THE SKODA Citigo can lay claim to a number of firsts. Its the first sub-supermini Skoda for a start, its the first Skoda to wear the companys new badge, the first to feature the new Skoda family styling and its even the first Skoda to have head-thorax-side airbags.
Once the ooohs and ahhhs have died down, have a look at the groundbreaking machine in question. Admittedly it doesnt necessarily look like much, but theres a lot going on in this little package that makes for an awfully convincing modern car.
It might be the smallest Skoda since the company stopped making motorbikes in the early 1900s, but its arguably the most cleverly packaged. Its often said in the industry that the best engineers prefer working on the smallest cars, because they have chance to come up with plenty of ingenious solutions.
They must have loved the Citigo if thats true, because at 3.56 metres long and 1.65 metres wide its one of the smallest four-seat cars you can buy. Not very spacious then, you might think, but youd be absolutely wrong. It comes about as close to the small outside, big inside principles of the original Mini as any other car ever has.
It really will fit four adults of average height inside without needing a gigantic shoe horn, and all the clever little storage ideas to make everyday life easier amount to a real breath of fresh air. Take the elasticated net pockets on the sides of the front seats for example. Putting drinks, snacks or gadgets in there means that precious space doesnt have to be lost in the door pockets or centre console.
And as anyone whos ever bought a single bag of shopping, put it down to roam free in the passenger foot well and then discovered an unfortunate milk/loaf interface when they got home will agree, a neat little fold-out hook on the front of the glove box is a brilliant idea.
For the sentimentalists among us theres even a clip on the dashboard for holding photos of friends. For everyone else its a handy place to wedge car park tickets so you have them to hand.
The only thing thats really not good on the inside is the Navigon sat-nav system, optional on Ambition models and standard on the Elegance. During the test it got a good few directions wrong and lost signal twice. It looks nice, though, as does the Spring Green paintwork in the flesh.
The Citigo will come in three trim levels; Active, Ambition and Elegance, of which around 70% should be Ambition. UK specifications are yet to be confirmed but alloy wheels, air conditioning and unprecedented safety equipment will all be either standard or available at a very reasonable extra cost. As standard it qualifies for a five-star Euro NCAP rating, which is not to be sniffed at in a matchbox of a car.
Theres only one engine, built in several different configurations. The 1.0-litre petrol is available in 59bhp and 74bhp outputs, each coming to the UK in eco-friendly Green tec format and using taller gearing, low rolling resistance tyres and other modifications to force CO2 emissions below 100g/km on both versions. Theres also a non-Green tec 59bhp version which isnt as frugal but has its own merits.
The taller gearing attached to the Green tec engine keeps revs lower for any given road speed, but it means the engine has to work harder when you put your foot down, blunting performance through the engines midrange. Its as if youre accelerating slightly uphill and only the 74bhp version overcomes it effectively. The 59bhp non-eco version is sprightlier than the equivalent Green tec car.
Whats common to all Citigos is really excellent ride quality; far better than cars like this have made do with in the past. Even through cobbled back streets the ride is composed, comfortable and quiet despite small wheels and a short wheelbase.
It rolls quite a bit if its hustled through corners and the steering isnt particularly precise, so its one to avoid if sporty driving thrills are on the agenda. Instead its main purpose is to excel in low-speed urban driving, where the controls are perfectly weighted to reduce stress at the wheel.
Its a delightful little car to drive around a city. Partial credit needs to go to its stubby nose and almost pancake-flat rear end, both of which make parking as easy as its ever going to be in a car that doesnt drive itself.
Visibility is great all around so keeping an eye out for kamikaze cyclists is easier than it might be, and above all it feels small and light; dare I say happy. A sober, reserved sort of Volkswagen Group happy, but its still a great car.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Skoda Citigo Elegance 60PS 5dr, approx £10,000 on the road (TBC).
Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol producing 59bhp and 70lb.ft.
Transmission: 5-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.
Performance: Top speed 99mph, 0-62mph in 13.9 seconds.
Fuel economy: 62.8mpg.
CO2 rating: 105g/km.