Skoda Citigo Hatchback (2012 - ) review
The Skoda Citigo is the perfect small car, with a roomy interior, nippy engines and a fine balance of ride comfort and fun handling. Few rivals have such a broad range of talents.
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The Skoda Citigo is a sister car to the Volkswagen Up and Seat Mii, so there’s no surprise it looks very similar to them. However, we think the finned Skoda grille sits very comfortably on the car and a range of bright colours helps to liven up its fairly conservative shape. The most basic S versions are little plain – the door mirrors and handles are black plastic, for example – but as you head up the range, things get much smarter. On SE models, the grille is chrome-trimmed, and the mirrors and handles body-coloured, while Monte Carlo and Colour models sit on a (no cost) lower sports suspension and have extra decals and a sporty bodykit. Extroverts can opt for the Monte Carlo or Colour editions, which along with added equipment also get brighter interior plastics and seat fabrics, black alloy wheels and (in the Monte Carlo's case) decal stickers which give the Citigo a bit more attitude.
Just because the Citigo is a small, cheap car, don’t think it’s a no-frills affair. There’s style here, although naturally things get smarter the further up the range you go. Go for SE rather than S, for example, and you get smart black inserts on the dashboard, while Monte Carlo models have smarter upholstery, a three-spoke steering wheel and leather trim on the handbrake and gear lever. Top SE L models get chrome trim on the door handles and dashboard. It’s functional, too: from SE trim upwards, you get nets attached to the side bolsters of the front seats for drinks bottles, a mobile phone slot that sits in the cup holder and even a clip on the dashboard to hold a parking ticket/permit or map in view. The driving position is great and while it's all manual, there is enough seat adjustment to get comfortable quickly, and all-round visibility is superb. Top-spec models come with a portable sat-nav unit that doubles as a trip-computer and Bluetooth connection, but it's not as easy to use a the touch-screens you get in other small city runabouts.
For a small car, the Citigo has a remarkable amount of space inside and even though the steering wheel adjusts only for height, it’s easy enough to find a good driving position. Front and rear, there’s enough room for adults: access to the rear seats is easier in the five-door models, but three-door models from SE upwards have ‘easy entry’ sliding front seats. The 251-litre boot (identical to the Up and Mii) is uncannily large for a car in this class, with plenty of room for a big shopping trip or a weekend away. It’s also easy to load and, if you fold down the rear seats (60/40 split from SE trim upwards), you have 951 litres of space to play with. It's worth mentioning again that the tall roofline really is a godsend for those sitting in the back, there are very few cars this compact that cater so generously for passengers.
Ride and handling
Like the Mii and Up, the Citigo is a remarkably mature little car, and a more complete package than the Toyota Aygo, Fiat 500 or Kia Picanto. It will come as no surprise that such a small car is perfect for nipping around town, but the shock is that high-speed refinement is very good, making this a city car which stays firmly in its comfort zone out of town and on the motorway. In fact, it’s a generally good car to drive, with nice steering and fun, precise handling. There’s a little body roll when cornering quickly, but the supple suspension setup also allows bumps to be soaked up and not reverberated through the cabin, giving a genuine big-car feel. The skinny front tyres will give up their grip when pushed, but stay within its comfort zone and the Citigo is a real surprise package, and will definitely put a smile on your face.
The 1.0-litre petrol engine – the only choice in the Citigo – is available with 59bhp or 73bhp, each having 95lb-ft of pulling power. Both feel pleasantly perky in town, but the less powerful version can start to struggle at motorway speeds. It’s definitely worth upgrading to the more powerful unit if you regularly take your car out of the city limits or plan on caring four on-board on a regular basis, as many younger drivers do. What impresses most is the smoothness of the three-cylinder engine: even under heavy acceleration, it emits a pleasant growl. An automatic gearbox is also available, but we’d stick to the five-speed manual ‘box. Refinement is also a real surprise, with wind, road and engine noise all less intrusive than they would be in the Skoda's key city car rivals.
It will come as no surprise that a small car with a small engine has low running costs. GreenTech models – with stop and start, brake energy recuperation and low rolling resistance tyres – have CO2 emissions of 95g/km and average 68.9mpg, but even the least economical versions average 62.8mpg. On top of that, every model sits in a low insurance group, which also helps keep running costs down. Residual values are good, although the similar (but dearer) VW Up will retain a higher proportion of its value over time. As these cars are all so similar, it's worth shopping around to find out which dealer can give you the best offer - especially if you are planning to pay for the car on a monthly basis, using a PCP finance deal, it could save you hundreds of pounds a year to hunt down the best rate.
We don’t foresee any significant reliability issues with the Citigo thanks to its incredibly thorough development and Skoda’s excellent track record. It features proven technology and owner reviews of the Citigo, and its sister cars, left on our website paint a rosy picture of long term ownership and give us no cause for concern. The Skoda dealer network has also won plenty of praise for their positive attitude and customer service, so any issues that do arise should be swiftly dealt with. The thing is, there's not really a great deal to go wrong, so basic and simple is the design of the cabin and the mechanicals underneath.
With a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating, the Citigo boasts impressive safety for a car of its size: it scored an impressive 89% for adult occupant safety and 80% for child protection. Four airbags are standard – two front and two side ‘bags – but stability control is only standard from SE trim upwards. Optional across the range, and at a reasonable price, is City-Safe, which can automatically perform an emergency stop at speeds of between 3mph and 19mph if an imminent collision is detected. This is designed to minimise, or even avoid, the damage caused by low-speed collisions in traffic – which make up the majority of accidents and usually happen when the driver is distracted, i.e. unable to brake themselves.
Buyers can choose between S, SE, and SE L trim levels, but S is a little too basic for our liking. Our recommendation is to go for at least SE trim, which incorporates creature comforts such as air-con, central locking and electric front windows. As the name implies, the Monte Carlo gives the Citigo a more sporty look and feel, with black alloy wheels and a bodykit, as well as a portable sat-nav/infotainment unit. At the top of the range, SE L has front fog lights, heated front seats and smarter interior trim. There are plenty of options, too, with several packs that are unique to certain trim levels, as well as a range of accessories, including everything from sill plates to roof bars.
Like its sister cars, the Volkswagen Up and the Seat Mii, the Skoda Citigo is one of the best city cars on the market. It might not be the most desirable car of the trio – that honour goes to the Up – but it offers the best value, and it's just as good to drive as the others. A Renault Twingo might have a bit more personality, but the Citigo is a better all-rounder.