There's nothing quite like a Citroen Ami. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
Citroen's Ami offers an urban mobility solution for our cities, its quadricycle format allowing it to be cheap, simple and fun. It's left hand drive-only, there's no boot, only two seats and it only goes 46 miles on each electric charge at a maximum of 28mph. But you might still enjoy driving one of these more than any car you've ever owned.
What on earth is this? An old school, quirky, individualistic Citroen. But this time, not a car. Though the Citroen Ami has four wheels and a motor, a steering wheel, pedals and a couple of seats, it's actually classified as a quadricycle. Which basically is an urban mobility solution, small, light, low powered and characterised in the past by models like the Renault Twizy and the Reva G-Whizz.
The Ami is tiny, trendy and even available in 'Cargo' form as a tiny van. And because it was never originally intended to be sold here, is only being offered in left hand drive, though because it's so small, that hardly matters. Don't think of it as an alternative to a city car. Instead, it's a better seen as a nicer option than public transport. Or walking. And on the Continent, it can cost less to lease one than your monthly mobile phone contract. Interested yet?
It's electric of course. There wouldn't be much point if it wasn't. But it's got a far smaller battery (5.5kWh) than you'll find in any EV. Still, because the electric motor it's mated to develops only 8bhp, hence the feeble 28mph top speed, you won't drain the cells very quickly and a (very achievable) range of 46 urban miles is possible.
As you'd expect from the diminutive size, the turning circle is outstanding - just 7.2m. To give you a point of comparison, that of a base Fiesta is over 10m. A London taxi is rated at 7.6m. The elevated driving position and superb all-round visibility also help in the city and though there's no power steering to ease you into spaces, the vehicle is so light (that base Fiesta weighs a whopping 600kgs more) that it isn't really an issue. Still, you might well feel intimidated by trucks and buses, particularly as quadricycles like this don't get rigorously crash tested and don't have to have airbags and camera safety aids.
Design and Build
Well it's small. Very small. Just 2.41m long and 1.39m wide in fact. And super-light too - just 425kg without batteries. The push-me-pull-you looks that see the front similar to the back are partly intentional. And partly about reducing production costs at the Moroccan factory - which is a bit of a theme here. So, for instance, the doors are identical left and right - which means the driver's side one is rear-hinged, while the passenger side one isn't. To get in, you push a large outside button and notice as you pull the door back that half of its side window is hinged to flap upwards, a reference to the classic Citroen 2CV.
Inside, where you can only have the steering wheel on the left, it's light and airy thanks to a standard sunroof. And to the fact that the glass area occupies almost half of the interior surfacing, along with the way the windscreen is placed a way away from you. The steering wheel doesn't adjust and sprouting from it is a single column stalk that works the indicators and the single wiper that creaks across the plastic screen. Obviously, there are only two seats and, equally obviously given the exterior dimensions, there's no boot, so any luggage you want to carry must ride in the spacious passenger foot well, which will probably take something like an airline carry-on bag.
Various colour-coordinated cabin fittings brighten things up - and the items in question (removable holders and cubbies in the dashboard) are of the clip-on kind, so you can easily switch to a different shade, or maybe change your cabin colour with the seasons. The doors open with fabric pull strings and there's a noisy single speed fan with a heat option.
Market and Model
Pricing for this left hand drive-only quadricycle starts from £7,695 and it's available in four trim levels - 'Ami', 'Ami Pop', 'Ami Tonic' and 'Ami Vibe'. The vehicle is sold through Citroen's dedicated Ami digital platform and through 81 selected UK dealers; and it will always be left hand drive. The Ami Cargo van version comes in one specification, costing £7,995.
At the time of this test, Citroen was asking £19.99 a month over two years with a £2747.19 deposit (that's based on 5,000 miles a year - which you might struggle to cover in an Ami come to think of it). Various other leasing options will be popular with Ami customers, but they won't be as cheap as those in France, where from the launch of this model you could put 3000 Euros down, then pay a monthly subscription around 20 Euros a month, less than a mobile phone monthly subscription. Or put 1,000 Euros down and pay a 69 Euro monthly subscription, this less than the cost of a Metro subway pass. In France, in various cities, an Ami can be rented by the minute in various cities for under 25p a minute - or from just over £5 an hour. What certainly won't be the same as in France is the age from which you can drive an Ami. There, you can be on the road in one as young as aged 14. Here, you'll need a 'Category AM' licence - the sort of thing you'd need for a moped - which you can get from aged 16. Tell your teenage son or daughter that a provisional licence won't cut it.
Customers can enhance a standard-spec 'Ami' by adding one of three Colour Packs: Orange, Blue or Grey. These are priced at £400 and are specifically designed to be fitted at home. Adding a splash of colour to the Ami 100% ëlectric's quirky styling, each pack comes with colour-coded wheel trims, colour-coded rear pillar decals, three colour-coded dashboard storage boxes, a colour-coded dashboard bag hook, exterior door capsules, two door storage nets with a colour-coded horizontal band and two black floor mats with colour-coded trim.
The two higher trim levels offer even greater levels of customisation: 'Ami Pop', 'Ami Tonic' and 'Ami Vibe'. 'Ami Pop' offers a cheerful visual identity, combining the Orange Colour Pack with black trim on the Ami's 'front face', lower front and rear bumpers, and around the rear lights. With a more assertive look, 'Ami Vibe' features a black finish to the top of the front bumper, front and rear bumper bases, and rear light surrounds, and adds two decorative black roof rails, black wheel arches and 'Contours' decals on the doors and front wings.
Cost of Ownership
UK models come with a rather natty built-in European two-pin plug which feeds awkwardly through a recess behind the passenger door. That plug comes with a Type 2 connector adaptor you can fit onto it for use with a garage wallbox or a public charging point. Most customers will at some point probably fit a three-pin adaptor to the plug so that they can charge off a domestic socket at home, though that's not an approved way of replenishing the Ami's battery as it falls outside of the regulatory framework for charging an EV of this type.
With this EV, there are no decisions to be made about fast or rapid chargers and different networks. Wherever you charge, expect battery replenishment from empty to full to take around 3 hours. And of course, this Citroen is terribly eco-centric: its small battery means a smaller manufacturing carbon footprint after all. And then there are all those plastic panels... We expect this vehicle to hold its value very well indeed, so if you're prepared to part with your Ami, you should find plenty people who want to take it on for not much less than you paid for it.
As long as you don't view the Ami as some kind of small supermini, it's hard to see why you wouldn't like it very much. Because it's not limited by the constraints that would apply to a conventional city car, it can be cheaper, smaller, more economical and more fun. Yes, along the way, compromises have had to be made in terms of performance, safety and cabin space, but likely owners either won't need those things at low speeds in the city; or will have another, more conventional vehicle in the garage back home to provide them.
For decades now, we've been offered new Citroen models that claim to rekindle the brand's original pioneering spirit, but here at last is one that really does. Like an early 2CV, it's original, fun and, in its own way, really quite desirable. Drive one and people you pass will smile and wave - there's a feeling here of the motor car reinventing itself for a very different age. In a Citroen that really is a sign of the times.