A small fry worth cashing your chips in for
Price: from £7,630
As tested: GreenTech 75 PS Elegance (£10,630)
Engine capacity: 1.0
Top speed (mph): 107
0-62 mph (seconds): 13.2
Fuel economy (mpg): 67.30
CO2 emissions (g/km): 98
Bear with me because this is complicated. This is the Citigo, a new city car from Škoda. It is very green, well-built, affordable and great fun to zip around town in.
It is also the Up from VW and if you head to a Seat dealership you'll see it again as the Mii. Confused? All three firms are owned by Volkswagen Group – one of the great behemoths of the car industry – and the trio of tiny city cars are part of its attempt to knock aside General Motors and Toyota and become the world's biggest car company by 2018.
The Citigo from Škoda is the cheapest of the triumvirate (the VW Up came first and the Seat Mii sits in the middle) but all three are built in the same massive factory in Bratislava and aside from some minor tweaks are pretty much identical. I could drone on about how hard Škoda has worked to stop, being the butt of motoring humour ('Why does a Škoda have a rear window heater? To keep everyone's hands warm when they are pushing it," etc), but that wouldn't be fair. Long gone is the Czech company's dodgy reputation for cheapness and poor quality – the Fabia hatchback is excellent (and World Rally Championship winning) and the Superb saloon has a bulging trophy cabinet of car magazine awards.
That's enough about ownership structures and global brand ambitions though, what is the Citigo like? My test car came with a distinctive black sports decal, presumably to distract from its dreary appearance because to look at the Citigo is rather dull, which is a shame as its city car rivals include the funky Fiat 500 and Toyota Aygo. That's its only major downside, though.
The interior is crisp, clean and screams of VW-inspired quality, while the engine is a peach. It doesn't have buckets of power (or any, really) and you need to rev it quite hard to get around, but no matter how hard you drive it, you'll still come away with impressive fuel economy – I managed more than 55mpg most of the time but did better on several cross-country runs.
In town it's smooth, easy to handle and very easy to park, plus there's just enough grunt in the engine to get into a space first. On the motorway it's less refined and road noise is high, but it's not totally out of its depth unless you have hundreds and hundreds of miles to cover – the seats are far from the last word in long-distance comfort.
I tested the Elegance model, which comes with a nifty detachable infotainment system (media player, satellite navigation, Bluetooth and a trip computer), heated seats, those naff sports decals and reversing sensors, but forget all that and go for the base model with the smaller engine-power rating. It starts at £7,630, has just enough power and is seriously cheap for a city car that will do everything you ask of it.
So it's not really that complicated, then – just let your wallet decide.
Aside from the Seat Mii and VW Up the Citigo has a host of rivals including the Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto, Nissan Pixo, Citroen C1, Fiat Panda and Peugeot 107. Some offer more space (i10) or value for money (Picanto) and the Panda is excellent to drive in its TwinAir form, but none is quite as accomplished as the Citigo.
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