How city cars have come on leaps and bounds

Citroen C1 Flair
Citroen C1 Flair
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MY, how city cars have changed. Not so long ago they were cramped, poorly equipped, unstylish and powered by crude and asthmatic engines.

Not so today, as the Citroen C1 proves by packing style and quality into a compact space.

It looks good, drives well, has more space than you could ever imagine and it has enough stylish touches to appeal to 20-somethings. The C1 has also raised the bar for Citroen quality, too.

It has to be good, of course, if it is to appeal to today’s hi-tech forever-in-touch younger generation. C1 has lots of competition from everyone from Kia and Hyundai to Ford and Vauxhall.

The C1 - which is a sibling to Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107 - is built in the Czech Republic, rather than France as you might imagine. The Czechs seem to be doing a good job, too, for C1 has won awards for build quality from Which? magazine and the German Automobile Club, no less.

So, what exactly do you get for your money? Well, the C1 starts at £8,495 which means it is exceptionally competitive.

Tested here is the better-equipped C1 Flair which costs £12,100 but it comes very well specified with features such as air conditioning, stability control, power steering, alloy wheels and central locking.

Sadly, satellite navigation isn’t an option, but it does have a fabulous stereo system and a huge ‘infotainment’ screen at the centre of a funky but functional dashboard. Oddly, for such a compact car, it has a reversing camera. Hardly essential but good, nonetheless.

The new C1 looks better than the previous model which tried too hard to be sensible. This version looks cheeky and impish, which suits it.

It is also the first Citroën to offer Mirror Screen technology for advanced smartphone connectivity.

For me, the highlight is the engine. It’s a peppy little engine which sounds refined even though it only has three cylinders. It is punchy, too, zipping to 60mph in just over 10 seconds and it offers admirable economy.

It is more comfortable than previous C1s and the ride and handling is much improved. This feels quite lively and sporty.

For such a compact car, it has great accommodation for both front and rear seat passengers and the boot is bigger than expected - 196 litres rising to 780 with the seats down.

There is little doubt this model is aimed at younger drivers who want style, economy and affordability. Citroen say it also aimed at older couples looking to downsize both economically and practically.

The seats have been redesigned to improve comfort compared to the previous generation. The new seats boast ergonomic, body-hugging shapes and enhanced side support with new levels of adjustment.

There is also an Airscape model with open-top body style. This is a new alternative for this popular model and is available with both three and five-door versions. The exceptionally large canvas soft-top (800mm x 760mm) runs the entire length of the roof, is fully opening and electrically controlled as standard. The switch is located in the ceiling panel and the roof can be opened or closed when the car is at a standstill or driving at legal motorway speeds.

C1 is Citroën’s first model to feature Mirror Screen technology, which allows users to link their phones to the car. This function allows the motorist to copy their smartphone content onto the seven-inch screen.

Users install an app enabling them to connect to and share data via the car’s USB port, they can then access their smartphone’s functions using the touchscreen. Mirror Screen draws on two technologies – AppinCar developed by Pioneer for iPhone users, and MirrorLink technology, developed by Car Connectivity Consortium for other smartphone brands.

Citroen C1 Flair five-door

PRICE: £12,100. Range starts at £8,495

ENGINE: A 1,199cc three cylinder unit generating 82bhp

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 106mph and 0 to 60mph in 10.9 seconds

COSTS: Town 52.3mpg; country 76.3mpg; combined 65.7mpg

EMISSIONS: 99g/km

INSURANCE: 12E

WARRANTY: Three years, 60,000 miles

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