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Skoda Citigo

 

Skoda’s new entry-level model does exactly what it says on the box. We test the Czech brand’s eager little urban warrior.

Base price: $18,990.

Powertrain and performance: 1.0-litre petrol three-cylinder, 55kW/95Nm, 5-speed manual, front-drive, Combined economy 4.7 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 13.2 seconds.

Vital statistics: 3563mm long, 1478mm high, luggage capacity 251-959 litres, fuel tank 35 litres, 14-inch steel wheels on 165/70 tyres.

We like: State-of-the-art safety, thrummy engine, impressive build quality.

We don’t like: Staid styling, relatively high price.

How it rates: 8/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? If you’re aching for a reason to start making fun of the Skoda brand again, this might just be it: the Citigo, a pint-sized urban car with a three-cylinder engine and rather staid styling. Even in banana yellow.

In fact, Citigo is part of a triumvirate of new minicars from the Volkswagen Group: there’s also the VW Up! (the exclamation mark is the company’s) and Seat Mii, although both of those look a good deal more interesting than this little Skoda. The VW especially, which is quite fashion-forward for what’s essentially a small box.

However, the Czech car is the only one officially on sale in New Zealand, so its siblings are not that relevant. It’s intended to be basic transport for city people, albeit in a very well-engineered package.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? It’s a lot of fun. The three-pot engine must be revved mercilessly to keep up with cut-and-thrust city traffic, but it revels in working hard. There’s very little torque low down, but it’s strong at high revolutions and sounds engaging – as three-piston powerplants usually do, thanks to the harmonics created by that odd number of cylinders.

Our car was the entry-level manual, which won’t be to everybody’s taste for a city car. But it’s a slick gearbox and allows snap-shifting while you’re thrashing (technical term) the engine.

The handling is neat enough around town and the car feels fine (albeit busy) on the motorway, but tiny wheels and a short wheelbase mean you wouldn’t want to do too many open-road trips. That’s not the point of this car anyway.

Despite the no-frills ethos, the Citigo is still a brand new model from one of the world’s largest carmakers and it has some advanced driver-assistance technology that might surprise.

Most significantly, it has the City Safe system, which will automatically brake the car at urban speeds to reduce nose-to-tail collision damage or even prevent the impact altogether.

The Citigo also has an electronic hill-hold that allows you to get off the brake and into motion without the car rolling back.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The Citigo is a combination of ultra-basic comfort-and-convenience features with impressive build quality.

How basic? Well, the Citigo doesn’t have a Bluetooth connection for your phone, which is unheard of these days. It doesn’t even have opening windows at the rear – instead, they’re hinged and simply pop sideways to let a little fresh air in.

But you do get front and side airbags, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, height-adjustment for the driver’s seat and a six-speaker audio system.

If you’re desperate to take the car a bit more upmarket there are a wide range of reasonably priced options (cruise control is $300, for example), but the problem is that once you take this car past $20k you’re heading towards supermini territory.

The materials are hard but the fit and finish is faultless. The cabin is deceptively spacious and even the boot is a decent size, by virtue of being short but rather deep. The rear seats are split 50/50, so it’s also a pretty good little load-carrier.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? City cars of this size are not popular in New Zealand: we don’t have the traffic density (quiet please, Aucklanders) and parking issues to warrant them. At least not like they do in Europe.

The Citigo is a hugely entertaining machine regardless: a car that revels in its diminutive dimensions rather than trying to give the impression of being bigger. It’s also a car that proves that cheap does not necessarily equate to nasty: it’s frippery-free but still loaded with high-tech safety equipment.

The Citigo’s biggest problem is that it’s not cheap enough. At $18,990 (another $1000 for the automatic) it’s about $3k too expensive. For $15,990 it’d be a brilliantly engineered bargain, but at this price it’s destined to be a quietly impressive curiousity.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Air conditioning: Manual
  • Audio: CD
  • Automatic lights/wipers: No
  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Cruise control: No
  • Driver footrest: Yes
  • Head-up display: No
  • Heated/ventilated seats: No
  • Keyless entry/start: No
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Leather upholstery: No
  • Parking radar: No
  • Power boot or tailgate: No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: No
  • Rear ventilation outlets: No
  • Remote audio controls: No
  • Satellite navigation: No
  • Seat height adjustment: Yes
  • Self-parking technology: No
  • Split/folding rear seats: 50/50
  • Steering reach adjustment: Yes
  • Stop-start: No
  • Trip computer: Yes

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