Citroen C1 Review, Degrees of Difference

In Car Reviews, Citroen by Neil Lyndon

  • Toyoya-Aygo

    Toyota Aygo

  • Citroen-C1

    Citroën C1

  • Peugeot_108

    Peugeot 108

The Latest Citroën C1

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You know how much one leaf differs from another?

About the same degree of difference distinguishes the new Toyota Aygo (£8,595 – £13,785) from the new Citroen C1 (£8,245 – £12,085) and the new Peugeot 108 (formerly the Peugeot 106. Or was it 107? Who on earth can keep up with Peugeot’s incessant renumbering of models?) now priced at (£8,245 – £12,395).

Such minimal dissimilarity as does exist between these cars might be enough, however, to persuade a potential customer to buy one rather than another.

The Aygo, the C1 and the 108 (if that’s it’s proper name) all emerge from the same factory – the Toyota Peugeot Citroen Automobile joint venture in Kolin, Czech Republic. They are, essentially, the same car. They come to market with slightly different prices and warranties (the Aygo is covered by Toyota’s standard five-year warranty) but the only visible distinction between them appear to be the badges on their noses and a few flourishes of external and internal cosmetics. The Aygo displays a cross device on its front that looks as if it didn’t accept the result in the referendum over Scottish independence whereas the Peugeot has a silly little radiator grille in keeping with house style for that brand. The C1 wins by a nose in this department.

Yet there are key differences between them (and I’m not talking about Toyota’s naff and irksome “Go Fun Yourself” advertising slogan for this car). They are not the same cars to drive and to experience on the road. And one of the differences between them is barely tolerable

The only engine available for the Aygo is a weak-kneed 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit. Its lack of oomph – with the pulling power of slack knicker elastic until the rev counter hits 4000 rpm – is not, however, the most unbearable aspect of its performance. You could live with that absence of go if you cared chiefly about its 95 g/km emissions and its fuel economy which works out at about £8 for petrol every 100 miles.

You might have to be half deaf (or wish you were) to put up with the note from this car’s exhaust tailpipe. When you floor the throttle pedal, it sounds like a buzz saw with a chunk of slate trapped in its teeth. At motorway speeds, it is as reposeful as getting a good scale and polish from the dental hygienist.

The 1.2 litre three-cylinder petrol engine available in the Citroen and the Peugeot is immensely more satisfying and less exasperating to drive while still putting out less than 100 g/km of CO2. Score another one to Citroen/Peugeot.

When the original Aygo/C1/107 (if that’s what it was) came out in 2005, it was such a sensational innovation that it eclipsed all other city cars for price, looks, manoeuvrability and fun. It was, as some wag observed, “the best Citroen ever made by Toyota”.

In the years since then, however, streams of fantastic little cars have emerged, most notably the VW group Up/Citigo/Mii and Hyundai’s new i10 which is my car of the year for 2014. Those extraordinarily good products not only eclipsed the old Aygo/C1/Peugeot: they also put the new one in the shade.

Cute and perky as it looks, it can’t match the driving dynamics of its rivals nor their comforts and load-carrying capacities. Where the i10 rides like a Ford Focus (than which, none better), the new Aygo/C1/Peugeot is crashy and harsh. Steering is a touch too heavy. Turn-in on corners at speed lacks precision.

It’s a tribute to the speed with which the modern car industry produces innovations that such a classic little car should have become out-dated in such a short space of time. Given the combined resources of Toyota and PSA, we might have expected them to rock us back on our heels with their new city car. Instead of which, they have merely produced another leaf that is hard to distinguish from the one that last fell from the tree.

About the Author
Neil Lyndon

Neil Lyndon

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Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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Specs of C1 Model driven

Citroën C1 Flair PureTech 82 Manual

Basic on the Road Price: £10,935 – £12,720 (as tested)
Engine: 1199cc, 3 cylinder inline transverse, petrol
Power: 82bhp @ 5750rpm
Torque: 86lb ft @ 2750rpm
0-60mph: 11.0 seconds
Top speed: 106mph
Fuel economy urban/x-urban/commuting: 52.3/76.3/65.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 99g/km
Boot Capacity: 196 litres seats up – below parcel shelf


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