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You've never seen anything quite like it, have you? What exactly is that car? Well, it’s the Citroën Ami – and technically it’s not a car, it's a large electric quadricycle.
Indeed, in some European countries the Ami can be driven by 14-year-olds without driving licences. Perhaps sensibly, UK regulations demand that you're at least 16 and even then you need a special licence.
The Citroën Ami is wildly different, certainly, and undeniably a quirky take on getting around in towns and cities that are increasingly dominated by e-bikes and e-scooters. It also divides opinion. Based on our experience, its looks charm and appall in equal measure. There’s no denying its ingenuity, though. Citroën has managed to squeeze in seating for two people plus some space for their luggage.
For all its Dinky Toy appeal and clever design touches, at 2.4m long and 1.4m wide, the Ami isn't actually that much smaller than some other small electric cars. There's the Smart EQ Fortwo for example, and the discontinued Renault Twizy is even tinier.
The Ami’s electric motor produces just 8bhp and its top speed is restricted to 28mph. The official range is only up to 46 miles between charges, although Citroën says its tiny battery can be charged to full in as little as three hours.
For all its quirkiness, though, just how good is the Citroën Ami? Join us over the next few pages of this review and we'll let you know how it stacks up for performance, comfort, value for money and other important factors.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Every rational assessment of the Citroën Ami has to be weighed against its price and intended use – which is another way of saying that any ‘traditional’ car driver will find the experience massively compromised.
The biggest issue for most will be the 28mph speed limiter, and just how constraining that will be for you depends on where you need to drive. In London, where many roads have a 20mph limit anyway, it's not such a problem.
In freely moving traffic on 30mph roads, though, it's hard not to feel like a nuisance – and on a 40mph road you feel positively exposed. In fact, we’d recommend avoiding 40mph roads entirely, because it can feel dangerous with large vans, lorries and buses driving past, and in some cases they might not be able to see you.
Nevertheless, the Ami’s relatively low weight and the instant availability of torque from the electric motor means you can zip out of junctions and through slow town traffic with much the same ease as in a Smart EQ Fortwo. However, while it may offer instant power, the Ami doesn’t pin you in your seat in such a noticeable way as some electric cars. Instead, the power builds more gradually.
The effectiveness of the Ami’s claimed 46-mile range depends on those same constraints, too. If you only plan to drive around a congested city, that’ll probably be plenty, especially when you consider that, according to Citroën, the 5.5kWh battery can be charged from a Type 2 socket in three hours.
Certainly, if you need to do more than 30 miles in the summer or 20 miles in the winter, we'd recommend looking at a secondhand proper electric car such as a Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe. Why? Well, with the range readout at 15 miles, the Ami starts to limit performance to conserve energy. That might ensure that you eventually get to your destination, but also means you hold up traffic more.
If you manage to get the Ami’s range below 10 miles, performance becomes even more limited, specifically to 10mph. From a safety perspective, we'd much prefer it if full performance was available and the range dropped more quickly.
The Ami certainly isn't as comfortable as most proper electric cars, but the ride isn't awful as long as you remember to avoid big potholes and drain covers. Bumps are smoothed out better than in the Renault Twizy.
Meanwhile, the steering is direct enough to make the Ami feel alert, and darting in and out of traffic is no problem at all. Plus, thanks to its small size and a tiny 7.2m turning circle, it's extremely manoeuvrable. The vehicle's length – or lack of it – even opens up the possibility of parking nose-in to kerbs.
Quick manoeuvres are also aided by the simple gear selector, which is located on the left hand side of the driver’s seat in the form of three buttons – Reverse, Neutral and Drive.
The Ami also handles fairly neatly during cornering, although that’s largely because you can’t get up to speeds likely to unsettle it. Mind you, the body does lean a fair bit if you need to make a sudden U-turn.
Naturally, the electric motor means you set off in near silence. There is a slight whirring sound, but we found that that added to the Ami’s quirky appeal. As you gain speed, you’ll quickly notice a lot of road noise filtering through into the interior.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The Ami is available only in left-hand-drive form. Citroën says that allows you kerbside access when parking on the correct side of the road, although it isn't ideal in other respects. For example, visibility is restricted when changing lanes or pulling out of junctions, and the lack of a rear-view mirror doesn’t help.
Mind you, that issue is mitigated somewhat by the terrific view you get from the Ami's high driving position and the sheer amount of glass that surrounds you (including above your head). You’re always very aware of where the corners of the car are.
The only drawback is that the Citroën 2CV-inspired half-opening windows, which are split horizontally and can be flicked up, might make you feel a bit claustrophobic in the summer. Plus, they can also block out parts of your left and right view.
During colder months, it can also become difficult to keep the windows clear of mist. A standard fit heating fan does help to mitigate this slightly, but it’s not powerful enough to keep them clear, so visibility can become very limited.
You open the car with a key (very old school), which you twist then give a hefty shove. Amusingly, the driver’s door is rear-hinged so that identical doors can be used on either side of the car to keep costs down. That said, at least the Ami has windows and doors as standard, which you won't get in a similarly priced electric motorbike.
The Ami’s driving position takes some getting used to because the steering wheel is fixed in place, and the driver’s seat only adjusts forwards and backwards. For taller drivers, it can feel a little awkward, but once you’re used to it, it's actually quite a novelty and adds to the fun driving experience.
The seats are flat, simple designs, with little cushioning or back support. That shouldn't be too much of a problem, though, because the Ami is clearly not designed for long journeys.
As with the exterior, the minimalist nature of the interior is offset by the charm of its design, which appears to be at least in part inspired by Duplo. 'Minimalist' is certainly the key word – other than a small screen behind the wheel and a cradle for your phone, there’s very little equipment.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
In the Citroën Ami – as in the discontinued Renault Twizy quadricycle – there's space for only one passenger, although the seats are side by side rather than in a jet fighter-style arrangement. They're slightly off-set, so there’s enough shoulder room for two adults, and you won’t find yourself struggling for headroom, even if you’re tall. The same goes for the passenger leg room, too.
There are storage cubbies in the doors, at the base of the dashboard and on top of the dash. Luggage space is limited to a small cavern behind the seats, but there's space in front of the passenger’s legs to throw in more bags, and some trims get a small hook for hanging up another.
Of course, anyone who really values luggage space or needs to transport more than one passenger will want to look at a real electric car such as the Fiat 500 or a secondhand Renault Zoe. Or, if your lifestyle or business suits it, there’s also the commercial variant, called the My Ami Cargo. It's very similar to the regular Ami, but the passenger seat has been swapped out for a cargo module that doubles as a work table.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Citroën Ami retails at less than half the price of the cheapest 'proper' electric cars and it’s also a fair chunk less than the cheapest new car you can buy in the UK (currently the Kia Picanto). It's cheaper even than the Renault Twizy and unlike with that car you don't need to pay a monthly fee to rent the battery. When you consider the car’s 28mph top speed and other limitations, it’s not cheap. We suspect the most attractive option will be to finance the Ami on PCP.
The Ami is very customisable and there are several trim levels to choose from. The entry-level car is simply called ‘Ami’ and comes with LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a USB charging socket, a heating fan, a cooling fan, steel wheels and simple exterior styling details. There are also Grey, Blue and Orange colour packs so you can pick a phone cradle, bag hook, coloured wheel trims and decals.
Next up is the Ami Pop, which includes the Orange Colour Pack plus bespoke black trim and a rear spoiler. The Ami Vibe comes with the Grey Colour Pack, plus black wheel arch surrounds, roof rails and bespoke decals. Topping the range is the Ami Tonic, which gets a khaki and yellow colour scheme, plus black headlight surrounds, bespoke wheel trims and roof rails.
You can plug the Ami into any normal (Type 2) electric car charging point, and a 0-100% charge will take around three hours. Theoretically, there's nothing to stop you buying an aftermarket adapter and plugging into a domestic socket at home, and a full charge wouldn't take any longer. However, Citroën doesn't officially endorse this – presumably because it can't say for sure whether an adapter sourced by you is definitely safe.
Euro NCAP has yet to appraise the Ami for safety, but the presence of a thin metal frame around you – not unlike a tent structure – highlights the safety compromises required if you choose a quadricycle. Overall, a small electric car will offer you better performance (so you can keep up with traffic), better crash protection and far more safety aids.
The Ami was too new to be included in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey, but Citroën as a brand came 11th out of the 32 manufacturers in the overall league table. That's higher than Renault, Skoda and Volkswagen, and way above Fiat, which finished in 30th place.
All Amis come with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty, plus a three-year or 25,000-mile warranty for the battery.
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