First Drive: 2021 Citroen Ami Review
France is known for its chic catwalk fashion, but that effortless style doesn’t always translate to the more affordable Gallic garments. However, the same can’t be said for the country’s automotive industry, with the likes of Citroën and Renault historically offering adorable and affordable compact cars, from the 2CV to the toy-like Twingo.
The latest EV from Citroën is perhaps the cutest yet. Built for the French market and designated a quadricycle – meaning 14-year-olds can drive it sans permis – it is a ‘non-conformist object’ deigned to embrace the future of electric and transient urban mobility. Sounds poncy, right? In actual fact, the Citroën Ami is as down-to-earth as an EV could be, costing from just €6,000 (in France, after €900 EV bonus deduction), and featuring an abundance of Citroën’s charismatic style. Powered by a 5.5kWh lithium-ion battery, it boasts a range of up to 43 miles, and a top speed of 28mph. It’s certainly an interesting proposition, squaring up to the likes of Renault’s comparably expensive Twizy, and while it’s not yet available in the UK, Citroën is currently gauging market interest.
- Interchangeable parts
- Charges in just three hours
We don't like
- You need a full licence to drive it in the UK, unlike France
‘Beau comme un camion’ is an ironic French turn of phrase, often used in reference to cute little things. Translating literally as ‘beautiful like a lorry’, I can’t think of anything more apt for the Ami. Not only is it absolutely adorable (in an unconventional way, of course), but being inside it is reminiscent of a rubbish truck, with virtually no insulation, an abundance of cab noise and a driving position miles away from the windscreen.
At 2.4metres long (“is it even that?!” I hear you ask), it’s shorter than a smart car, and measuring 1.39m in width, could comfortably fit in even the smallest of city carparking spots. But its size isn’t its only endearing factor, for what really stands out is its symmetricity, and the interchangability of parts. In order to keep fabrication, and repair costs, low Citroën has built the Ami using identical, hard-wearing panels front and rear, with only one door orientation. That means that while the passenger door opens conventionally (via a stiff button push), the driver’s side is a rear-hinged suicide door (bear in mind, that this car was built for a French audience, so this would be the other way around). The result is an odd one – a compact city car, with a design stuck somewhere between a factory production line robot and an automatic vacuum cleaner.
But cute quirks mark the Ami out as very much a Citroën. Airbumps, specially designed 14-inch wheels and the manufacturer’s familiar bulbous styling are all proof of the research and development that has gone into this compact and low-cost package.
Performance and Handling
With no clutch or gears to worry about and a top speed of 28mph (45km/h), there’s little say about the Ami’s performance. Weighing just 485kg (with a 60kg battery) and offering all of its 6kW motor’s torque from go, it takes mere seconds to reach top speed, via a high pitch whine which grows in intensity to the crescendo. To select drive, neutral or reverse you hit one of three little D, N or R buttons to the side of the driver’s seat.
I was quick to find a hill to see if I could eek any more from the Ami, and was pleased to find a nominal 1km/h more with gravity on my side. The top speed doesn’t really feel sustainable, however, as it feels a little like you’re wringing the Ami’s metaphorical neck. So A-roads are off-limit then, what else?
Well, it’s the slower, busier city streets where the Ami excels – unsurprisingly. The lack of clutch makes stop-start traffic a breeze, and its light steering lends easy manoeuvrability. Similarly, the brakes are basic but sharp – perfect for when the unsuspecting Parisian wanders out in front of the silent vehicle. There is a horn, and a surprisingly loud one at that, but perhaps that’s because the hollow box in which you’re sat effectively acts as an amplifier.
Thanks to its short chassis, the Ami boasts a turning circle of 7.2metres, which is two turns of the large steering wheel. While tight, it’s not quite enough to do a full 360 on a suburban road. Despite its compact footprint and otherwise usual height, the Ami isn’t top heavy at all, chiefly because the 5.5kWh Lithium-ion battery is housed flat under the floor. Even my best efforts into corners weren’t enough to unsettle the Ami, which remained firmly planted on all four wheels, with a surprisingly minimal amount of body roll. Even with spirited testing conditions the range seemed fairly accurate.
If the ability to hose down the interior of your city car is high on your priority list, then the Ami is for you. Constructed almost entirely of plastic, the deceptively spacious cabin features very little in the form of passenger comfort, with firm, narrow seats, no steering wheel adjustment and bi-fold windows, which prove incredibly awkward to open.
The expansive glass windows afford a bright cab, however the lack of insulation allows wind noise and chill to creep in through the cracks. But the Ami is not designed for high speeds or long distances, so these details would likely prove insignificant, especially to the transient ride-sharers the Ami is targeting.
Technology and Features
Unsurprisingly, there’s not a lot to say here. There is some semblance of a heater, but in all honestly, you would gain more warmth from a broken hairdryer. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that the onboard battery can be recharged in just three hours from a standard 220V electric plug socket.
Alongside extensive customisation options – there are six coloured accessory packs available – neat features include a hook on the passenger dash, a built in mobile phone mount and a USB port. You’ll also find quirky little storage spaces across the dash and in the doors.
Comme des apéros entre potes ou une vraie baguette, the Ami is unequivocally French. And unlike many electric city cars that have come before, it offers a new, affordable entry into the market, both in terms of buying and sharing. Effectively, it opens the electric segment up to young city slickers – in the same way electric bicycles and scooters have done in capitals around the world.
It’s nearest competitor is the Renault’s Twizy, which costs literally double the Ami’s €6,000. Certainly, the Twizy has the edge in terms of ride comfort and tech, but ultimately the range is the same. And not to forget, in the Twizy, the passenger is consigned to a cramped seat behind the driver, whereas the Ami is far more conventional.
Admittedly, it’s not yet in the UK. But over La Manche, drivers can own the Ami for just €19.99 per month on a long term rental, and use a car share from a monthly subscription of €9.90 and €0.26 per minute thereafter. The Ami is undoubtedly the future of e-mobility, and it’s a very cute one at that.
Single electric motor, 5.5kWh Lithium-ion battery
|Torque||40Nm (29lb ft)|
Single-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
3 hours to 100 per cent with a 220V domestic plug
€6,000 in France, not on sale (yet) in the UK
Reviewed by Laura Thomson