst thing about the car is the non-adjustable upper seat belt mounting which is far too high and results in the belt cutting across one's neck.

One thing that did surprise me was how good the radio sounded – even if it looked like a 1980s ghetto blaster. At medium volumes, it sounded better than the unit fitted in my C5 – although it soon ran out of puff when I attempted to drown out the noise from the engine and road. I didn’t try out the CD player.

To sum up, the receptionist was right. It is a go-kart. As urban transport, it is fun and quite nippy. On the open road however, the combination of poor ride and noise soon becomes tiresome.

© 2008 Julian Marsh/CitroŽnŽt