Latest C1 has a cheeky exterior design.
Latest C1 has a cheeky exterior design.
Range-topping Airscape is fitted with 15-inch alloy wheels.
Range-topping Airscape is fitted with 15-inch alloy wheels.
The cabin is very well equipped but still feels like a budget car in places.
The cabin is very well equipped but still feels like a budget car in places.
Sporty seat trim lifts the mood inside.
Sporty seat trim lifts the mood inside.

ROAD TEST:

Citroen C1 1.2 Airscape Feel

Sure, the rand has been plunging like a compulsive skydiver lately and car prices are getting hurt in the process, but has inflation really gotten so ugly that a Citroën C1 must now cost nearly R200 000? Or has this French mini just morphed into something truly special?

R194 900 is the price tag attached to the range-topping Airscape version that I got to spend a week with recently and it has very different ambitions to the cheap and cheerful original C1.

In fact that bubbly cheerfulness has made way for a far cheekier attitude; this new version stands out from the crowd with its distinctive two-part headlight arrangement, black windscreen pillars, funky 15-inch 'planet' alloys and 3D-effect taillights. It's not necessarily pretty but this attitude-packed mini is sure to win fans among the cool crowd. Even the spunky and colourful striped seat pattern has been replicated on the exterior driver's door pillar, so you'll know exactly what you're getting into.

LOTS OF TOYS

Which is a lot, in some ways. Forget any options lists, the standard C1 Airscape version is packed with features that you wouldn't expect to find in a city car, such as automatic climate control, multi-function steering wheel, hill hold and a seven-inch touch-screen audio system with reverse camera. If you prefer nature's climate system, there's a full-length retractable fabric roof top piece that can let the sunshine in at the touch of a button. Like the Fiat 500C, it's essentially a cabriolet with roof pillars.

There's been no skimping on safety here with this C1 packing in six airbags and ESC stability control.

Yet there is still plenty of cost-cutting evident in the cabin if you look past funky touches such as the body-coloured panels and snazzy seat trim. The plastic surfaces are more budget than boutique and that built-to-a-price mentality is also seen in the exposed metal inner door panels and integrated head restraints.

You will at least be able to squeeze a few more shopping bags in as the boot capacity has grown from 139 to 196 litres, although there isn't much in the way of rear legroom, if that means anything to you.

WILLING PERFORMER

Despite being a bit larger than the original C1, the new one hasn't put on any weight and has more power in the form of PSA's willing little 1.2-litre three-cylinder normally aspirated engine.

Its outputs of 61kW and 116Nm don't sound like much, but in a car that hardly weighs anything this does at least translate into more than adequate performance, at least by city car standards.

After a few days of fighting urban traffic, my fuel consumption read-out stood at 7.3 litres per 100km, but clearer roads would surely have pushed that down a bit.

When the congestion does clear up, this little tyke can be quite fun to throw around city streets and its three-cylinder thrum adds to the charm, although it's hardly a refined experience as a bit too much of that unbalanced vibration makes its way into the cabin.

It's an easy and painless drive nonetheless and the driving controls all feel light and user-friendly.

VERDICT

The vibe I'm getting from this car is that it's stuck somewhere between budget car and boutique hatch and its R194 900 price tag doesn't exactly give it the benefit of the doubt. Without the fancy roof and minus some spec, the C1 1.2 Feel still costs a rather hefty R168 900 and even the expected-soon 1-litre base model is no bargain at R139 900.

But back to the Airscape … would you really rather have this than the new Mazda2 1.5 Dynamic, at R199 995, Ford Fiesta 1.0T Trend (at R199 900) or Opel Adam 1.4 (R189 900)?

That said, if the retractable roof is the real selling point to you then this C1 is at least cheaper than the Fiat 500C 1.2 Pop, which will set you back R219 900.

FACTS

Citroen C1 1.2 Airscape Feel

Engine: 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol

Gearbox: Five-speed manual

Power: 61kW @ 5750rpm

Torque: 116Nm @ 2750rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 11.0 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 170km/h

Fuel use (mixed, claimed): 4.3 litres per 100km

Fuel use (urban, tested): 7.3 litres per 100km

Price: R194 900

Warranty: TBA

Service plan: TBA