Second-generation C1 hatch is a whole new car with a new engine, and another one to come next year.
Second-generation C1 hatch is a whole new car with a new engine, and another one to come next year.
Seats have been redesigned for improved lateral support.
Seats have been redesigned for improved lateral support.

 

Johannesburg - Had gifted engineer Andre Citroen been an American, he would have been labelled a maverick.

A master of lateral thinking, the cars he built were not always world-beaters but they were always different - and the company he founded is still like that, whether building futuristic luxury sedans with the world's most sophisticated suspension, or quirky little city cars.

All of which leads us to the second-generation C1 hatch, released in South Africa on Saturday; more than a makeover, it's a whole new car with a new engine - and another one to come next year - new suspension and a ridiculously tight turning circle.

Determinedly distinctive with two-part headlight clusters and vertical LED daytime running lights, it's just 3.46 metres long (only 26mm longer than the previous version) on a 2.34 metre wheelbase, 1.62 metres wide and 1.46 metres high (fractionally smaller than before) and it'll do a U-turn in an alley just 10 metres wide.

For all that, boot space is up from 139 to 196 litres, expanding to 780 with the 50:50 split rear seat-backs folded; there's also a glove compartment that'll take a one-litre bottle and a couple of cup-holders.

The seats have been redesigned for improved lateral support, and standard kit includes an electronic stability programme, hill hold, tyre pressure monitoring, automatic aircon, satellite controls on the steering wheel for the four-speaker audio system, six airbags and pre-tensioning seatbelts.

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It's available here initially as the five-door, four-seater Feel at a eye-watering R168 990, and the Airscape, at R194 900, with a full-length, retractable fabric roof that folds back like a studio blind all the way to the rear hatch to let the sunshine in on all four occupants - as well as a reversing camera with a 180mm touchscreen display.

Each has a 1.2-litre petrol three rated for 61kW and 116Nm at 2750rpm, driving the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox from 0-100km/h in 11 seconds and on to a claimed 170km/h. Fuel consumption is quoted at 4.3 litres per 100km in the combined cycle and emissions at 99g/km of CO2, while service intervals are 20 000km.

Citroen SA has also promised a third, entry-level model in 2015 with a one-litre engine, at R139 990.

Running gear has also been uprated with new, electrically-assisted rack and pinion steering, and a lighter rear axle with new springs, new dampers and a larger-diameter anti-roll bar.

While nobody expects the C1 to take over the A segment, Citroen has sold 780 000 of the previous generation worldwide since its introduction in 2005, and it's always heartening, in this age of cookie-cutter conformity, to know that you can still opt for something a little different.