Citroen C1 Airscape Flair – First Impressions

When it comes to reviewing cars I subscribe to the thinking that, thanks to advances in technology and safety, there’s no such thing as a truly bad car. Compare the most basic runabout of today with its equivalent from ten or twenty years ago and you quickly realise how far we’ve come. However, that doesn’t mean I like everything I drive and every so often a car comes along that I just can’t connect with. The latest example is the Citroen C1 Airscape.

On the face of it, the C1 is not a bad motor. It is the latest incarnation of Citroen’s city car and is again part of a platform sharing exercise with Peugeot and Toyota. In principle it’s a small, economical city runaround, a class of car I enjoy.

Citroen C1 Airscape

Citroen C1 Airscape

This is the range-topping Flair model and comes with some decent equipment including 7-inch touchscreen, reversing camera, heated seats and keyless entry and start. There are plenty of options too, such as contrasting roof colours, coloured interior trim and chrome bits and bobs.

Highlights from the engine range include figures such as 74mpg and only 88g/km of CO2. That means cheap running and insurance ratings are suitably low too thanks to the modest 68bhp.

So why don’t I like the C1? Well, it’s all about the driving experience and in my book that counts for a lot. For a start there’s the steering. It might be fine for finding a parking space outside your favourite supermarket but on the open road it is too light and gives little indication of what’s happening under the front wheels. The action of the 5-speed manual gearbox is similarly vague but at least the clutch is light enough to require little more than a flex of the ankle.

The 3-cylinder engine is pleasant enough but it seems noisy from the inside and you can feel its vibrations through the cabin. A similarly equipped Skoda Citigo can teach it plenty about refinement.

At low speeds the C1 rides quite softly and is reasonably comfortable, so it would be fine in its intended urban environment. The problems start if you try to exceed the typical urban speed limit. Now the C1 starts to feel out of its depth, lurching into corners and bobbing up and down over bumps. Turn into a bend and you find yourself gripping the wheel more tightly as the C1 leans over and you start to slide out of the unsupportive seats. Hit the brakes in a hurry and the nose dives to the floor as the soft springs compress. It’s surprisingly unruly and discourages driving at anything other than a sedate pace.

The cabin isn’t particularly exciting, despite the touch-screen, and features some low-rent materials. Other cars in this class feature cheap plastics but somehow make a better job of disguising them, or at least making them look more appealing.

At over £11,000 it also costs too much. OK, so this is the range topper and you pay extra for the novelty of that electric fabric roof, which adds some fresh-air fun to the driving experience. While it certainly brightens up the C1 experience it’s not a unique feature, with the Peugeot 108 and Renault Twingo offering similar open-top thrills.

Which brings us neatly onto the biggest problem for the C1 – the new Renault Twingo. It’s another French city car but one that beats the C1 in almost every measurable way. The innovative Twingo looks more distinctive, offers a more attractive interior with more technology and, from the driver’s perspective, is vastly superior to drive. The Twingo does cost a little more than the C1 but to me it’s definitely a price worth paying.

Citroen C1 Airscape Flair Statistics

Performance & Economy 
Engine998cc 3-cylinder petrol
Transmission5-speed manual, front-engined, front-wheel drive
Power (PS / bhp)68 / 67
Torque (Nm / lb.ft)96 / 71
0 – 62 mph (seconds)14.3
Top Speed (mph)99
Kerb Weight (kg)876
CO2 Emissions (g/km)88
VED BandA
Combined Economy (mpg)74
Insurance Group7
Price (OTR)£11,835


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Author: Chris Auty

Voted the Breakthrough Blogger of 2013 by SEAT and the Guild of Motoring Writers , Chris has lived and breathed cars since he was old enough to say 'faster'. With a penchant for hot hatches and an allergy to public transport, he would much prefer to drive a bad car than never drive at all. Fortunately his family has learned to put up with this obsession and the internet has provided a channel for his ramblings.

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