Skoda Citigo: First drive review
The last model in the Volkswagen Group's 2012 assault on the city car market is Skoda's Citigo.
It is the first model in an exciting chapter for the 117 year old company who claim that the Citigo embodies all the core values of the Skoda brand, which are basically engineering excellence with a human touch.
The question is, why should you go for the Citigo over the new Mii or up! sister cars? I headed to Lisbon to find out.
Skoda claim that the Citigo was styled by Jozef Kaban who penned the Bugatti Veyron supercar. It is hard to see where Mr Kaban made his mark, as apart from the new Skoda nose, the Citigo looks virtually indistinguishable from the Mii and up!
To me, the styling of the Citigo is the middle ground between the chic up! and the more masculine Mii. The first model to have the new Skoda badge and family grille, it is neat and modern more than stylish.
This launch was the first time I had the chance to see and drive a five-door version of this trio of city cars and the good news is that, from the side, the Citigo has made the transition from three to five-door well. The result is well proportioned, with a subtle almost BMW-like Hoffmeister kick to the rear windowline.
At the back, there are another set of rear light clusters and a smoother rear bumper design.
Move inside the Citigo and the interior feels much more spacious than you might expect, even with the extra rear doors. Fit and finish feels unchanged from the Seat and Volkswagen (after all, they're all built in the same Slovakian factory), but the Citigo's interior perhaps feels the least special of these cars. So don't expect the plastic dashboard trims of the Mii or up!
Still, like the up! and Mii before it, the Citigo's instruments are easy to read, the dashboard design is neat and the switchgear placement is also sound. The Skoda's interior is also fitted with a number of convenience features including a multimedia holder in the dash and water bottle nets on the sides of the front seats.
Even the tallest drivers will get comfortable in the Citigo, as the driving position is excellent and the high-backed single piece front seats proved to be supportive. The only annoyance was the lack of reach adjustment for the steering column. All round visibility is generally excellent too.
The five-door Citigo has no more rear space than the three-door and although headroom is fine, legroom is tight with tall people in the front. Thankfully, the class-leading 251 litre boot remains unchanged, but I wonder how good the uncovered painted areas will look after being scratched and chipped with everyday use.
S, SE and Elegance models will be available this June with the three-door and five-door model, the latter expected to be more popular out of the two, going on sale at the same time. Prices are expected to start at £8,000, with standard equipment on all models including front and side airbags, ABS, CD radio with aux-in and daytime running lights.
Options will include a Sport & Design package to personalise the Citigo, that includes black metallic or silver decals and the choice of 14, 15 and 16-inch sport alloys in black or silver finish.
Another key feature is the clever 'City Safe Drive' system, that will stop the car automatically at speeds of up to 18mph, when it senses you're unable to do it yourself.
There's also the portable Navigon sat-nav and MP3 player which fits to the top of the dashboard and we've previously tried in the Mii and up! Called Move & Fun, it is the same system I've had misgivings about before, but it seemed particularly bad in the Citigo.
Maybe it just didn't like the Portuguese test route? In my view, the maps are too simplistic and it is fiddly and over complicated in use. Either way it is not an option we'd recommend; our advice is to spend the money elsewhere on a decent aftermarket portable system.
I got to drive both the 61 and 76bhp versions of the 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine, which have Co2 emissions of 105 and 98g/km CO2 figures respectively and 62.8 and 67.3mpg combined fuel consumption figures.
These two engines are very long geared, meaning acceleration is best described as lethargic. Best in town, the smaller 60bhp engine needed to be worked hard to perform on the open road and lost speed quickly on hills. This meant I needed to work my way down the five-speed gearbox to keep up momentum.
The 76bhp version was better suited to motorway work. It might only have 15bhp more, but this engine feels more willing and smoother. A fuel-saving stop-start system is also fitted as standard and the gear change seemed slicker.
Overall, the Citigo's ride has the refinement and composure of a much larger car. Only bigger bumps seem to upset the little Skoda. There's some body roll but the high levels of grip and responsive steering meant that despite the modest performance, the Citigo was good fun to drive on twisty roads.
So, how does the Citigo stack up against the Mii and up! Well, we believe that if they price the Skoda right (UK prices will be released prior to the Geneva Motor Show), it might just be the pick of the three.