The only engine in the C1 is a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol unit, and it’s fine for city life. It will cruise at the motorway limit, too, but coping with the ebb and flow of traffic often requires a gearchange or two. Peak torque only comes at 3600rpm and that, combined with the gearbox’s five widely-spaced ratios, means that high revs are a necessity much of the time: change up a gear too soon and you’ll find you lose what little momentum you had.
The light steering, slick gearbox and easy clutch combine to make the urban jungle easy territory. With a good view out, as well as a tight turning circle, parking and manoeuvring present no problems. Trouble is, the ride is very firm for a car destined to spend most of its life in the city, and the suspension can be heard – and felt – working over rougher roads. It does mean the C1 handles reasonably well, but it soon runs out of grip if you push too hard.
The three-cylinder engine is brash, but this sound can lend the car an appealing sporty feel on short jaunts. On longer journeys, however, it becomes wearing, as you need high revs for so much of the time. What’s more, the high levels of wind- and road noise at the legal limit make motorway journeys a tiring experience.
This is where the C1's strength lies. List prices are extremely reasonable, and Citroen dealers are never shy with discounts. A year's motoring won't cost the earth, either. All C1s sit in low insurance groups, and the engine averages more than 65mpg.
The cabin is funky and well built, although some of the plastics and materials feel rather cut-price compared to those in modern rivals like the Volkswagen Up. The C1 was developed alongside the Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo, and like those cars, the C1 has seen very few complaints about the reliability of its mechanicals - with glowing reports from owners in the 2012 JD Power customer satisfaction survey.
The anti-lock braking system has a feature that's designed to keep the car stable whether you hit the brake pedal on a straight road or in the middle of a bend. Two front airbags are standard in every model, but only the VTR+ gets side airbags. Stability control is available as an extra on the VTR+, if you're prepared to pay for it.
The driving position is good enough for most, but not everyone, as there’s no height adjustment on the driver’s seat and no rake adjustment on the steering wheel. Still, there's a fresh and fun-loving character to the cabin, typified by its cylindrical heater control panel that glows orange in the dark. Visibility is mostly good.
There’s a surprising amount of room for the driver and front-seat passenger; and, as long as they are willing to compromise on their legroom a little, you can get a couple of adults in the rear. Well, as long as they’re not all six-footers, you can... However, the boot is minuscule, oddly shaped and accessed through a one-piece glass hatch over a high lip. Still, at least you can drop the 50/50 split-fold rear seats for more room, and there are plenty of cubbies around the cabin.
The entry-level VT car comes with a CD player and an MP3 socket, but that's about it in the way of luxuries. Step up to VTR and you get air-conditioning, electric front windows and remote central locking, while the range-topping VTR+ comes with a smarter look (including alloys), split/folding rear seats and rear head restraints. Metallic paint is an option across the range.
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The C1 VT in three-door form may be short on boot and rear seat space, but its low running costs make it an appealing small car for those who drive mostly in the city.