Three-pot delight

Road test: Škoda Citigo 60PS

The differences could hardly be more marked between the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG I drove last week (as one does) and this week’s test car, the Škoda Citigo. However, while they sit at different ends of the cost and aspirations spectra, they’re both up there in terms of driveability. What is the Citigo? Well, it’s the shared VW Group city car, badged as the up!, Mii and Citigo by VW, Seat and Škoda respectively.

Earlier in the year I did a compare-and-contrast drive on the Millbrook proving circuit between the up! and the Citigo, both in 75PS guise. They were both extremely good to drive and the up! was beautifully fitted-out with many retro styling cues from the original Beetle. What I like about small cars though is their simplicity, so the more spartan-looking 60PS Citigo here fits the bill.

Styling-wise, the Citigo is plain, inside and out. Externally, it is slightly reminiscent of the VW Fox but with a stubbier nose and curved C-pillars. In terms of size, while appearing small in comparison with other cars, it is spacious inside. In fact, it is just 3 inches wider and 1 inch shorter than original 1975 Polo.

Two aspects of the Citigo stand out straight away: how small and basic doesn’t equate to lacking civilisation and just how much fun it is to drive. Starting with the equipment levels, this SE has air-con, electric windows, automatic wipers and 3.5mm audio input. Twenty-five years ago, this segment would have been lucky to have a rear wiper. It’s also worth commenting on some examples of design which contribute to the simplicity. Both doors contain just one electric window switch (instead of the usual two for the driver and one for passenger). This means there is no difference for left and right hand drive versions – a small cost saving. It’s full of simple but effective storage spaces too, including small nets on the sides of the front seat. And to save weight and cost, the doors and boot are sparsely furnished with painted metal on display. As an aside, in how many other cars can one actually see any of the external colour from behind the driver’s seat?

It ate up the motorway miles extremely well

The thrumming little three-pot engine is lovely: tractable at low revs, willing to open up and charismatic in sound.  The supple yet controlled suspension complements the engine extremely well and encourages the driver to push on through the corners. While the 75PS version was extremely good fun at Millbrook, this 60PS version is still enjoyable. Steering is light but with good feel, the clutch is gentle, the gear change slick and precise and the brakes inspire confidence. I must confess to nearly shelving the little Citigo one day when I had a 100-mile motorway trip to do, considering instead my comfortable old Saab. In the end, the Citigo’s full petrol tank won out and I’m glad – it ate up the motorway miles extremely well, including the steep M62 section over the Pennines. The engine’s eagerness makes the car feel quicker than the stopwatch shows and the ride is certainly much better than many other cars with such short wheel-bases, notably Fiat’s 500.

Any downsides? Okay, it doesn’t have much overtaking ability and does feel a little buffeted by trucks on the motorway. The seats on this three-door model allow easy entry for rear passengers but don’t return to their original positions so must be adjusted each time. And being blunt, it would never be described as pretty. But reassessing what one actually needs, it delivers everything ordinarily required of a car. Although the interior of the up! is deliberately retro, so is the Citigo in an entirely different way – it’s how small cars used to be, but built to VW Group’s exacting standards. And unlike the SLS, it is nimble through traffic and country lanes and one can safely use all of its power on the open road. Five coveted Motor Writer stars, then.

Škoda Citigo 1.0 MPI 60PS SE, £8,530

Power: 60 PS (5,000 – 6,000 rpm), torque: 95Nm (3,000 – 4,000 rpm), emissions: 105 g/km CO2 (band B), 0-60 mph: 14.4 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●●

Leave a Reply