The Citroen Ami must be one of the most attention-grabbing and talked about vehicles to hit the road this year. I’ve done the school run in everything from a lurid green Lamborghini to a Rolls-Royce the size of a house but I’m not sure anything has drawn quite as much attention as this tiny EV.
As well as grabbing attention it polarises opinions - from EV fans who are fully on board with Citroen’s vision of 21st century urban mobility to kids who love its look-at-me cute appearance and devoted petrolheads who just don’t see the point.
Whatever people think of it, it’s vital to emphasise that the Ami is not a car. Technically, it’s a quadricycle. In its homeland of France, that means drivers as young as 14 can get behind the wheel but in the UK you’ll still need a full driver’s licence to operate one. At 2.4 metres long by 1.4 wide it’s absolutely tiny - 30cm shorter and 20cm narrower than the famously compact Smart car - and designed for use in crowded towns and cities.
Citroen is pitching the plastic-bodied Ami as an urban personal transport solution - a more robust, weatherproof and practical alternative to a bicycle, moped or e-scooter that offers an environmentally friendly means of getting around. On a damp November day it’s definitely a more welcoming option than a moped, offering a drier and warmer mode of transport. It’s also a lot more versatile, with a surprising amount of space for a passenger and luggage.
The counterpoint to that argument is that it can’t fit through gaps in traffic like a motorbike and is only marginally more comfortable - the seats are thinly padded plastic (think posh school chairs), the heater is really just there to clear the windscreen, and the windows fold up from the centre rather than winding up.
That touch is a nostalgic nod to the old 2CV but also an indicator of Citroen’s vision of the Ami as a successor to that car. Like the 2CV it’s meant to be an affordable tool for mass mobility. So those windows are cheaper to make thanks to the lack of winding mechanism, and lighter, too. But that’s just the start. The doors are hinged at opposite ends so the factory doesn’t have to machine two different panels, the front and rear panels are identical, there’s no right-hand-drive conversion, all in the name of simplicity, cost and weight saving.
The instruments are a single display showing battery status, speed and gear, and a single stalk controls indicators and wipers. The LED lights are permanently on and since this is exclusively a city car, there’s no high beam. If you want entertainment, you can specify a phone dock and USB port but you’ll need to crank up your phone’s volume because there are no speakers.
Despite that, the Ami is surprisingly practical. There are three configurable storage spaces in the dash top, deep netted bins that run the length of the doors, a dedicated bag space in the passenger footwell, plus a bag hook on the dashboard and a thin storage space behind the seats. Neatest of all, the charging cable is built into the driver’s side door jamb for easy storage and access. For businesses, there’s even the Ami Cargo, which replaces the passenger seat with a flexible storage unit incorporating a desk into its top, a modular cargo floor and a lidded box in the rear.
The Ami’s driving experience is certainly that - an experience, but one you quickly adapt to. Jumping from a “proper” car into the Ami feels like climbing aboard the lovechild of a golf buggy and a greenhouse. You’re aware of the thin plastic bodywork wrapped closely around you as well as the generous expanse of glass ahead, beside, behind and above you that provides excellent all-round visibility. Get moving and the golf buggy impressions hang around as the tiny 6kW (8bhp) motor whirrs into action and you get used to the weight of the unassisted steering. But spend a day or two tooling around town and you become accustomed to the light weight and low power and settle into a rhythm with the Ami that largely involves driving everywhere with your foot flat to the floor, taking advantage of its tiny turning circle and ability to park almost anywhere.
The 28mph top speed and 46-mile range reaffirms that this truly is an urban transport “solution”, not a go-anywhere car but as more and more towns and cities impose 20mph speed limits such limitations are of little relevance. And although this pocket sized motor does feel dwarfed by buses and 4x4s, you feel far less vulnerable than on a bike, motorised or otherwise. You’re also less able to nip into gaps between other vehicles but that’s the price you pay for having four wheels and bodywork to keep you drier and safer.
There are a couple of ownership options. If you’re feeling old-fashioned you can stump up around £8,000 in cash and own one outright or, alternatively, a £2,369 down payment on a Citroen PCP package allows you to lease a basic Ami for just £19.99 per month. That’s a “car” for less than a phone contract - just remember you’ll have to hand it back after two years or stump up a healthy balloon payment.
It’s an interesting approach but, like so much with the Ami, one that seems likely to suit businesses more than private buyers. From a private buyer’s position, the problem is that for its cash price in the UK you can get a second-hand Kia Picanto with air con, a stereo, airbags and three years’ manufacturer warranty still to run. On the flip side of that argument, the Ami is markedly smaller and is the cheapest zero-emission option as councils increasingly try to force petrol and diesel out of city centres entirely.
The £19.99 package also lumbers you with the entry-spec Ami. Opt for another deal and you can add colour packs or select the My Ami Pop or Tonic trims. The colour packs mostly amount to a range of colourful accessories for you to fit at home including external stickers, wheel trims and dashboard storage, plus a phone cradle. Pop and Tonic bring roof rails, factory fit exterior styling packs and unique interior colour packages. You can also add the My Ami Play app and “Citroen Switch” which features a stick-on Bluetooth controller and app to create a basic infotainment system on your phone.
As charming as I found the Ami, it feels more suited as a business vehicle than a real urban transport solution for individuals. In the way that Minis became the go-to eye-catching car for businesses, I can see fleets of Amis running around the UK’s zero-emissions zone bearing the liveries of everything from estate agents to artisan bakeries. It seems like a brilliant solution for businesses that need city-friendly transport for staff or goods and want to stand out.
For private buyers, I’m not so convinced. The Ami is unique, charming and fun to potter around in. However, it’s not particularly cheap and its useability is more limited than traditional city cars without offering the same traffic-beating compactness of a bike, motorised or otherwise.
Citroen Ami Grey
Price: £8,095; Motor: Single 6kW electric motor; Battery: 5.5kWh; Power: 8bhp; Torque: 31lb ft; Transmission: Single-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive; Top speed: 28mph; 0-28mph: 10 seconds; Range: 46.6 miles ;Consumption: 8.5m/kWh; Charging: 3kW