SLICK IN THE CITY
Really small cars are growing in popularity right at present. Motoring Correspondent Jonathan Crouch looks at three of the most interesting new arrivals
Size matters – or does it? Increasingly, urban-based buyers are looking for smaller and smaller options in their search for appealing town transport. Here, we’re going to look at a new spin on a conventional citycar choice. And two further fresh arrivals that claim to offer something just that little bit different.
New Skoda Citigo
Skoda's first stab at citycar motoring has proved to be an impressive one, this Citigo borrowing Volkswagen technology and blending it with the value we expect from this growing Czech brand. This improved version has smartened up its act and those in search of a beautifully conceived, affordable and impressively space and fuel-efficient urban runabout will need to consider it.
So what's different with this revised model? Well, the front section has been subtly revised, so there's a new bonnet, a redesigned radiator grille, modified bumpers and updated fog lights, all aiming to create a fresher, younger look. The interior has also been upgraded with a smarter instrument cluster and redesigned seats. There are also a range of new radio and media connectivity options. Otherwise, things are much as before, with the tardis-like interior just as big as that of Skoda's far pricier and apparently much bigger Fabia supermini.
Under the bonnet, things are much as before, so there are 60 and 75PS versions of the same 1.0-litre three cylinder engine, with the option of ASG auto transmission if you want it. This Skoda simply has to be super-affordable to run. It is. Thanks in part to a low kerb weight of only around 850kg, even the least efficient entry-level 60PS models will return a combined fuel economy figure of 64.2mpg, with emissions pegged at 101g/km.
And in summary? Well some citycars sell on cute and cuddly virtues. This isn't one of them. Here instead, the urban runabout has grown up, become mature, got itself properly sorted. True, there are feistier citycars you could consider: maybe more charismatic ones too. But none that better deliver on the promise of two words that sum this Citigo up. Simply clever.
New Fiat Panda City Cross
Although it could be accused of being all show and no go, the front-wheel drive Fiat Panda City Cross is too likeable to damn with such a verdict. In fact, it emerges as something surprisingly appealing.
The Panda 4x4 looks of this City Cross model suggest that light off road prowess is possible. A glance at the still-restricted ride height though, confirms that this is very definitely not the case. Still, if looks are everything, then this variant will certainly stand out on the school run. Power comes from the brand's familiar 1.2-litre 69bhp petrol unit and it goes to the front wheels only. Rest to 62mph occupies 14.5s en route to an academic 96mph maximum. The 8v 1.2-litre petrol engine being used here is one of Fiat's oldest units. Hence the very unremarkable efficiency figures - 51.4mpg on the combined cycle and 129g/km of CO2.
The Panda City Cross certainly looks the part, although you'd have to give it a bit of a forensic examination to distinguish it from the full-fat 4x4 Cross variant. This model comes with body-coloured front and rear bumper inserts and side mouldings, plus contrasting black for the door mirror caps, roof bars and door handles. Completing the off-road look are the same 15-inch alloy wheels that can be found on the Panda Cross. Inside, the City Cross features a grey dashboard fascia with matt black instrument panel inserts and smarter seats, characterised by black and grey fabric with black eco-leather side inserts.
Otherwise, the design is much as it would be in any other Panda, based upon what Fiat's designers call 'a squarical' theme, rounded rectangles in vogue everywhere from the headlamps to the front air intake, from the wheelarches to that trademark extra third rearward side window.And in summary? Well, if you want a citycar with SUV attitude, the Panda City Cross might make sense, providing you get good deal and don't mind the old-tech engine beneath the bonnet.
New smart forfour electric drive
We're now well used to the idea of an all-electric smart fortwo. But what if you want all of that car's urban advantages but need more than two seats? That's where this forfour electric drive model comes in.
Around town, this smart's driving characteristics are agile and lively, aided by an ultra-small turning circle. And on the open road? Well how does the thought of 0-60 in 4.8 seconds grab you? Okay, it's 60km/h but, thanks to 160Nm of torque in something this light, it's still respectably quick. Thanks to an 81bhp power output, 0-62mph takes 11.5s on the way to 81mph flat out. It's certainly brisk enough to be able to sidestep the brake pedal and catapult the little forfour off the line. On the highway, you can theoretically reach an 81mph maximum, but this does rather chew the battery's range which, when driven a bit more sedately, can be eked out to up to 100 miles.
Once you've found the upfront list price of this car, the savings just keep coming. So there are no road tax charges to pay, no congestion charges, no bridge tolls, very low maintenance costs, tiny company car tax levies and only the cost of your electricity to pay, variable of course based on your supplier and the time of day you charge.
This model has a new, powerful on-board charger as standard, which has made possible a quick charging time of just 2.5 hours. With the "smart control" app, the charging process can be conveniently monitored remotely, the app also including many more functions such as intelligent charging. A particularly powerful 22 kW fast charger is available as an option. This enables the car to be charged in as little as 45 minutes.