7 hours in a bean tin – The Citroen C1 –

16th November 2017 — by Mark Turner


Downsizing is the buzzword all manufacturers are using these days. Smaller cars with smaller, forced induction engine petrol engines. It’s the way the industry is going.

It’s a cultural change. We’re used to having the car we want because we can. My father in law always bought diesel cars. He did very low miles but had always had diesels because he wanted a diesel. There are plenty of people just like him, buying 4×4’s or just simply big cars because they want to. Maybe it’s a status thing, maybe they just feel safer in bigger cars? But could we manage with one of the modern city cars? Surely they’re toys for nipping to the shops in and not much else?

Back in the day, city cars were pretty shit. They certainly weren’t considered a viable alternative to a normal size car. Take one of them on the motorway and you’d be taking your life in your hands. They were usually japanese or Korean imports with the odd British shit heap thrown in, made out of paper and cardboard it seemed with little in the way of crash protection. First gen Honda Civic, Daihatsu Charade, Classic Mini, Citroen AX and so on.

Time moves on and the pace of change is startling. City cars are a long way from where they started, which prompted us to do a little experiment.Can you take a modern city car on our busy motorways and not get blown into the weeds by the exhaust of a passing Romanian trucker?

There’s only one way to find out. Road trip!

We got our grubby mits on a Citroen’s C1. Tiny but still finds room for 4 doors, a glass tailgate and some boot space. Ours was a Flair edition so had funky alloy wheels, air conditioning, electric windows with the rear windows dark tinted, sat nav, bluetooth 7″ touch drive interface with mirror screen and a revvy little Puretech 1.2L 3 cylinder engine.

This engine was awarded the engine of the year at the International Engine of the Year Awards in 2016 and again in 2017. It’s a decent engine with enough power to be fun.

Our C1 also had a reversing camera (seriously, the car is less than 3.5M long), Height-adjustable driver’s seat, speed limiter (a bit like cruise control), Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and scored 4 stars in the euro ncap test, which is impressive for a car you could carry around in a man bag.

It’s a pretty cool little car, comfy high back seats and that 3 cylinder engine sounds great. It has a distinctive 3 cylinder growl that reminds me of the Daihatsu gtti pocket rocket from years ago.

The plan was simple, if a little stupid. A road trip from Northampton to Middlesbrough and back… a day. Roughly 400 miles and around 7 hours driving time!

The little C1 performed without fault. There were no issues at all. Not one, but it is a new car so should be reliable shouldn’t it?

I wish i could tell about about a road trip from hell, with hookers and car chases…….but i can’t.

In reality, i worked my way through the miles and miles of roadworks that plague the UK’s motorways, sat at 50mph (the speed limiter was very handy here) and in between the roadworks i got the little C1 up to a nice cruising speed without issue. It sat at 80mph for mile after mile, without missing a beat. The only issue i had was knob head reps who couldn’t handle sitting behind a city car. They must have felt it was an attack on their virility or something because they absolutely had to overtake……..then usually pull in front of me and slow down.

It wasn’t intimidating and it wasn’t a struggle to keep up, in fact, it was easy to forget you were in a city car. It doesn’t feel cramped and isn’t screaming at motorway speeds, it just feels normal.

When you’re behind the wheel, you kind of forget you’re in a little car, It’s quite deceptive.

The experience is a bit like going on a caravan holiday. For that week, you only have what you can fit in the caravan. You travel light, leave unnecessary clutter at home. The C1 is similar. You don’t pile all of your worldly possessions into it, you take what you need.

Often i have a boot rammed full of all sorts of shit i don’t even use. In the C1 i just took what i needed which was very liberating.

Our little Citroen C1 was great around town and took us on a 7 hour road trip without so much as an aching back.

Granted, if you do high miles and drive all over the country, maybe the C1 is too much of a jump, culturally i mean. It’s more than up to the job but i doubt i’ll see many reps dumping their executive euroboxes for a C1 any time soon.

Maybe we should all take a look at our relationship with our cars. Do we really need a 4×4 or a big diesel saloon or whatever we drive? Could we be more frugal? Think of the money we could save. A C1 starts at around £8400 which is less than half the price of a new Ford Focus and around a quarter of the price of a BMW X3. That’s a lot of holiday spending money.

For that, you could hire something bigger from time to time if you needed it and still save shed loads of money.

This road trip was done just to test a theory. To be honest, the C1’s natural habitat isn’t the motorway. It’s perfectly fine there but really, this thing is better suited to flying around town, having a hoot with the little 3 cylinder fun bag. It wasn’t great on fuel after our 7 hour road trip. Not bad but not good enough to justify changing from a big diesel eurobox to a C1.

But, that’s missing the point. A couple of important things to remember. First, diesels are dying. Say what you will, legislation is making it harder and harder to produce diesel engines that are clean enough. Secondly, around town, the mpg is great. We drive a petrol Zafira to do the school runs and so on. It’s shocking on fuel, crippling even, and just terrible to drive. This little C1 would pay for itself in no time and provide some smiles along the way.

If there was one negative, it’s that they do this 1.2 puretech engine with a turbo. It puts out 130bhp but sadly there are no plans to slip one in the C1 or it’s sibling the Peugeot 108. That would be fun, oh well.


North Coast 500: Enjoying the Scottish Highlands!

11th July 2017 — by Hans van der Vleuten


No plans for your summer yet?!? Discover the beautiful roads and scenery at the Scottish Highlands. Drive during the day and enjoy some good food and drinks in the evening. The North Coast 500, five hundred miles of Scotlands finest roads… 

A few years ago I’ve read something about the Scottish Highlands and a route trip North Coast 500. Last year we decided to give it a go. We booked a boat trip from Ijmuiden to Newcastle at the end of June. Since we were a little bit to excited things went wrong right the way. I drove my lowered Nissan 350Z on to the high deck and immediatly my gearbox wanted to kiss the boat. A big bang but nothing happened luckily. The Princess Seaways brought us to mainland UK, our seven day road trip had started.


First day

It wasn’t my first time driving around the UK. But the first time with my Z and a lot of miles in a row on the other side of the road. We left the boat and set course to Inverness. This is the only hotel we booked in advance. Afterwards not the best idea, since every hotel or B&B on route were almost fully booked. So be prepared! At least to say Inverness is a great city.

North Coast 500 Highlands

Day two

The second day we decided to leave early. On the boat we spoke to a few people about the Isle of Skye. After looking on the internet it just looked fantastic. Later that day a little detour on Skye was made. Well not a little detour… We almost drove around complete the Isle. Just a little bit too much driving for one day.


Only problem was. We didn’t book a hotel for the evening, after some searching on various websites we found one. Only problem it was somewhere on the map where we should drive the next day. But we needed to sleep and drove to Gairloch. We chose a road which wasn’t on the map and again we were lucky. What a view!! Scotland is full of surprises.

North Coast 500 Highlands

Third day 

Driving the Highlands on the west coast. In one word… Amazing! In the morning we drove the same way back from Gairloch and started at the Road to Applecross.

North Coast 500 Highlands

It’s not advised for the learner drivers or very large vehicles. Small road, tight bends and a lot of cliffs. You’ve got to drive it and will love it instantly. The west coast is great to drive, I wish we drove it in two days instead of one.

After a long day of driving we end up at a small village named Rhiconich. We stayed at the Rhiconich Hotel, very, very, very friendly people. My radio went dead and they loved my car so much they gave me a spare radio. Glad to see the sun came back later in the evening, we had quiet some rain during the day. After a lot of Tennent’s beers and a some chat with the locals we went to sleep.

North Coast 500 Highlands

Day four 

It was time to discover the North coast from Scotland. But first we drove back to the Kylesku Bridge. The day before it was raining like hell and I wanted to have a photo from my Z at the bridge. My girlfriend took the photo and it was time to go North.

North Coast 500 Highlands

Yet again a lot of cliffs and the scenery changed hour after hour. In the far north it’s just like driving around in my neighbourhood in The Netherlands. It almost felt like home. Another hotel was found in John O’Groats, almost the most northerly point of mainland Britain.

Fifth day 

The fifth day was already the start of our journey back home, we set sail back to Inverness. The east coast has a lot of big roads which go up and down and it’s awesome to drive. Loads of distilleries to visit. Too bad we didn’t have much time to stop for them, hopefully next time. One of the things you can’t miss driving around the Highlands are all those magnificent castles. Some are ruined but also a lot of them standing strong during time. Luckily we had some spare time to visit some of them before heading back to Inverness.

Day six

We didn’t want to drive as much on the way back home as we did on our way to Inverness. Right in between we found a nice Castle to stay and walk around for the day. Of course we wanted to find Nessie before we went back home. My girlfriend tried to find him, but no luck…

The Dalhousie Castle is a hotel, but still in it’s real 13th century shape. Like you go back in time. We stayed there during the night for one of our last evenings.

Last day

Our road trip almost came to it’s end. We drove from Bonnyrigg, Dalhousie Castle, to Newcastle before we had to board again. We loved every minute driving around the Highlands. For sure I’ll go back sometime in the future. Next time it won’t be for only one week and also we will plan our entire trip. Booking no hotels or B&Bs in advance didn’t work that great in Scotland. Most of the hotels and B&Bs are relatively small and booked fast. Also I need some more thread on my front tires, mine were completely worn after one week. Haha.


See you again Scotland…

Bonus images: