Citroen returns to naming basics with the ‘plugliest’ duckling ever
There is no hope of the latest Ami transforming into a beautiful swan, yet Iain Robertson believes that, once the retch reflex relaxes, its EV access for anybody (in France) aged from 14 years will be its salvation, allied to a Euros6,000 price tag.
For years, I have wondered about the viability of Citroen as a vehicle brand. It has darted from innovative genius to volume mundanity, teasing its brand adherents every now and then with a soupcon of radical that often turned into ridicule. It has been lauded from the rooftops, illuminated the Eiffel Tower, famed for crossing fields without breaking eggs, and introducing automotive double-glazing. Yet, it has courted disaster, flirted with failure, pioneered in China and played ‘the fool’ with Gallic governmental support. It is a survivor clinging to its self-perpetuated wreckage.
In a world devoid of a genuine ‘people’s car’, Citroen really needs to take its Ami Concept into full production, complete with all of the disruptive might that can be attached to it. If the initial blurb lives up to its promise, its premise as the consummate city car can be realised. Citroen has teased us before, with a ‘Deux Chevaux’ concept that promised to resurrect much of the ludicrous quality of the original in a modern idiom…but nothing came of it. For all the right reasons and a convenient opposite end of the scale to that other disrupter, Tesla, the Ami could factor-in lightweight, plastique-fantastique practicality and a genuine online transformational tick-box exercise for consumers that Citroen, almost studiously, ensures us come from mainland Europe…but NOT the UK!
While Euros6,000 is the banner headline (inc. grant), Ami is a quadricycle that can be acquired by other means, which include long-term rental (Euros2,644 deposit; Euros19.99/month; 48 months term, inclusive of the Euros900 French government eco-grant) and car sharing, a ‘phenomenon’ that is still to grab the mobility zeitgeist (at a rate of Euros0.26/min, using the Free2Move arrangement that allows users from 16 years of age to join in). Of course, the French are familiar with the quadricycle remit from which its 14 years and up children can benefit.
This unusual class of motor vehicle, as evinced by the Renault Twizy and various Aixam and Ligier products over the years, is very much part of Gallic mobility culture. Citroen even refers to its Ami as a ‘mobility object’, which is strangely neutering, as it does possess some beguiling humanist qualities and is even named ‘friend’. It is 2.41m long, 1.39m wide and 1.52m tall. Its turning circle is a London Taxi challenging 7.2m and a wheel-at-each-corner emphasises its generous cabin space…for two. A 5.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack resides beneath its floor, with its in-built recharging cable located within the passenger-side door aperture. Three hours is all that Ami needs for a full charge from a 220v socket, for a posted range of 43-miles. With its top speed of 28mph, its suitability for travel outside the cityscape is limited.
Designed so clearly and cleverly from the inside out, it is a slight surprise that the exterior graphics are not more organic, even though they may look more like some organic vegetables…a bit jaggy and misshapen. Citroen describes it as a ‘play on symmetry’, although it is almost totally unsymmetrical. Still, Ami is a case of function over form and its slightly ‘push-me-pull-you’ outline will ensure that it fits within almost any parking slot, while remaining easy to manoeuvre as a par for its compact course. Typical of modern Citroens, several customisable packages that include garish appliques and even colourways for the plastic trimmings are available for its unusual/revolutionary rear-hinged driver’s door, front-hinged passenger door cabin access points. Incidentally, the driver’s seat is adjustable, while the passenger seat is fixed.
No wind-up windows reintroduce the original 2CV upper-edge hinged glazing flaps, with just about enough space to reach out for toll barrier payment points. Such minimalist design means that the doors can provide decent netted bins for storage purposes. There is space behind the seats for a large suitcase but even the front passenger footwell is designed to accept a smaller suitcase and a large and colourful plastic hook located on the dashboard face allows hand and shopping bags to be hung from it. The dash itself features several bins, the contents of which are sure to reflect injudiciously in the windscreen.
Ahead of the driver is a minimalist digital display screen, for speed and battery condition, while a cupholder, which you cannot use unless at standstill, sits just behind it. A mobile phone receptacle is positioned in the top-dead centre of the dashboard, through which various dedicated Citroen apps, music choices and sat-nav can be displayed. To be fair, it is stylish and stylistically neat, in a scatterbrain sort of way.
As a notional non-conformist, which is as far removed from what Citroen has become over the past forty years, Ami has a devil of a job to convince even Citroenphiles of its intentions. However, as an online purchasing, or rental prospect, it does deviate significantly from the customary dealership model. In France initially, then across the other European territories that Citroen intends to service, potential Ami buyers can do their business 24/7. Oh sure, there will be some retail partners and even dedicated test drive centres, for those persons requiring more information, but Citroen intends that the bulk of its Ami business will be carried out online, with home delivery as part of the package.
In summary, I want to applaud Citroen for daring to do something different, which is a genuinely long-awaited mobility proposition. It may be as ugly as hell but it is also moderately memorable, which, to some people might be the equivalent of eating a bad oyster. Ami is certainly a safer class of vehicle than any two, or three-wheeler equivalents that also ensures a warm and dry arrival.
Conclusion: Mobility, affordability, parkability and driveability are useful precepts for a true citycar. Citroen may well steal a march with Ami, over several of its potential rivals and it would be only a matter of time before some enterprising UK souls decide to import the production versions, which could happen quite quickly.