Sport by name but certainly not by nature. If you look at the performance figures for the Skoda Citigo Sport you might think that the Skoda team were simply trying to get rid of a surplus of Sport badges when they named this little hatchback.
The engine only has three cylinders and a displacement of less than a litre. No turbo, no supercharger, no button for afterburners. With only 59bhp to play with the Citigo Sport ranks slightly higher than a milk float in the automotive food chain and the 0-62mph time of 14.4 seconds means it will play little more than a supporting role in the Traffic Light Grand Prix.
And yet somewhere under the Citigo’s compact shape there’s a sprinkling of fairy dust. The basic ingredients all come together into a package that will leave you with a smile on your face whenever you drive it or grinning from ear to ear when you get the chance to play.
The performance figures only tell part if the story. Sure, the Citigo takes an age to hit 62mph, but it’s the way in which it gets there that makes you want to do it time and time again. As the needle works its way around the tiny little rev counter the sound coming from under the bonnet just gets better and better, each of its three cylinders working furiously and making an incredible variety of noises as they do.
The enthusiasm of the engine is matched by some great cornering abilities. For a start there’s the steering, which has just the right amount of weight to it, avoiding the overly assisted feel that plagues many city cars. It also lets you get involved with what’s happening underneath the front wheels, giving you the confidence to push harder and sense when the little tyres are about to surrender to gentle understeer.
Even with the suspension tweaks the Sport is still on the soft side although it’s noticeably sharper than lesser Citigos. There’s a surprising amount of body roll but the damping is superb, keeping the little Citigo in check over bumps that would turn many rivals into a nervous mess. As you turn into a bend you can feel the springs compress and the body settle. From that point you can nail the throttle safe in the knowledge that the front wheels aren’t going to light up in a cloud of tyre smoke. The Sport may only have 59bhp and 70lb/ft but you can use every last bit of it all of the time.
Should you need to use the brakes – you won’t want to, they rob you of precious speed – you will find that they’re more than capable of dragging the Citigo to a halt. It may only have discs at the front and rear drums but they have less than a ton of metal to worry about.
The Citigo is also incredibly easy to place on the road. The wheel-in-each-corner stance means you don’t need to worry about big overhangs at front and rear, you just instinctively know how much room you’ve got to spare around you. It’s also incredibly easy to park thanks to great all-round visibility.
Big Car Feel
In reality the Citigo Sport is an SE model wearing a set of black alloys, an extended front splitter, rear spoiler, side skirts and lots of black stripes over its bright red paintwork. Inside you find a cheery interior that features red and black cloth seats and a few Sport badges scattered around inside and out.
Equipment levels are high with everything you really need – air con, fog lights, central locking and electric windows are standard. It even comes with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, satellite navigation and a multifunction computer all built into a removable device. You can pop it off the dashboard and take it with you and, if you’re the sort of person who forgets where you parked your car it can guide you back to it again. Great for parking in unfamiliar territory.
Despite the compact exterior the interior proves to be surprisingly roomy. Up front there’s plenty of space for two and even tall drivers should find enough headroom. The only criticism is the lack of reach adjustment on the steering column, and the Sport’s seats could do with a touch more bolstering to counter the G-forces generated by enthusiastic driving. The back seats offer less room for long legs but otherwise are a fine place to sit.
At a smidgeon over £10 grand the Sport is bordering on the expensive when you consider you could get the same engine, minus the suspension tweaks and stickers, by buying the SE for under £9k. Rival city cars are cheaper but there’s a feeling of solidity about the Citigo that helps to justify the price tag. It should also enjoy decent residuals too as values are very strong on the used market.
It may be expensive to buy but the running costs will be low. Road tax is £20 a year and economy is officially rated at 62mpg. I beat that easily on my usual 30 mile run to work, seeing 72mpg appear twice on the computer. After 380 miles of very mixed driving (from full throttle hooning to gentle cruising) the Citigo averaged 56mpg. Insurance? As low as it gets with a group 1 rating.
There’s a long standing debate amongst car enthusiasts, one that has caused heated arguments for many years and often polarises opinion. Would you rather drive a slow car fast or a fast car slowly?
I’ve always been a fan of the ‘slow car fast’ approach and when I find a slow car as good as the Skoda Citigo Sport it just serves to reinforce that opinion. There’s so much fun to be had in wringing every last drop of performance out of the Citigo and yet you can do this at speeds that won’t threaten your driving license. Try that in a supercar on a public road and you can kiss your license, and even your liberty, goodbye.
If the Sport just had a few more horsepower to justify its name then it could proudly sit at the top of the Citigo range, no questions asked. What you have to decide for yourself is if you’re prepared to pay the extra for a set of visual tweaks and a slightly sharper chassis. Personally I think you should and if you’re questioning the value of the Sport then it’s almost certainly not the model for you – pick the SE or Elegance instead.
If you can overlook the blatant exaggeration in the Sport name you’ll find a little city car that behaves impeccably both in and out of town but also proves to be great fun on your favourite driving roads. It’s not fast but it feels faster than it really is and in my book that counts for a lot.
Skoda Citigo Sport Scores
|PERFORMANCE||Needs more power to go with the Sport badge||5|
|HANDLING||Light, nimble, predictable on the limit, above all good fun||8|
|AFFORDABILITY||Just the wrong side of £10k but cheap as chips to run||10|
|DESIRABILITY||Stickered up Citigo is surprisingly appealing||6|
|DRIVING SPIRIT||Proof that driving a slow car fast is huge fun||8|
Skoda Citigo Sport Specifications
|Engine:||999cc 3-cylinder petrol|
|0-62 mph:||14.4 seconds|
|Top Speed:||99 mph|
|CO2 Emissions:||105 g/km (Band B)|
|Official Economy:||62 mpg|
*Prices taken from Skoda website, August 2013