Of the two engines we prefer the 1.0 litre, certainly for city driving. It feels very slow and needs to be worked hard, but its five gear ratios are well spaced. Bear in mind, however, that with two or more people on board, it will struggle on steep hills. Even solo, and with your foot to the floor, the C1 builds speed very gradually. Once the power does arrive at high revs, the engine note becomes really strained. The 1.2-litre engine is only a little better in this regard because it doesn’t need to be worked quite as hard.
As with the majority of automatic city cars, we’d avoid the ETG auto version. It’s a robotised manual that is slow and clunky. It often gets caught out when you’re pulling away from the lights, or when you require a burst of speed. At least it has only a small impact on the official economy figures.
Citroën C1 ride comfort
The C1’s ride is poor over urban roads, with their scarred surfaces and potholes. The car doesn’t exactly crash into potholes but passengers are constantly jiggled by the over-sensitive suspension. The class leaders do a much better job.
It’s not as if things are any better on the motorway. At speed, the car reacts badly to expansion joints and potholes, and is too easily unsettled. However, it rides over undulations well enough.
Entry-level cars have 14in steel wheels and all others, 15s (they’re alloys on the Flair). Neither makes a difference to ride comfort.
Citroën C1 handling
The steering lacks feel but is reassuringly consistent in its weighting. Better still, it’s light enough to make quick U-turns and parking in impossibly tight spaces a piece of cake.
Its quick steering and only minor body lean during directional changes help make the C1 feel suitably agile and secure when weaving in and out of busy traffic.
Citroën C1 refinement
You can hear the engine all too clearly in the cabin, while at high revs it sends unwelcome vibrations through the steering wheel and pedals. The transmission whines, too, when you back off the throttle. Add the thrum of the three-cylinder engine, and it’s all quite irritating.
Things aren’t any better on the motorway. There’s wind noise at the front windows and road noise comes into the cabin.
The fabric roof on the Airscape version looks great but fold it back and there’s a lot of buffeting and wind roar, certainly enough to drown out conversation.
The engine is spoiled by a flatspot in its power that runs from tickover to 4000rpm. After that, it’s lively enough but it means that to make good progress, you have to work the engine quite hard. On long gradients you’ll have to be prepared to drop down to a lower gear.
The 1.2 copes better with motorway slip road blasts and keeping up with traffic on faster roads but really, it still has to be worked hard when you’re doing so. We’d save our money and stick with the lower-powered 1.0-litre.