On sale now in France, is this cute and fun quadricycle that can be rented each month for a similar price as a mobile phone contract. Citroën is evaluating the Ami for the UK, and Ian Robertson got behind the wheel to check it out for size.
It looks like it’s escaped from Alton Towers. A theme park ride car that has come off the rails and landed in suburbia. It’s akin to a monorail that you can drive yourself. So why has Citroën got into the business of making the kinds of vehicles that deliver thrills and spills?
We met up in a grey and dreary car park just outside of Coventry to have our first taste of Citroën’s new Ami on this side of the water, following its static debut almost a year ago. Pre-Covid-19, I’m sure it would have been in the South of France, but with travel restrictions aplenty, we’re taking every opportunity to hop into something interesting, and it just happened to be with a pair of cheery Citroën representatives in a windswept West Midlands car park.
In France, the Ami costs €6,000 to buy, and at current exchange rates that’s around £5,400, and considerably cheaper than buying the UK’s cheapest car, the Dacia Sandero. And while that car is pretty miserable in poverty specification, the Ami is anything but. There are also options to lease monthly, or you can rent one by the minute. French youngsters can get behind the wheel at just 14, making getting from A-to-B much safer than on a death trap moped, but the rules are different over here. It’s easy to draw comparisons with Renault’s Twizy, however, the Citroën Ami is longer at a little over 2.4 metres, as well as being wider so that a driver and passenger can sit side by side. Located under the floor is a 6kW electric motor and a lithium-ion 5.5kWh battery pack that allows just under 50 miles of driving range and can be recharged using a three-pin plug in approximately three hours.
The theme park ambience continues when you discover what the baby Citroën is made of, as it’s a similarly robust plastic that Legoland’s finest is extruded from. To cut down on costs, the front and back mouldings are the same, and the doors are, too, and on the driver’s side it’s hinged at the front to aid access. Available in left hand drive only, for now, the passenger is treated to a more normal door. And in a nod to the legendary 2CV, the windows fold in half, rather than roll down. A glass roof allows light to pour into the tiny quadricycle and the view out of the front is excellent, like peering out of a bay window.
The robust plastics continue inside and there’s an air of crudeness about them that just adds to the charm. Despite the Ami’s diminutive size, there’s a lot of space, even for occupants with a fuller figure, with the seats akin to plastic school chairs with a soft central pad. The handbrake sprouts out from between the seats and the push button gears are located to the left of the driver’s seat, next to the door, and are quite simply labelled ‘drive’, ‘neutral’ and ‘reverse’. Cord pulls replace traditional door openers and there’s colourful storage nets for the doors, further boosting versatility.
With a top speed of around 25mph, you’re not going to set any land speed records, but it’s just enough to keep up with other urban transport. Besides, if it could go any faster, the tiny wheels already scrabble around for grip when cornering, so would be seriously out of their depth. There’s an endearing whine from the electric motor and the simplicity of the driving experience is refreshing and cool. The turning circle is usefully tight, and could shame a London taxi, while the comical horn is likely to rouse a smile from other road users, rather than any angst. There’s old school circular door mirrors, just a single windscreen wiper, and a virtually non existent instrument cluster that just shows your speed, remaining range and mileometer. A bright orange hook for a shopping bag is usefully provided, and there’s space for a suitcase in front of the passenger. The tango-coloured theme continues with oddment storage boxes atop the dashboard. A short row of buttons control the hazard warning lights and the blowers for the windscreen, and there’s a handily positioned USB socket, right next to the docking device for you to charge up your smartphone.
Citroën UK is testing reaction to the Ami as a solution to urban mobility, and interested parties can register their interest at the Citroën.co.uk website. There’s a strong desire within the managements team to bring it to the UK, but only if the sums stack up. So it’s over to you to give it a big ‘oui’, or a resounding ‘non’.