City-car showdown: Citroen C1 vs Skoda Citigo

Image of John Simpson
Author: | Updated: 22 Sep 2014 11:25

Just as three of the VW Group’s brands have their own take on the same city car (VW Up, Seat Mii, Skoda Citigo), Peugeot, Citroen and Toyota buddied up for their 108/C1/Aygo three-way for the second time earlier this year.

We’ve taken what we view as the best from each side – the Citigo and C1 – and chucked them into the ring (read: car park) together to determine which is the king of the city car.

They're arguably the best in their group, but which city car is better?

Exterior

John Simpson says: Without much space to work with, etching out an interesting city car isn’t an easy task (see Nissan Pixo) but both cars here meet the brief.

In white, the Citigo lacks a bit of personality, even with the chequered decals, but there are more interesting variants such as the Sport (which isn’t sporty, just stripy).

The C1 is notably more exciting though. The slatted headlights, reminiscent of the C4 Picasso, make it look quite angry as if it is ‘giving evils’ to every other car on the road but they look great nonetheless.

The front grille is similar to that of Citroen’s endearing DS3 supermini while at the rear, the big headlights compliment the newly curved boot lid. The contrasting red fabric roof and side mirrors of this C1 lends it a harlequin look that won’t be to everyone’s taste but it’s certainly unique.

First blood: C1.

James Fossdyke says: For me, it’s first blood to the Citroen. It’s a neat halfway house between its cousins – the Peugeot 108 and Toyota Aygo – being more grown-up than one and cuter than the other. I’m not convinced by the little ‘eyebrows’ above the headlights, but when all’s said and done, I think it’s fairly smart. I especially like the square tail lights.

Customisation plays a large part in the C1’s appeal, and our test car demonstrates just some of the options with the coloured door mirrors and canvas roof. I’m no great fan of the strange reddy-orange colour shown here, but it goes fairly well with the black paint.

In contrast, the Citigo is definitely a more restrained design. The racing stripes on the Monte Carlo edition in our pictures help on the drama front, but take them away and you’re left with a bland box. If I were being cruel, I might say the Skoda’s tiny dimensions make it look a bit like a washing machine, especially when it’s painted white.

The Monte Carlo model in our pictures has been brought to life with racing stripes and black alloys, but they look a bit daft when you consider the variant is only offered with the weedy 60hp engine.

Citroen C1 Skoda Citigo rear

Interior

James Fossdyke says: As you might expect, the Citigo has a superior cabin, with Volkswagen’s build quality immediately evident. The plastics aren’t always as good as models higher up the VW Group’s range, but what do you expect from an eight-grand car? What’s more important is that everything is bolted together properly and the Skoda certainly scores highly on that front.

It doesn’t score badly for kit either. All models are equipped to cope with the Portable Infotainment Device (PID, for short). Popping a sat nav up on a stalk like that looks a bit of an afterthought, but the VW Group is using the system across the manufacturers for one very good reason: it’s a great idea.

That’s not just because the Garmin system is very good, but because it’s better thought-out than most. A blanking plate means that if you remove the PID, there’s no evidence of its existence so would-be thieves will be stumped, and the connectivity across the range means a unit can be bought for the car at a later date – something Skoda will charge a pretty reasonable £300 for.

The C1, on the other hand, may resemble a significant improvement over the old model, but it’s still a bit tacky. I like the big touchscreen and the fact that you have USB connectivity – something I missed in the Skoda – but it’s still a bit insubstantial. Don’t even get me started on the horrible clang the doors make when you shut them – it sounds like parts are falling off.

I like the optional canvas sunroof, though. It’s not too blowy when it’s peeled back and it’s nice to have something of the top-down experience in the segment. The only problem is that the sunlight on the touchscreen renders it useless.

Skoda Citigo interior

John Simpson says: Our C1 costs over a grand more than the Citigo and it shows when it comes to the interior. The grey wave effect seats and glossy, tidier centre console win it for the C1, and the Citigo’s cabin looks low grade and boring in comparison.

That removable Garmin touchscreen does look like it was plonked on the dashboard as if someone in Skoda’s design dept forgot buyers might want an integrated sat-nav that looked a little more considered. To be fair though, it’s the same in the VW Up and Seat Mii, and if you want a sat-nav in the C1, you either have to bring along a completely separate device or physically connect your smartphone which will eat up your data allowance.

The Garmin may stick out a little but it’s a lot more user-friendly. That said, the Skoda’s dashboard controls feel a lot cheaper and clunkier than in the C1, which also look tidier in their compact layout.

The Citigo isn’t available with steering wheel mounted audio controls, the C1 is. Game: C1.

The C1's interior is much tidier and more refined

On the road

John Simpson says: Like the Peugeot 108, the C1 has gained a 1.2-litre petrol with 82bhp, in addition to the original 1L, and it’s this engine we’re driving.

Not quite an even playing field considering the Citigo is stuck with the 60PS 1L.

This means the C1 can reach 62mph in 11 seconds. The Citigo takes 14.4 seconds to do the same so the difference in acceleration is vast. However, the C1 uses the same bodyshell and that extra power hikes NVH levels. You feel and hear the larger unit every second that it’s active.

The canvas peel-back roof is a refreshingly tempting at just £100 extra but when it’s not ‘roof-down weather’, it only serves to leak more noise into the cabin.

Both offer an engaging drive, handling nimbly like a good city car should, but the C1 just edges it for me with its softer ride and higher level of refinement.

The C1 offers a softer ride and higher level of refinement

James Fossdyke says: We’re talking about city cars here, so neither will set the world on fire either in a straight line or through the bends.

Of the two, the Skoda probably handles better, with less body roll, but the Citroen has a stronger engine range.

With an 82hp 1.2, the Citroen can make really solid progress on the motorway, and the gearing is such that it’s right on song at 70mph in fifth.

Don’t expect it to fulfil your expectations at the pumps, though. Our C1 did a long motorway run and managed just 46mpg on average. Okay, it wasn’t driven smoothly, but it’s still a far cry from the quoted 65mpg.

The 68hp model is more economical, with an official consumption figure of 74.3mpg, but because it’s strangled, you’ll want to hammer it, reducing the economy you’ll get.

Like the C1’s 68hp motor, the Citigo’s 60hp engine has just about enough torque to cope in traffic, but on the open road it feels breathless and lethargic. It’s less efficient, too, capable of just 62.8mpg.

The extra grunt of the 75hp engine is only available on the Elegance model, but it is well worth the premium. An added 15hp doesn’t sound like much, I admit, but it turns the Citigo from “underpowered” to “adequate”, while it has no effect on fuel economy.

It isn’t quite as powerful as the Citroen, but it is quieter at motorway speeds.

While the 75hp engine is worth spending more on, the automatic gearbox is not. It’s jerky and slow, and gets in the way of the fun that can be had from ragging the 75hp engine.

Running costs

Despite having the larger engine, the C1 is actually more fuel efficient that the 1L Citigo.

On a combined cycle, the Citroen can return 65.7mpg at a VED-exempt 99g/km CO2.

That just about outdoes the Skoda’s 62.8mpg at 105g/km, but the Citigo is more notably more affordable at more than a grand less OTR.

Verdict

James Fossdyke says: It should be a tough decision, but strangely it isn’t. The C1 has a stronger engine range and, on paper at least, it’s more economical. I also prefer the styling and though I was sceptical at first, I love the canvas roof.

However, if I had to live with one of these two, it’d be the Skoda.

The Citigo handles better, it’s better equipped, the PID sat nav is a great trick and it’s a much nicer place to sit. I really like the way the VW Group has brought ‘big car’ features and build quality to a tiny citycar.

There’s nothing between the two when it comes to comfort and the 75hp engine is almost as good as the Citroen’s 82hp power unit, so, for me, the Citigo has to be the winner.

John Simpson says: Nuh-uh young James, for all the things the Citigo does right, the C1 just does it a little better for me.

I prefer the softer ride and handling and it’s more interesting to look at, both inside and out.

The C1’s smarter and tidier cabin pushes the city car more towards feeling like a supermini and if funds can stretch to the 1.2 C1, it’s a tiny bit cheaper to run too.

We got a tie.

We got a tie...

C1 and Citigo in numbers:

Citroen C1 1.2L 82PS 5MT

Skoda Citigo 1.0L 60PS 5MT

Length

3465mm

3563mm

Width

1884mm (1615mm excl. mirrors)

1910mm (1641mm excl. mirrors)

Height

1460mm

1478mm

Wheelbase

2340mm

2420mm

0-62mph

11.0 seconds

14.4 seconds

Top speed

106mph

99mph

Combined fuel consumption

65.7mpg

62.8mpg

CO2 emissions

99g/km

105g/km

Kerb weight

865kg

854kg

Price OTR

£11,785

£10,590

Typical monthly business lease rate

£177.37

£195.04

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