Mellow in yellow?

Mellow in yellow? – Launch report: Citroen C2

Natalie Wallis

If you were to look for the antithesis of company car drivers, it would have to be those boy–and girl–racers devoted to the pastime of modifying their cars. In the world of the ‘modder’, it’s not the size of your saloon that counts but instead how big your subs (speakers), foggies (foglights) or spoilers are. Mention mpg, C[O.sub.2] emissions or residual values and you’ll set off an avalanche of laughter.

Recognising the former Saxo’s popularity within this market–which has led to Citroen boasting the youngest and largest percentage of retail buyers than any other manufacturer–the marque has launched its Saxo replacement, the C2, with modders’ needs specifically in mind.

Yet, the C[O.sub.2] should not be written off as being for boy racers only but viewed as a highly cool, well designed and versatile car from straight off the line.

The exterior is a good case in point. Whereas the Saxo’s cute but understated looks needed a little help to be truly cool, the C[O.sub.2] is there already, especially with the introduction of the Furio and VTR which add a mesh air intake, projector-style foglights and rear spoiler–saving a lot of hassle for modders!

It’s the C[O.sub.2]’s interior, however, that is the icing on the cake, with its lurid colour schemes for upholstery and finishes. All materials feel of reasonable quality as does the tit and finish.

Also innovative is the C2’s rear. Included on various trim levels are two individual seats which slide forwards and back to maximise legroom or boot space, They can also be jack-knifed up against the front seats to provide more room. The two-piece tailgate, which comes as standard, also enhances versatility.

Five trim levels are offered. All models feature four airbags, variable-assisted power steering and remote locking, Also available are climate control, rear parking sensor, cruise control, heated leather seats, six airbags, ABS and ESP.

Engines comprise a 1.4HDi and 1.1i, 1.4i and 1.6i petrols. The 1.1i was not available at the launch but I tested the other three and found them to be highly capable engines. The 1.4i and 1.6i 16V both offered spirited performance although I actually preferred the nippy 1.4i which had plenty of torque and power. In addition, I found that the 1.6, with its low ratios, was geared a little too low and sounded in need of a higher gear from around 60mph–although this may appeal to the target market!

One thing that may not go down so well is the SensoDrive five-speed automated gearbox which comes as standard on the 1.4 and 1.6 in the UK. Although it functioned perfectly adequately and is an unusual addition to a car of this segment, the automated mode was a little slow at reacting and clunky on both up and down gearchanges.

I stuck to the clutchless manual mode–via the gearstick or the steering wheel paddles–which, despite still being hesitant, was far smoother. Citroen has said that, given sufficient demand, it would be prepared to launch manual versions and I can see this happening.

For me, the pick of the engines was the 1.4 HDi, which was extremely versatile with plenty of low-down torque as well as a good spread of power. Although this was not the quietest of diesels, a price tag 300 [pounds sterling] less than the 1.4i SensoDrive SX, a similar 0-62 time and top speed, and 69mpg combined consumption make this the really sensible buy.

Gut instincts say that the C2 will sell in droves. By having stuck to what it does best, Citroen has come up trumps for the B-segment and for boy and girl racers. But why should they have all the fun?

DRIVER’S LOG

OTR PRICES: 7495 [pounds sterling] to 10,995 [pounds sterling]

ENGINES: Petrol: 1.1i, 1.4i and 1.6i 16V. Diesel: 1.4HDi

TRANSMISSIONS: 1.li and 1.4HDi: five speed manual

1.4i and 1.6i: six-speed

POWER: 1.4i: 75bhp @ 5400rpm. 1.4HDi: 70bhp @ 4000rpm

TORQUE: 1.4i: 118Nm @ 3300rpm. 1.4HDi: 150Nm @ 1750rpm

C[O. sub.2] RATINGS: 1.4: 146g/km 1. 4HDi. 108g/km

OFFICIAL COMBINED: 1.4: 47.9mpg. 1.4HDi:68.9mpg

INSURANCE GROUPS: 1E-6E

ON SALE: Now

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