The Citroen C1 and the 7 hour road trip

Everyone’s talking about downsizing it seems these days. Smaller cars with smaller engine and so on.

It’s a cultural change. We’re used to having the car we want because we can. My father in law always bought diesel cars. He did very low miles but had always had diesels because he wanted one. There are plenty like him, buying 4×4’s or just simply bigger cars than are strictly necessary because we like nice things.

Back in the day, city cars were pretty terrible things. They certainly weren’t considered a viable alternative to a saloon or a bigger car. Take one of them on the motorway and you’d be taking your life in your hands. Made of paper and cardboard it seemed with little in the way of crash protection.

Time moves on and the pace of change is startling. City cars are a long way from where they started. Which prompted us to do a little experiment.

Can you take a modern city car on our busy motorways and not get blown into the weeds by the exhaust of a passing truck?

There’s only one way to find out. Road trip!

The car we chose was Citroen’s C1. Tiny but still finds room for 4 doors, a glass tailgate and some boot space. Ours was a Flair edition so had funky alloy wheels, air conditioning, electric windows with the rear windows dark tinted, sat nav, bluetooth 7″ touch drive interface with mirror screen and a revvy little Puretech 1.2L 3 cylinder turbocharged engine.

This engine was awarded the engine of the year at the International Engine of the Year Awards in 2016 and again in 2017

Our C1 also had a reversing camera, Height-adjustable driver’s seat, speed limiter (a bit like cruise control), Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) and scored 4 stars in the euro ncap test, which is impressive for a car in this sector.

It’s a lovely little car, comfy seats and the engine sounds great. It has a distinctive 3 cylinder growl that reminds me of the Daihatsu gtti pocket rocket from years ago.

The plan was simple, if a little stupid. A road trip from Northampton to Middlesbrough and back… a day. Roughly 400 miles and around 7 hours driving time!

The little C1 performed without fault. There were no issues at all. Not one.

It sat on the legal speed limit on the few bits of motorway not currently covered in roadworks and 50mph average speed cameras. I expect it would even sit happily above the legal limit but I wouldn’t know anything about that. It wasn’t intimidating and it wasn’t a struggle to keep up.

When you’re behind the wheel, you kind of forget you’re in a little car, It’s quite deceptive.

Other people seemed to have more of a problem with it than I did.

Cruising along at motorway speeds, plenty of other motorist just couldn’t accept sitting behind it and had to pass. Usually, they would slow down again within a mile. I presume it was a testosterone based reaction to a little car on a motorway, who knows but it was funny to see.

The experience is a bit like going on a caravan holiday. For that week, you only have what you can fit in the caravan. You travel light, leave unnecessary clutter at home. The C1 is similar. You don’t pile all of your worldly possessions into it, you take what you need.

Our Citroen C1 was great around town and took us on a 7 hour road trip without so much as an aching back.

Granted, if you do high miles and drive all over the country, maybe the C1 is too much of a jump……but there’s the C3.

We should all take a look at our relationship with our cars. Do we really need a 4×4 or a big diesel saloon or whatever we drive? Could we be more frugal, dare I say green? Think of the money we could save. A C1 starts at around £8400 which is less than half the price of a new Ford Focus and around a quarter of the price of a BMW X3. That’s a lot of holiday spending money.

For that, you could hire something bigger from time to time if you needed it and still save shed loads of money.


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