The Skoda Citigo Monte Carlo offers a sporty take on the citycar theme. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
Skoda's Citigo Monte Carlo takes the 60PS three-cylinder SE version of the brand's Citigo urban runabout and adds a stack of attitude. Body styling addenda, 15-inch alloy wheels, sports suspension, satellite navigation and racier seats are just part of a deal which tacks around £1,800 onto the asking price.
Badging a car can be a minefield. You want to end up with something memorable and vaguely apt without lapsing into unintentional comedy. The Ford Aspire wasn't the least bit aspirational and the Austin Allegro Sport was about as sporting as shooting fish in a barrel. The MINI Hampton edition wasn't something most guys would admit to owning and the Hyundai Excel excelled solely at projecting the image of a clueless skinflint. Therefore it was probably with heart in mouth that Skoda launched the latest version of its Citigo with a Monte Carlo badge on the back.
Think Monte Carlo and you think of oligarchs using Ferraris as their daily drivers. Pulling up outside the casino in a tiny Skoda would probably elicit a raised eyebrow and a request to move on. Still, the link isn't entirely tenuous. Skoda has campaigned its cars at the Monte Carlo rally with some success. None of them were Citigos though.
I'm not sure what a 1.0-litre engine with 60PS will feel like on the Col de Turini but I'd hazard a guess that coming down might be a bit more exciting than going up. This Monte Carlo model isn't meant to be taken too seriously as a performance projectile but Skoda has at least gone to the effort of fitting it with lower and firmer suspension to dispel the suspicion that this is purely a bit of cosmetic frippery.
The body is lowered by 15mm as a result and the bigger 15-inch alloy wheels also mean that the ride will be a little chattier over bad surfaces. That 60PS three-pot motor might not set your trousers alight on the drag up Beau Rivage but it's perfectly adequate for squirting about town as the body of this car is extremely light. The sprint to 62mph takes around 14 seconds and up to around 20mph, the Citigo feels quite peppy due to its low gearing and lack of inertia. It's usually enough to zip it in front of most things from the lights. The top speed is 99mph so you'll need to be really trying hard to get yourself into trouble on the motorway, but you'll also need to give the Citigo Sport a determined pedalling to keep up with outside lane traffic. Good steering, high levels of grip and strong brakes mean that the Citigo - along with its SEAT Mii and Volkswagen up! siblings - offer more than the usual citycar fare for keener drivers.
Design and Build
Unlike some citycars, you can buy the Monte Carlo in both three and five-door guises and it looks equally purposeful in either body style. The exterior treatment includes model-specific alloy wheels, front and rear spoilers, plus a rear diffuser: all are finished in black, as indeed are the grille and door mirrors. You rather lose this contrast effect if you then specify a dark body colour. Pair it with Candy White or Tornado Red and it looks really punchy.
All versions of this car are built in the same Slovakian factory and build quality seems very strong. The dashboard is simply designed, with a clear instrument binnacle and a high-mounted pod that houses the ventilation and audio controls. There's no reach adjustment on the steering column which is a minor grumble but otherwise there's aces of space and adjustability up front. The five-door model has no more rear space than the three-door and while there's no shortage of headroom, it's inevitable that in a citycar, rear legroom is pinched if there are taller people up front. The boot is a generous size at 251-litres, which is some recompense.
Market and Model
You'll have to be the judge of whether the Citigo Monte Carlo is worth the additional £1,810 that Skoda charges over and above the SE trim, but it does come with a few more goodies inside as well as the body addenda. Buyers get a sports steering wheel and special Monte Carlo red and black upholstery. What's not quite so obvious is that Skoda's PID infotainment system is also plumbed in and this brings the benefits of satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and a media player as well as trip and vehicle information available on the fly.
There are also six speakers, so sound reproduction is better than the normal reedy music quality you get inmost citycars. There's also twin front and side airbags, anti lock brakes, a CD stereo radio with an AUX-in slot to pipe music from an external MP3 player and the obligatory daytime running lights.
Cost of Ownership
As you might well expect from a citycar fronting up with just 60PS, the Citigo Monte Carlo returns some quite sterling economy and emissions figures. Fuel economy is quoted at 62.8 mpg on the combined cycle and even around town, you might well get close to Skoda's 50.4mpg figure. Emissions are rated at just 105g/km.
Residual values look set to be extremely strong, thanks to Skoda's aggressive pricing and burgeoning reputation for customer loyalty. The Skoda won't have things all its own way though. The SEAT Mii and the Volkswagen up! are also clamouring for this share of the market.
Although the rallying link might seem a little forced in such a tiny car, Skoda is looking to make the Monte Carlo badge its own and the Citigo is such a likeable thing that it's hard to get too worked up about it. The added sporty bits give the car a bit of visual pizzazz and while it won't go any faster in a straight line, the firmer suspension will at least tighten up the body control a bit through corners.
As much fun as it is, given that all Citigo models share the same engine, the best value in the range is at the opposite extreme to the Monte Carlo. When all's said and done, you're paying upwards of £2,300 for some nice bits added onto an already talented base. That much added to a £30,000 car is small beer. On a Citigo, it's an additional thirty per cent. I can see why you'd take a punt on one.