We test Citroen’s £5,000 Ami electric car that 16-year-olds can drive

If you are a shrinking violet who likes to keep a low profile and hates being the centre of attention, then Citroen’s quirky new Ami electric cube car is definitely not for you.

Within minutes of getting behind the wheel, the cute back-to-basics zero-emissions city car draws plenty of crowds and gawping onlookers – as we’ve just discovered, having spent a day driving the teeny vehicle.

It’s being dubbed the 21st century battery-powered incarnation of the iconic Citroen 2CV that was launched in 1948. And the dinky Ami is arguably just as revolutionary. 

Prices start from around £5,000 and Britons from the age of 16 can legally get behind the wheel.

Compact Citroen: This is the Ami quadricycle - a £5,000 electric vehicle that's been introduced as part of a rental scheme in Paris to promote cleaner transport in cities

Compact Citroen: This is the Ami quadricycle - a £5,000 electric vehicle that's been introduced as part of a rental scheme in Paris to promote cleaner transport in cities

Compact Citroen: This is the Ami quadricycle – a £5,000 electric vehicle that’s been introduced as part of a rental scheme in Paris to promote cleaner transport in cities

Our man Ray Massey has been among the first people in the UK to squeeze behind the wheel of the diminutive EV

Our man Ray Massey has been among the first people in the UK to squeeze behind the wheel of the diminutive EV

Our man Ray Massey has been among the first people in the UK to squeeze behind the wheel of the diminutive EV

Younger teenagers can drive the diminutive Citroen because it technically does not classify in the UK as a car.

It is, in fact, deemed a ‘light quadricycle’ – like the Renault Twizy – and therefore can be driven by people as young as 14 in France, though 16 across most of mainland Europe. 

The compact vehicle has already been launched in Paris with a rental scheme to encourage greener transport in the French capital.

Our Parisian-equivalent for the car’s UK debut was Coventry, which is considered Britain’s former ‘Motor City’ or ‘Motown’ and remains the home for Jaguar Land Rover today. Think of it as swapping the Louvre for the Herbert Art Gallery.

The Midlands city also happens to be the location for PSA’s (the overarching car manufacturer that owns Peugeot and Citroen) UK headquarters. 

With so much head turning and open-jawed reaction to driving the Citroen Ami through Coventry, you can almost imagine how Lady Godiva must have felt in the 13th century.

Just like Lady Godiva? The teeny car measures in at just 2.41-metres long, 1.39-metres wide and 1.52m high, which meant our man Ray absolutely dwarfs the car and got plenty of looks riding round Coventry

Just like Lady Godiva? The teeny car measures in at just 2.41-metres long, 1.39-metres wide and 1.52m high, which meant our man Ray absolutely dwarfs the car and got plenty of looks riding round Coventry

Just like Lady Godiva? The teeny car measures in at just 2.41-metres long, 1.39-metres wide and 1.52m high, which meant our man Ray absolutely dwarfs the car and got plenty of looks riding round Coventry

A tiny dashboard screen tells the driver their speed, battery level, range, and drive mode, but that’s pretty much it for the dashboard

A tiny dashboard screen tells the driver their speed, battery level, range, and drive mode, but that’s pretty much it for the dashboard

A tiny dashboard screen tells the driver their speed, battery level, range, and drive mode, but that’s pretty much it for the dashboard

The first thing with the Ami that grabs attention is its size and cubic styling. 

It’s compact to the point of being minuscule in automotive terms. Tape-measure out, it’s just 2.41 metres long, 1.39 metres wide and 1.52 metres high.

Most of it is sculpted plastic on a metal frame. It may be basic, but it’s undeniably clever and very well executed. 

It is available only in left-hand drive – for driving on the Continent – and is set to be sold as such on UK shores. 

In France it is bought entirely online and can either can be delivered to your home or collected from a pick-up point.

To save costs, the two wide doors are identical. But they are hinged differently either side so open in opposite directions. 

The driver’s door is hinged at the rear so opens outward from the front, Rolls-Royce style. The passenger door is hinged more conventionally from the front and opens in the normal way. 

It cuts costs because Citroen only need to make one door – which can be used both sides. The same goes for the front and rear bumpers and side panels – all of which help to keep production costs down.

Prices for the dinky vehicle are expected to start from around £5,000 and there is likely to be a car share and rental options available

Prices for the dinky vehicle are expected to start from around £5,000 and there is likely to be a car share and rental options available

Prices for the dinky vehicle are expected to start from around £5,000 and there is likely to be a car share and rental options available

The Ami is available only in left-hand drive – for driving on the Continent – and is set to be sold as such on UK shores

The Ami is available only in left-hand drive – for driving on the Continent – and is set to be sold as such on UK shores

The Ami is available only in left-hand drive – for driving on the Continent – and is set to be sold as such on UK shores

The moulded plastic seats might not look it but are surprisingly comfortable, says Ray.. However, luggage space is almost non-existent

The moulded plastic seats might not look it but are surprisingly comfortable, says Ray.. However, luggage space is almost non-existent

The moulded plastic seats might not look it but are surprisingly comfortable, says Ray.. However, luggage space is almost non-existent

Inside it’s remarkably light and airy with great visibility thanks to the profusion of glass from a wide and high windscreen, generous side windows and a large fixed sun-roof – the glazing above the main bodyline covers half the total surface. 

The side windows open manually and tilt upwards outside – just like the original 2CV.

A tiny dashboard screen tells the driver their speed, battery level, range, and drive mode, but that’s pretty much it. 

To the right of the steering wheel is a small holder for a smartphone which – via an app – will provide sat-nav and infotainment options.

The Ami’s motor is powered by a 5.5kWh lithium-ion battery that provides a driving range of up to 44 miles and a top speed of 28mph

The Ami’s motor is powered by a 5.5kWh lithium-ion battery that provides a driving range of up to 44 miles and a top speed of 28mph

The Ami’s motor is powered by a 5.5kWh lithium-ion battery that provides a driving range of up to 44 miles and a top speed of 28mph

To keep weight down, there are not even door handles. The doors and all other cubby-holes instead have fabric straps

To keep weight down, there are not even door handles. The doors and all other cubby-holes instead have fabric straps

To keep weight down, there are not even door handles. The doors and all other cubby-holes instead have fabric straps

The little Ami is fully in its element at lower speeds, zipping through city streets for which it has been designed primarily as an ‘urban mobility’ alternative to bicycles and electric scooters

The little Ami is fully in its element at lower speeds, zipping through city streets for which it has been designed primarily as an ‘urban mobility’ alternative to bicycles and electric scooters

The little Ami is fully in its element at lower speeds, zipping through city streets for which it has been designed primarily as an ‘urban mobility’ alternative to bicycles and electric scooters

The interior door handles are fabric straps. 

Imaginative storage cubby holes include cargo nets in the door recesses, bright orange removable inlay trays below the windscreen, and a hook for handbags or takeaways.

The moulded plastic seats might not look it but are surprisingly comfortable.

What is less shocking – given the puny dimensions – is the lack of luggage space, which is almost non-existent. 

There’s a storage recess in front of the passenger’s feet where you might squeeze in a bag – bit like the very old Hackney cab luggage spaces of the 1940s and ‘50s next to the driver. 

There’s no boot and just a very limited amount of space at the back, so travel light. 

Anyone who’s been behind the wheel of an electric golf buggy hurtling down the fairway with their golf bag and clubs strapped in the back will instantly recognise the sensation

Anyone who’s been behind the wheel of an electric golf buggy hurtling down the fairway with their golf bag and clubs strapped in the back will instantly recognise the sensation

Anyone who’s been behind the wheel of an electric golf buggy hurtling down the fairway with their golf bag and clubs strapped in the back will instantly recognise the sensation

The nano Citroen has suspension that's equally as compliant as that on a Challenger tank riding over a cratered Salisbury Plain

The nano Citroen has suspension that's equally as compliant as that on a Challenger tank riding over a cratered Salisbury Plain

The nano Citroen has suspension that’s equally as compliant as that on a Challenger tank riding over a cratered Salisbury Plain

Citroen Ami: What’s it like to drive? 

The Ami’s motor is powered by a 5.5kWh lithium-ion battery that provides a driving range of up to 44 miles and a top speed of 28mph.

With a wheel at each corner it will turn on a sixpence. The turning circle is a mere 7.2 metres, which is perfect for fast U-turns on narrow roads and parking in tight spaces. 

The little Ami is fully in its element at lower speeds, zipping through city streets for which it has been designed primarily as an ‘urban mobility’ alternative to bicycles and electric scooters. 

Anyone who’s been behind the wheel of an electric golf buggy hurtling down the fairway with their golf bag and clubs strapped in the back will instantly recognise the sensation. 

While the car is pictured predominantly in London, Ray Massey was among a handful of journalists to try the vehicle on roads around Citroen UK's headquarters in Coventry

While the car is pictured predominantly in London, Ray Massey was among a handful of journalists to try the vehicle on roads around Citroen UK's headquarters in Coventry

While the car is pictured predominantly in London, Ray Massey was among a handful of journalists to try the vehicle on roads around Citroen UK’s headquarters in Coventry

There are four main colours - blue, grey, orange and khaki – which are the base colours of the plastic

There are four main colours - blue, grey, orange and khaki – which are the base colours of the plastic

There are four main colours – blue, grey, orange and khaki – which are the base colours of the plastic

Citroen’s Ami has already received around 2,000 orders in France. It is available only to rent in Paris through the ‘Free2Move’ car sharing fleet. A similar scheme could be launched in the UK next year

Citroen’s Ami has already received around 2,000 orders in France. It is available only to rent in Paris through the ‘Free2Move’ car sharing fleet. A similar scheme could be launched in the UK next year

Citroen’s Ami has already received around 2,000 orders in France. It is available only to rent in Paris through the ‘Free2Move’ car sharing fleet. A similar scheme could be launched in the UK next year

It gasps and wheezes up steep inclines as the power drops. And if you get really cold, the heater not only zaps some of the power but makes such a racket that it’s best to wrap up warm to avoid using it. 

Ride and handling is also not its strong suit, to put it mildly. 

Rough as old guts, in fact. 

The nano Citroen has suspension that’s equally as compliant as that on a Challenger tank riding over a cratered Salisbury Plain. It shakes, rattles and rolls like the milk bottles in an electric milk float. 

Taking it out of the city – to Coventry’s infamous ring-road, for instance – is a fabulous test of nerve and driving skill – and you really have to be on the ball as you become a teeny 28mph chicane for other drivers.

Yet for all of that, it really is a hoot to drive. It’s great fun, as long as you restrict yourself to slower roads. 

Charging from a conventional domestic plug takes just three hours – about the same as a smartphone – though it can also be powered up from a wall-box and a public terminal using a suitable cable

Charging from a conventional domestic plug takes just three hours – about the same as a smartphone – though it can also be powered up from a wall-box and a public terminal using a suitable cable

Charging from a conventional domestic plug takes just three hours – about the same as a smartphone – though it can also be powered up from a wall-box and a public terminal using a suitable cable

The car looks particularly diminutive with a London bus in close proximity. Fortunately, off-the-line acceleration and all-round visibility is very good

The car looks particularly diminutive with a London bus in close proximity. Fortunately, off-the-line acceleration and all-round visibility is very good

The car looks particularly diminutive with a London bus in close proximity. Fortunately, off-the-line acceleration and all-round visibility is very good 

Everything else you need to know about the Citroen Ami 

Will it fit in my garage? 

Price: approx £5,000 (car share and rental options are likely to be available)

On sale: Unconfirmed (likely 2021) 

Seats: 2

Length: 2.41 metres 

Width: 1.39 metres (excluding mirrors)

Height: 1.52 metres

Wheels: 14-inch

Power: electric motor

Battery: 5.5kW  

Top speed: 28mph (45km/h)

Range: Up to 43 miles (70km)

Weight with battery: 485kg

Turning circle: 7.2 metres 

CO2 emissions: Zero

Charging time: 3 hours (from standard domestic socket)

Charging from a conventional domestic plug takes just three hours – about the same as a smartphone – though it can also be powered up from a wall-box and a public terminal using a suitable cable.

There are four main colours – blue, grey, orange and khaki – which are the base colours of the plastic.

But owners can customise their vehicles with a range of stickers with names like ‘Pop’ and ‘Vibe.’ There is also a full-range of Ami themed accessories.

Citroen’s UK arm has been testing the water to see whether there would be sufficient demand to launch the Ami in the UK – but the strong expectation is that it will. 

It has launched a ‘Register Your Interest’ form with a view to gauging interest levels from the UK public.

But Citroen UK managing director Eurig Druce has already said there was a 75 per cent chance of the Ami being sold to UK customers, and confirmed that discussions are going on with Citroen’s head office in France to secure the vehicle’s availability for the UK market.

Citroen’s Ami has already received around 2,000 orders in France. 

It is available only to rent in Paris through the ‘Free2Move’ car sharing fleet. 

To celebrate the launch some 20 unique and extremely colourful Ami’s were showcased with each having a livery inspired by a district of Paris. 

Other left-hand-drive European markets, including Italy, Spain and Portugal will launch Ami in the first half of 2021.

In France there are three options for usage: outright purchase at around £5,054; long-term rental of around four years at £2,227 down and £17 a month; or ‘a la carte’ car share when you want it from 22p per minute.

We can’t wait to welcome the compact Citroen to British shores with a friendly: ‘Bonjour, mon Ami’. 

CARS & MOTORING: ON TEST

Link hienalouca.com

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