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Citroen C1 hatchback (2005 – 2014) expert review

By Andy Pringle, 4th April 2014

The verdict

The Citroen C1 offers great city-centric motoring at a price that won’t break the bank, but more modern rivals make better buys.

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Expert rating:

3.3

Pros

  • Cheeky, cheery looks
  • Low running costs
  • Easy to drive around town

Cons

  • Basic specification
  • Limited options
  • Loud, unrefined engine

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Citroen C1 is basically the same car as the Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107, but the three manage to look reasonably distinct from each other – as well as standing out from pretty much every other city car. The high-set headlights are perhaps the most prominent feature, and on all but the most basic VT models, you also get a chrome-trimmed grille, body-coloured mirrors, alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights; top Platinum models are smarter still, with front foglights and a special styling pack, including a grey roof and roof spoiler, and black side rubbing strips. Only at the rear does the C1 give away its budget credentials, with a low-cost one-piece glass tailgate.
Our rating: 4

2. Interior

The cabin is a thoroughly individual piece of design, but it’s a love-it-or-hate-it affair, with the dash dominated by the centre console, which houses the stereo and heater controls. At night, the lower part emits an orange glow, which we found distracting particularly given the lack of a dial to dim the display. In front of the steering wheel is a single display, which features the speedo, warning lights and digital fuel gauge. The rev counter sits – rather oddly – atop this unit, like one of Mickey Mouse’s ears, and while most people can get comfortable behind the wheel, there’s no height adjustment on the driver’s seat, and no reach adjustment on the steering wheel.
Our rating: 3

3. Practicality

For a car of this size, there’s plenty of storage space around the cabin, with pockets in the doors, centre console and under the dashboard. However, these spaces are open to view, meaning you can’t tuck valuables out of sight. In the front, there’s enough space for a couple of adults, but it’s much tighter in the back – even by city car standards – and even if those in the front seats sacrifice a little space, adults will find the seats uncomfortable for more than a short run. The boot’s tiny, too, with just 139 litres of space under the parcel shelf; and, it’s awkward to access over a high lip and through a glass tailgate, but folding the seats increases the space to a more impressive 751 litres.
Our rating: 3

4. Ride and handling

The C1 is a city car through and through, and the good news is that it’s perfectly suited to the urban jungle, with well-weighted (ie light) controls. It’s surprisingly enjoyable to drive, too, and the sharp handling means it’s good fun to drive hard. Trouble is, that sharpness comes at the expense of ride comfort, and far too many bumps can be felt in the cabin, even at low speeds on the kind of roads that will be a C1’s main stamping ground.
Our rating: 3

5. Performance

The C1’s 1-litre, three-cylinder engine is a strong performer round town, where short, sharp bursts of acceleration are the order of the day. In fact, keeping the revs high – as you need to – by frequent use of the five-speed gearbox, will quite appeal to a certain kind of driver. However, once you’re beyond the city limits, the car shows up its weaknesses: at motorway speeds, the engine is loud and unrefined, which makes long journeys a rather unpleasant experience. Other rivals are just as good around town, yet much more capable at higher speeds.
Our rating: 3

6. Running costs

The C1’s list prices look good value, but Citroen is well known for offering discounts and cashback offers, so you’re likely to get even more off the screen price. The 1.0-litre petrol-engine that comes in every C1 returns an average of more than 65mpg with a manual gearbox, while specifying the optional automatic gearbox reduces that by about 3mpg. With CO2 emissions below 100g/km on all manual-gearbox models, road tax will be free, and insurance shouldn’t be to costly, even though the C1 isn’t quite in the very lowest groups, as some of its rivals are.
Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

Combining French flair with Japanese build quality (it shares many components with the Toyota Aygo), the C1 has proved pretty robust, and according to figures from Warranty Direct, it has been very reliable. Some owners have complained of water getting into the rear lights, but there shouldn’t be much else to worry about.
Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The C1 originally scored four stars from Euro NCAP, but in line with the newer, more stringent tests, the organisation has downgraded the car’s score to just three, saying that Citroen has ‘failed to keep abreast of latest safety developments and standards’. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) are standard on all models, as are driver and passenger airbags, along with stability control.
Our rating: 3

9. Equipment

If you’re expecting sat-nav and massaging seats, forget it. This is a cheap car, so you’ll only get the basics, although a CD player with a socket for your MP3 player is standard on all models. The entry-level VT model has no rev counter or remote central locking and only two speakers, but stepping up to Edition brings you alloy wheels, air-conditioning, electric front windows and a smarter look, while the top-of-the-range Platinum model has a unique look, Bluetooth and tinted rear windows.
Our rating: 3

10. Why buy?

Good looking and pretty cheap to run, the C1 makes a decent city car.
Our rating: 3

Expert review 3.3stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior3
  • Practicality3
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance3
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety3
  • Equipment3
  • Why buy?3

Our recommendations

Pick of the range:
C1 1.0i VT
The cheapest C1 is also the most sensible one to buy
Best-seller:
C1 1.0i with manual gearbox
Average economy of more than 65mpg and CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km
Best avoided:
C1 1.0 Platinum EGT
Too costly to justify

The C1 looks good, goes well and is very cheap. It’s all you could ever want from a city car.