- Incredibly cheap
- Funky looking
- No charge to drive in the city
- Little comfort
- Slow performance
- Very limited range
The Citroen Ami is new and very different. Also, at this stage, it is not UK-ready, but Citroen is seriously considering its introduction – and so they should, as it would be a wonderful addition to the UK’s roads. Sure, there are issues around demisting etc that would need to be solved (of which more later) and that might bump the price up slightly, but the Ami would still be the cheapest new vehicle of its kind on the roads, by some distance. In terms of concept, the only thing that comes close to being in the same category is the Twizy, which is literally twice the price. We spent time with the European variant on London's crowded streets, so you have to bear in mind that this is an early model, with left-hand drive and displays that show distances and ranges in kilometres. The Citroen Ami has four wheels, two seats and a dashboard. Beyond that, the Ami’s key specifications are sparse. It's stripped down to the very basics.
Price and Options
The Citroen Ami is likely to appeal to the young, the old and many people in between – who need a vehicle for short range trips/regular commutes about town – but who are consciously moving away from fossil fuels. While the range and speed may be limited, they are both ample for use in a city. That’s especially true with the way that Citroen has helped to set up ‘smart finance’ for the Ami in other countries. The Ami is also a ‘quadricycle', so you don't need a driving license to use it, either. In France, anyone over 14 years old can drive this vehicle, and in the rest of Europe the average is 16.
Later on, we detail the kind of changes that we would be looking for and there will be a cost associated with some of those changes – including a larger battery, improved ventilation system and upgraded mirrors. Let’s say that, for the UK market, upgrades are added and as a result the UK price settles closer to £6,950. Then a finance deal where you put down a deposit of around £2,510 and pay £30 a month for four years – leaving a final ‘balloon payment’ of £3,000 – could be very appealing. It's worth bearing in mind just how many electric bicycles are being sold over the £2,000 mark.
If Citroen can update the design to accommodate the safety needs of a UK driver in wet conditions, use slightly better batteries (in terms of power density) AND get its ‘smart finance package’ up and running with a UK provider, then we’re likely to see a lot more of this vehicle on the streets of British cities in the coming years. In France, you can rent the Ami for just €19.99 a month plus a €2,644 initial payment, and car sharing provider Free2Move is offering it in Paris for just €0.26 a minute (alongside €9.90 a month subscription). Citroen is presently in ‘fact-finding mode' when it comes to the design. The company is also looking into how the vehicle will fit in with UK legislation for four-wheeled vehicles. On that basis, you're not likely to see the Ami on British roads before 2022.
The exterior could not be more simple. The front and the back look pretty much identical (because they're actually the same part) and there is just one door design, with the hinges moved from left to right on either side. It comes in four simple colours, each with an offset/highlight flash of colour around the lights, wheels and handles etc. There's a lot of glass, with a tall windscreen and panoramic sunroof.
You can already buy a ‘modding pack’ that lets you change the internal and external appearance slightly – plus Citroen produced 20x bespoke designs for Paris, under the banner ‘Ami Paris’ – so you have to imagine that far greater levels of personalisation might come in the future. For now, this vehicle holds true to its roots as the spiritual successor of the 2CV and it is, without doubt, the most basic four-wheeled vehicle on the roads today. It's basically a metal frame with plastic panels attached.
This section is easy: There is no interior comfort.
There are no sumptuous seats, clever arrays of buttons on the door or 21st-century sound deadening material integrated into the shell. It is absolutely basic. If other cars represent the ‘Meal Deal Sandwich Selection’, then the Ami’s interior is a single slice of buttered toast. It does the job, sort of, but absolutely nothing more. But in that design ethos, there is something that makes you smile. You haven’t paid for anything that you don’t need. There is nothing to go wrong. Your impact on the environment was as small as it could be – and yet you can drive past the speed limit in London (20mph) by almost 50%, carrying a passenger and shopping. That will definitely appeal to some.
There are no electric, or even mechanical, windows. These flip up like a 2CV. The doors are opened with a loop of material from the inside, which you can either consider cheap or reminiscent of a Porsche Cayman R stripped down to save weight. The reasoning is the same in both cases. You don't even get a glove comparment, although the very deep dashboard has a row of storage boxes. The seats are extremely basic, and only the driver's one can actually be adjusted – entirely mechanically.
Storage and Load Carrying
Again, the storage question very simple to answer. There is no boot, frunk or any of the traditional storage compartments that you expect to find on a car. That said, there’s space enough around your passenger to squeeze in 4-5 bags of shopping on the floor, with an area in front of the passenger specifically marked as being for a hand luggage-sized bag. There is also a cool ‘Curry Hook’ on the passenger-side dash, so you can hang your takeaway, without fear of it dropping to the floor on your way back from the restaurant.
If you consider the latest smartphones from Apple, Samsung etc to be the pinnacle of portable entertainment, then you can argue that the Ami has plenty of in-car entertainment. But only if you bring it into the vehicle with you. Just under the caddy that will hold your phone is a charging port – and just behind the steering wheel is a hole for your portable Bluetooth speaker. That’s your lot.
Controls are simple enough, and the selection would not look out of place on an East German car from the late 1950’s. Indeed, after a few minutes driving the Ami, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was a direct descendent of the Trabant P50 Universal. Drop your hand down to the side of the driver’s seat and, instead of electronic controls for position and posture, you will find the D/N/R buttons that will let you change gear. Under the seat is the mechanism for allowing the seat to move forward – and that is pretty much it. The external lights are always on – removing the need for an additional control stalk – and the dash board only shows speed and range. There are buttons to turn the fan on/off and the same for the in-car heating, which struggled to even de-mist the windscreen on a wet London afternoon. The one steering wheel stalk is for operating the windscreen wipers. Or wiper, rather.
Performance and Driving
Acceleration is OK for the city and the top speed is fine, at just under 30mph. You won’t be overtaking any other four-wheeled vehicles, that’s for sure, and you’ll need to stick to the slow lane religiously if you hit any larger A roads, but overall the driving experience is fun. Steering is simple, and visibility on a dry day will be fine. We struggled for visibility, as the only air vent in the car was aimed slightly away from the driver’s side of the windscreen, but this is only an issue when it comes to cyclists on the inside lane. Note that you only get wing mirrors – you don't need to have an internal mirror on a quadricycle. Reversing without a rear-view mirror adds unnecessary complexity, and we would like to see larger wing mirrors to compensate. As you can imagine, these are not electronically adjustable.
Range and Charging
The dial showed 75km (47 miles) when we got into the Ami at Westminster and had dropped to less than 60km by the time we arrived at Battersea Park. Technically, that’s a distance of 5km, but the battery showed a drain of 15km. We don’t mind larger/smaller batteries or that they drain when used – but we demand accuracy when it comes to depletion. Drivers will make a decision as to which journeys to take on – based on the range shown on the dashboard – so this is one area where ‘100% accuracy’ is worth much more than ‘optimistic programming’. We’d like Citroen to work on the range calculation system.
In terms of re-juicing, you can charge just about anywhere, using a standard 13 amp plug. Taking the 5.5kWh battery from empty to full takes around 3 hours according to Citroen. It's worth bearing in mind that the Ami can ONLY charge from a standard socket – which you are not likely to find at a regular charging station.
That said, there are already 3rd-party solutions in the form of special cables that will allow you to connect a public AC charger's Type 2 socket to the Ami's 13 amp plug. Online, these appear to be around £200. It would be nice if Citroen included one in the price, or you might find yourself knocking on the doors of strangers to get a charge.
Given a 5.5kWh battery and 14p per unit, you can recharge this vehicle for around 77 pence. That gives us a rough calculation of 1.9 pence per mile (assuming a range of 40 miles), which makes this one of the cheapest forms of four-wheeled transport on the planet. Add in the initial purchase price and you can see how this vehicle is a complete bargain.
Insurance will be interesting, as the Ami deliberately sits in a category that doesn't obviously attract expensive policies. A quick look around the web seems to indicate that it will be around £17 a month. Servicing is expected to be bundled into any finance deal offered. When we asked about the likely cost, we were told that a full maintenance package will be around £10 a month.
Comparing the Citroen Ami to a regular vehicle that is capable of driving on a motorway at 70 mph is not helpful. The Ami has been designed for cities where the average speed will be as low as 20mph. At that point, you are looking at a comparison with motorbikes, mopeds etc. It has a rigid outer shell and the occupants are wearing seatbelts. On that basis alone, the vehicle is so much better equipped for inner-city impacts. The plastic exterior is cheap and durable, so there are no expensive body skins to swap out in the case of a post-collision replacement. Also, the replacement plastic parts will already be the right colour – so no respray necessary. Given the spate of moped thefts in London over recent years, your bigger security concern would be that someone might come along with a cherry-picker and take your 450Kg Ami away on the back of a pick-up truck.
|Price:||Likely to be between £6,000 and £7,000|
|Range (WLTP):||Around 40 miles|
|Charge time (13a, 100%):||3 hours|
|Charge time (7kW, 100%):||N/A|
|Charge time (50kW, 80%):||N/A|
|On Board Charger:||3kW|
|Cost per mile*:||1.9p|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh