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First Drive: Citroen C1 Connexion car review


STYLE is a big deal for small cars. They’re mainly bought by the young and the young at heart, and nobody in that demographic wants to drive around in something that looks like a prop from a 1980s Chinese sci-fi flick.

People looking for a small car are after something cute, likeable and that makes a statement worth more than the sum of its teeny, tiny parts. Citroen has been making cracking small cars for decades so it knows a thing or two about them.

The baby of the range is the C1, and there’s a new special edition called the Connexion. If you’re old enough to remember the days when that was still a common spelling of ‘connection’ then look away now; this car probably isn’t for you. It’s something of a showboat and with bright red details set against a black body nobody is likely to miss it.

It’s the first ‘crowd sourced’ car design, having emerged as the most popular configuration from thousands that were submitted. As Citroen itself said: “You ‘liked’ it, we’ve made it.”

This special model brings a little more technology to the C1 to add some substance to the overt red detailing that translates from the mirror caps and door handles to the dial surrounds, console elements and door pulls. The splashes of red plastic are certainly what you notice first when you step in, but there’s more going on.

Yours with three or five doors you can choose what best suits your lifestyle, but the kit that has been added is universally appealing stuff that makes a big difference to ownership. You get alloy wheels, air conditioning, LED daytime running lights, tinted glass around the back half of the car and the option of grey paint instead of black.

On one of the company’s finance deals the Connexion starts from only £10 a month more expensive than the cheap, cheerful but pretty sparse entry-level C1, so it’s a bit of a no-brainer.

For the most part the C1 is a known quantity, and the Connexion uses the same 1.0-litre petrol engine and five-speed gearbox as any other manual C1. The Toyota-sourced unit is fizzy with a healthy dose of three-cylinder character, and combined with exceptionally tall gearing (theoretically it could reach nearly 150mph) the 68-horsepower block pushes the car along nicely while letting you keep revs low for better economy.

Also well documented is the C1’s size – or lack of it. Less than 3.5 metres long and not much more than 1.6 metres wide excluding the mirrors, the C1’s forte is the urban sprawl. It doesn’t have as tight a turning circle as you might like or hope for, but most parking spaces are still fair game and it makes light work of car parks.

The engine comes back into play for parking, because linked with a forgiving and intuitive clutch action the C1 is actually relatively difficult to stall for the type of car it is. The natural torque from the three cylinders, each of which is larger than those of a 1.0-litre four-cylinder engine, helps with smooth manoeuvres.

The driving position is better suited to women, who tend to sit closer to the steering wheel and pedals. There’s no reach adjustment so those longer of limb might not be so comfortable behind the wheel.

Luggage space is at a premium with such a small car although there is a usable boot for a young singleton. You probably wouldn’t want to try to fit four people and their luggage into it, and you can’t mount a roof box either. Two people could put larger bags on the back seats and go on holiday quite happily as long as the bags could be dropped off at the destination rather than being left on display to prying eyes.

Nothing has changed from the standard C1 to the Connexion in terms of the way it drives, so you get a lightweight, agile and mildly bouncy small car with a short wheelbase that in theory isn’t ideal for high speed cruising but actually copes surprisingly well with anything you throw at it. The suspension is a budget affair but does a good, predictable job of soaking up the worst of the bumps, although it has its work cut out on occasion because the tiny wheels tend to fall right into potholes.

All in all the C1 Connexion is a cheeky, likeable and very affordable small car with the key equipment and style that are the major selling points in this class. It’s an ageing base car but the Connexion has breathed new life into it.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Citroen C1 1.0i 68 Connexion 5dr, £9,845 on the road.

Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol producing 67bhp and 69lb.ft.

Transmission: five-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.

Performance: Top speed 98mph, 0-62mph in 12.3 seconds.

Fuel economy: 65.7mpg.

CO2 rating: 98g/km.

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power3 (average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy4 (better than average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups5 (very low costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats4 value verdict:    stars

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