One in three cars sold in the UK is now from the small car or supermini/city car sector: 890,000 superminis hit the roads in 2004. With the arrival of the C1, Citroën now lays claim to offering the widest range of superminis of any company in the UK, although the sector is currently ruled by the Ford Ka with 42% of the market.
Three distinct buyer profiles have been identified for the C1: first-time, two-car and empty nesters. All are expected to be drawn by its style, safety, affordability and low running costs. Citroën believes first-time buyers will see the C1 as providing the “reassurance of up-to-the-minute good looks”, safety and reliability, which may be lacking in a used car.
Two-car families are likely to be in their thirties or forties, and judge a car as much on its looks as it price tag. Their C1 will be used for the school run and shopping.
Older couples are often looking to downsize their existing car, so the C1 will be their main vehicle. It must provide practical town motoring and accommodate grandchildren if required.
Exterior styling is pretty funky and marks the car out from its Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 1007 siblings, though internally there is little difference between them.
It will also be priced below its two rivals. Two 68bhp 1.0-litre petrol models are available, either in Vibe or Rhythm specification. The Vibe starts at £6,495 for the three-door, rising to £6,845 for the five-door. The Rhythm is a five-door-only option and costs £7,345. A 70mpg 1.4-litre HDi 55 diesel will be added in late summer priced £8,445.
So, is it fun, as Citroën claims? Our test car proved ideally suited to the streets of London, thanks its diminutive dimensions, 9.5-metre turning circle and willing engine, which produces a satisfying ‘mini V12’ note similar to the Smart.
Clutch and gearchange are light, bordering on uninvolving, but perfect for the target buyer. The variable power steering is light at low speeds, but then stiffens nicely.
Overall, the C1 more pleasant and comfortable than fun, with the only compromise for the price the degree of road noise, which is intrusive above 50mph. Apart from this, the car felt sure-footed and well equipped.
Funky? Check. Fun? Well, within reason. The C1 is a very well put-together car for competitive money.
Strengths: Value for money, practicality, individual styling
Weakness: Share 90% in common with Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 1007
Opportunity: To undermine Ford Ka’s dominance of the sector
Threat: Toyota and Peugeot clones prove more popular
USP: Price and styling
Engines: 1.0i-litre petrol, HDi 55 diesel
Transmission: Five-speed manual, or five-speed SensoDrive
Performance: 1.0i: 0-62mph: 13.7sec; 98mph. 1.4HDi: 0-62mph: 15.6 sec, 96mph
Efficiency: 1.0i: 61.4mpg (comb). HDi 55: 68.9mpg (comb)
CAP RV: Not available
Rivals: Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 1007, Ford Ka, Fiat Panda, Kia Picanto