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…..in 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.