We've never had a really small Skoda before. Ju8ne Neary reckons that the Citigo is worth the wait
Will It Suit Me?
It's a long time since anyone looked down their nose at you for driving a Skoda. Even the least well informed passer-by these days knows that the Czech marquee is a premium choice amongst budget brands, primarily because it has more access than ever before into its parent Volkswagen Group's feast of high technology.
Expertise that brought Volkswagen and SEAT the little citycar design they respectively badge as either the up! or the Mii. This is Skoda's version, the Citigo, and it's the most affordable of the three. I was keen to try it.
Though this car is just 3.5-metres long, it has far more room inside than a Fiat 500 of the same size - and if that isn't clever, then I don't know what is.Skoda reckon you can fit two fully-sized adults for decently long journeys in the back. That might be pushing things a bit, but a couple of grown-up people will be fine there for short periods. Kids of course will be quite happy, though I was a bit irritated to find that only two seat belt points are provided on the back seat. A rival Fiat Panda gives you the option of three. But the Fiat only comes with five-doors. This Skoda offers the choice of three or five.
I certainly had no complaints about luggage space. Though there's a high sill over which you've to lump your stuff, once you get it in, there's a 251-litre capacity that's nearly twice what you get in a Peugeot 107, a Citroen C1, a Toyota Aygo or a MINI. The boot will hold objects of up to 58cm in height, has four bag hooks and can feature a double storage net attachment to keep your eggs from mixing with your Iron Bru. And of course if you need more room, you can push forward the rear bench to free up 951-litres of total space - a figure rising to 959-litres in the five-door version. That's nearly 50% more than you'd get in the ordinary boot of Skoda's huge Superb Estate.
Up front, well, soft-touch plastics are nowhere to be found but the cabin still manages to feel of decent quality thanks to a careful choice of trim and materials. You sit behind a smart three-spoke steering wheel that's fashioned from light magnesium but unfortunately isn't adjustable for reach: it only moves up and down. It frames a simple, clearly designated instrument cluster with a trendily large speedometer, while in the middle of the dash, there's a compact centre pod for many of the minor controls. A clip can be added to the side of it so that you can slot in a picture of a loved one. I drove around for a week with a picture of my cat purring at me. Lovely.
Behind the Wheel
There's a three cylinder petrol engine up-front, whichever Citigo model you choose. That accounts for the thrummy engine beat: busy but not unpleasant on the ear. You'll certainly be hearing plenty of it if rapid progress is needed, for without a turbocharger to boost torque, this one needs to be revved quite a bit, even if you go beyond the 60PS entry-level model to the 75PS variant I tried. Most will be content with the base version, capable as it is of sixty in 14.4s on the way to 99mph, quite enough to keep up with the traffic. The performance gains offered by the 75PS variant seem relatively slight (0-60mph in 13.2s on the way to 107mph) but the unit is a little more refined.
Probably the feature I most liked in my time behind the wheel was the optional PID 'Personal Infotainment Device' portable infotainment system fitted to my test car. It's a neat 5" colour touchscreen you can carry in your pocket or handbag and then clip just above the centre console and is a little box of tricks that includes a navigation system, a hands-free telephone unit, a media player and even vehicle information displays. There are four basic menus - 'Car Info', 'Navigation', 'Media' and 'Phone'. In 'Car Info', you've a trip computer, door monitoring, parking assist info and an eco driver training system that can help you drive more efficiently.
In 'Navigation', which can display in 3D, you can locate everything from local carparks to places of interest. And if you park up and take the screen with you, it can even guide you back to your car if you forget where you've parked it. Then there's 'Media', which can play music from SD cards and MP3 players and display your photos. And 'Phone' functions with any Bluetooth smartphone, offering voice-activated control. This PID device can be cleverer still if you download onto it a whole range of apps - but I'll let your dealer tell you all about that.
Value For Money
Pricing at launch started from well under £8,000 but most Citigo variants in the UK tend to be sold somewhere in the £8,000 to £11,000 bracket common to this kind of car. If you're looking at an entry-level version, there are a couple of price steps I'd consider quite carefully. The £360 premium that will give you the more frugal 'GreenTech' version of the 60PS 1.0-litre petrol engine (the 'GreenTech' tweaks are standard on the 75PS variant). And, even if you haven't a family, I'd want to look at paying an extra £350 to go from the three to the five-door bodystyle. Less crucial is the premium of around £400 necessary to progress from the 60 to the 75PS engine. But urban owners may want to look at paying just over £500 more for the ASG automatic transmission.
Could I Live With One?
Certainly. Of the three versions of this design, the fact that this one is the most affordable would tend to make it the one I turned to first, were I in the market for this kind of car. Those who are will find it hard to ignore the Citigo. Skoda should have entered this segment years ago. The brand is a very good fit for smartly turned out budget motoring.