LAUNCH REPORT:

Skoda Citigo review

by Tom Stewart (21 February 2012)

Skoda Citigo.

If prospective buyers of new four-seat city cars weren't already spoilt for choice, they soon will be. Already at the party are cars like the Fiat 500, Chrysler Ypsilon, Ford Ka, Renault Twingo, Peugeot 106, Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo, Chevrolet Spark, Suzuki Alto, Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10, but arriving fashionably late are the VW group's three new offerings, namely the VW up!, the SEAT Mii and, the subject of this review, the Skoda Citigo.

Skoda Citigo.It's no secret that, as with many of the above and despite their subtle styling differences, the latter three are all fundamentally the same car with the same diminutive exterior dimensions, and, as three-door models, they've been widely applauded for their generous interior space, appealing looks and bubbly driving demeanour. Their five-star Euro NCAP safety ratings aren't to be sniffed at either.

However, the recent Citigo press launch provided the first opportunity to sample access to the rear seats via rear doors. And so, without further ado, I can announce that, despite having the same wheelbase and exterior dimensions as the three-door, the five-door Citigo can also easily accommodate two fully-grown (or even slightly overgrown) adults in the rear, but without rear passenger ingress and egress inconveniencing front seat occupants.

Furthermore, close inspection of the Citigo's tech specs reveals that the five-dr has an extra eight litres of bootspace with the rear seats folded (959), although at 1369mm the five-door doesn't have quite the elbow width in the front as the three-door's 1417mm (let's ignore the three-door's 1mm shortfall in the rear).

Built in Bratislava, both versions of the Citigo are due to on sale in the UK on June 1, initially with a three-cyl 999cc petrol engine producing either 59bhp with 96g/km or 105g/km of CO2, or 74bhp with 98g/km of CO2. With the standard six-speed manual gearbox, combined fuel consumption is quoted at 62.8. 68.9 and 67.3 mpg respectively (subtract at least 10 mpgin the real world), and an automated sequential gearbox will be available in due course.

Skoda Citigo Interior.UK prices are to be confirmed in early March, but starting at around £7500 (add £350 for the five-door), spec for spec the Citigo is likely to undercut the Mii by a little and the up! by a little more.

Quite why we in the UK need three sets of power/emissions/consumption figures from essentially the same engine is unclear, unless it's a subtle ploy to charge a premium for the two lower-emission versions, but that aside I drove the more powerful 74bhp version which, with its road tax and London congestion charge evading sub-100g/km figure, seems like the most logical choice, at least until prices are announced.

At this point I can justifiably copy/paste from my October 2011 review of the Volkswagen up!: "Although it's no racer - 0-62mph in 13.2secs, 106mph max, the smooth triple-pot motor sounds satisfyingly crisp and raspy. Assuming you put the throttle and gearbox to good use, there’s enough oomph for zooming about town, and it can hold its own on faster main roads. The 59bhp engine makes the same 70lb/ft of torque as the 74bhp version but it can only muster 0-62 in 14.4secs with a 99mph top speed."

Conveniently, I can also paste-in these words too, but with additional comments at the end: "Having driven on ancient cobbled streets (this press launch was held in and around Rome [or in this case, Lisbon]) and over some deeply rutted tarmac, this little front-wheel drive gem feels exceptionally taut. This chassis rigidity combined with well-tuned suspension results in reassuring handling and a decently comfy ride, even on poor surfaces.

Skoda Citigo."The electro-mechanical power steering is very light and easy at parking speeds, but there's assistance only when it's needed so it firms up nicely at higher speeds, and saves fuel in the process."

That said, at the end of my Citigo drive I was left with the impression that Skoda engineers may have tweaked their car's suspension settings and/or anti-roll bars to give an even comfier ride over shoddy surfaces, possibly with a tad more body roll in corners. If this is the case then it's certainly not a criticism as too many cars both small and large have had their suspension tuned to appeal more to tyre-squealing journos than to owners – in this case, and in Skoda's words, young drivers, families and "best agers".

The Citigo will be available in three grades: S, SE and Elegance, and amongst a generous smattering of standard and optional equipment – the latter including the City Safe Drive automatic emergency braking system – the Elegance will come as standard with the Move&Fun satnav/multimedia unit.

Made by Navigon, it's the same as VW's Maps & More system and with many different functions from one small portable unit it's a terrific idea in theory, but its maps, navigation guidance and system stability are far short of TomTom and Garmin standards. I naively gave the NavGone the benefit of the doubt in my VW up! review (I was at least able to pair my iPhone via Bluetooth in the up! but not in the Citigo), but this time I'm left with no choice but to say it and say it clear: it's crap and in urgent need of further development.

Skoda Citigo.As mentioned, the Citigo is essentially the same as the up! and Mii. I've not experienced a Mii yet, but I personally prefer the up!'s exterior styling and interior finishes.

To counter that, the Citigo will be even more affordable and, if senior Skoda personnel are to be believed, the Czech car will beat its German and Spanish rivals on residual values. Clever marketing and branding aside, you won't go wrong with any of them and so dealer proximity is likely to be the decider, at least until you have to choose between the forthcoming all-electric zero emissions up! and the natural gas-powered 97mpg, 79g/km Citigo.

445stars

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