As a result it has a character stronger than any other small car since Citroen’s own 2CV or the classic Mini. And as small as this plastic tub of a car may be, Citroen has big plans for it and expects it to redefine urban mobility.
It’s already on sale in France and from next spring also in Germany, the Ami is to become the best friend of the novice drivers, who are allowed to take the wheel at 14 or 16 years old, depending on the local laws. It is intended to lure older customers with sharing services and mobile phone-like subscriptions to motivate them to switch from two wheels, or even off public transport and taxis. There’s no news on whether it will come to the UK yet, as Citroen executives are keeping a close eye on the likely demand. However, expect some enterprising individuals to import privately if it doesn't get the official okay.
Citroen is not only relying on a low basic price, but also on unconventional sales methods: rather than go to a showroom the Ami is available in the department store, supermarket and on the Internet. It is delivered free to your house as if it were from Amazon, and those who shy away from the big investments can also lease the little car. In France at least, the car is already available for less than £20 a month – cheaper than most mobile phone or Sky subscriptions.
The shape and format are unconventional too. It measures just 2.41 metres in length and 1.39 metres wide, making it even smaller than a Smart by a fair chunk. It weighs just 500 kilos even with a battery – almost identical to the classic 2CV and less than a quarter of the weight of an electric car like the Polestar 2.
In addition, with its turning circle of 7.2 meters, it even makes the Smart Fortwo look cumbersome. To help in tight spots even more there are asymmetrical doors, which open in opposite directions on the driver's and passenger sides, folding windows like the 2CV and an interior which could have come from the Lego catalogue. This building block principle is taken literally, because the option packages include shelves, pocket hooks, doormats or decorative strips which can be delivered to your home and added by the owner.
As you might expect for a car which has more in common with a toy than a tourer, this isn’t a car which is designed for big journeys. Like the Renault Twizy it is designed for ‘micro-mobility’ and driving in towns. Because it’s designed for the ‘moped’ driving licence class it is restricted in speed to just 45 km/h – less than 30mph. That helps the tiny battery (5.5 kWh) stretch to 70 kilometers (44 miles) between charges. It plugs in at a normal household socket, and only takes three hours to be fully operational again.
Admittedly, the Ami looks much smarter than the Smart in many respects. But the Frenchie can't quite compete with a real car. The top speed of 45 km/h means you might require some bravery pills, when the driver behind puts pressure on and even a small car suddenly looks as threatening as a truck.
But it also restricts the route selection and blocks the Ami's path to the motorway for example. Moreover, you don’t get the expected silence of an electric car, as this small box rumbles over the Tarmac of cities without any insulation being able to swallow the sound. The board-hard seats don’t help either, as you feel every bump.
The advantage of the tiny turning circle is limited a little by the lack of power steering, and the colourful décor and the tongue-in-cheek design can’t disguise the extremely cheap choice of materials. Oh, and a rear-view mirror wouldn't hurt either.
Although all this does not reduce the fun though, especially when parking. Where you’d have to search for a parking space even with a Smart, you still somehow always find a suitable gap with the Ami.
So the Ami is a good friend to have in the city, and is certainly better than the bus for a teenager. As it will do 55 miles on a pound’s worth of electricity it is probably cheaper than walking too. It also makes more sense than Renault’s Twizy in all but the warmest climates. But this is not a car you’d want – or be able – to use as your only car. Could it work in the UK? It would certainly make sense for cities where speeds never get much above 30mph. And it would be better (drier) than a bike or moped for teenagers. Is it worth the investment? At £20 a month, you’ll not have much to lose.