Citroën Ami review: The future of urban motoring? - MrLiambi's blog


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Friday, 30 September 2022

Citroën Ami review: The future of urban motoring?

The Citroën Ami started life as an urban mobility concept, unveiled in 2019 as the Ami One.

Like many such concepts, we thought it looked cute at the time and we were slightly surprised that in 2020, Citroën announced it was actually pushing the project forward, that it was coming to market.

Jump forward to 2022 and we're sat behind the wheel of the Citroën Ami, scooting around the streets of London as it gets a full UK launch.

It's not actually a car

Let's start with the most important point: the Citroën Ami isn't actually a car. Sure, it's got four wheels, a couple of doors and some seats inside. It looks like a car, it drives (almost) like a car, and most people will think it is a car - except the authorities.

The Ami is actually classed as a quadricycle. This comes down to its low weight, limited power and speed - and it means that the driving licence requirements are different to cars too (there may be regional differences here).

In the UK you can drive it on an AM licence, which is basically a moped licence and it's not legal to drive on motorways.

It's worth saying that if you're thinking about venturing out in the Citroën Ami, it's best done with plenty of driving experience, because you're basically driving a metal frame covered in plastic panels, so there's little protection if you find yourself in a compromising position.

Compact, but basic design

There are lots of words you could use to describe the Ami: cute, compact, … um … futuristic? Ok, there are not that many words you'll want to use, so we'll stick to compact. Measuring 2.41m long, 1.39m wide and 1.52m high, it only fills half a parking space, a natural advantage when it comes to stopping in urban environments.

But as we said, it's basically a metal frame covered with plastic panels and some of the futuristic charm of the original Ami One (pictured below) has been lost as it moves over to this utilitarian release vehicle.

Aside from feeling like you're sitting in a plastic box in the middle of the road, there are some cute design elements. The inserts into the dash area for storage are pretty funky, while the incorporation of a phone mount means you can easily dock your device and use it for all your entertainment and navigation.

There's no screen in this car - apart from the basic display above the steering wheel - so it really is a case of bringing your own device to the party. There's a USB socket to power it, however.

There are also no in-built speakers, but the interior has been designed to accommodate the UE Boom 3, with a nice custom design speaker that you slip into a rubber ring to wedge it in place in the dash. The Boom 3 is an excellent speaker, so it's quite an amusing solution and when you arrive at your destination you can take your Bluetooth speaker with you.

You don't get proper winding windows, instead they lift open. There's some old-school 2CV charm to this solution, but as the door is a single panel rather than being the sort of sandwich construction you'd get on a regular car, there would be nowhere to wind a window into anyway.

Similarly, there's no boot/trunk and no glovebox, just a couple of nets on the doors and one by your feet, so you can stuff a backpack into the passenger footwell. At a push, you might be able to get a small bag behind the seats, but it's really about moving people from A to B with minimal luggage.

From the exterior, there's a certain charm and having driven some amazing cars over the years, we've never seen anything get as much attention as the Citroën Ami. Whether that's because it's a vision of the future, or out of sympathy, we don't quite know.

But, pulling into the entrance of The Savoy Hotel in London, the doorman didn't usher us away, instead he came over laughing and wanted to know all about the car.

It is, like the Renault Twizy, something that turns heads for a multitude of reasons.

Is the Citroën Ami comfortable?

That's a question. We spent a couple of hours driving around London in the Ami and we can't say we'd want to spend much longer in there. There's no sound deadening, there's very little by the way of suspension, and the seats are only a slight evolution beyond hard plastic.

Simply put, there's little in the way of creature comforts - but the aim isn't to set you off on a long journey, it's to move you from A to B with minimal impact on the world around you. It might have a negative impact on your posterior if you're sat in it for anything longer than an hour, however.

The layout of the seats is also a little odd. Because this is a compact vehicle, you don't quite sit side-by-side. The passenger is slightly behind the driver, to get the seats closer together without knocking shoulders. When you're driving, you don't feel this, but as the passenger, it feels like you're sitting really close to the driver, breathing down their neck.

Still, there's more space than in a Twizy and more practical appeal than being a pillion passenger - but less of a thrill.

Hitting some of London's cobbled streets really showed off how limited the suspension is on the Ami, as it shakes and rattles until you return to flat roads again. So this isn't something you'll be hopping over speedbumps and we'd hate to think what might happen if you hit a serious pothole. Fortunately, it's small enough that you can probably drive around most of them without impeding oncoming traffic.

It's really this interior experience where the Citroën Ami makes less sense. It costs from £7,695 in the UK, and you could get a second-hand Toyota Aygo for much less - with all the comforts you might want.

What's it like to drive? What's the range and speed?

As a quadricycle there are limits to the power and speed available. The key figure here is that the Citroën Ami will only do 28mph. Essentially if take it anywhere other than an urban centre, you'll probably struggle to drive at the legal speed limit and you'll probably face the same abuse that mobility scooter drivers would when on the road.

There's a 6kW motor in the Ami and there's no real urgency to get up to pace. Unlike electric cars, there isn't the power to deliver lots of instant torque to get you off the line at any speed. Indeed, we'd say that it's a little underpowered to seriously drive in traffic because you'd be limited in any situation where you had to quickly change lanes or overtake.

We found this true when trying to cross lanes in London to get to a particular junction. If you can't move quickly, you'll often find you've been undercut by another driver. The Ami just doesn't have the get-up-and-go. It takes 10 seconds to do 0-28mph.

Instead, the real advantage you have is the compact size - you'll squeeze through gaps others won't and there's a 7.2-metre turning circle, so you might be able to pull a U-turn on some roads without having to resort to a three-point turn.

The official range is 46.6 miles and there's a 5.5kWh battery. A Type 2 plug is hidden in the door frame, so you can stretch out the cable to charge it, which takes about 3 hours.

Obviously, with that sort of range you're limited in what the Ami will tackle - but trips to the supermarket, driving into town to have your hair done, or just that short commute, are all within range.

The great thing is that there's plenty of visibility around the car. The wing mirrors are sort of basic and there's no rearview mirror at all. The reason there's no rearview mirror is that you don't legally need one - and it might be that because you're so far from the windscreen you just end up looking at your own reflection.

Onto some of the more technical points, there are three buttons - D, N, R - as you'd find in any electric car, but these are down at the side of the seat rather than on the dash, which seems a little odd. Still, start the car and poke the button and off you go.

Driving then is like any other electric car, although there's no regeneration when you lift off - instead it will just coast to a halt. There's also nothing to hold you on hills, so if you lift off the brake, you'll start to roll back, which really does bring back old-school vibes and you'll have to be fast with your feet or go back to using the handbrake when you stop on a hill to stay out of trouble.

Otherwise we found the steering positive enough, although it's not powered, so if you're not moving, it takes a little more grunt to move the wheels.

So what's the Citroën Ami actually for?

The Citroën Ami was never designed to be launched in the UK, so Citroën is really just having a bit of fun - because it sold out really quickly when it launched in France. That's because it's an affordable electric vehicle, and the long-term running costs are going to be insignificant.

Sure, you can buy a second-hand car cheaper and get a lot more for your money, but when it comes to running costs, the Ami is going to win - not to mention the environmental appeal of having zero emissions and needing little space to park it at home.

Is it fun to drive? Well yes, we enjoyed driving it, but much of that comes down to novelty. Would we drive it on a short trip to the supermarket to do some shopping? Yes, it seems ideal for that sort of trip where comforts don't really matter - it's certainly a much greener option than firing up your diesel SUV because you want to go and buy some eggs.

But Citroën also sees this as a vehicle for last-mile delivery. There's even a version - Ami Cargo - that foregoes the passenger seat for stowage space instead, so it could be used to deliver parcels or any other goods over a small delivery area.

It's also worth mentioning that although it costs nearly £8,000, some of the finance options might make more sense. You can get it for around £85 a month with a £770 deposit - the sort of deal that might be attractive if you want to trade in your old car and move to something greener instead. It almost makes sense.

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