Too much like the old one; too similar to the rest; too reliable, even: hackneyed they may be, but there’s many a line about modern cars being too damn similar to have any character.
Well, Citroën is clearly rebelling.
While the Ami’s name will invoke memories of an old (sorry) friend, there are few similarities beyond the wilfully different approach to answering one of the challenges in life you might have thought had been solved long ago: broadly how to get from At o B, but mores pecifically how to do so in the city.
In fact the Ami is not a car but a quadricycle, which puts it in the company of some rivals of rather dubious sales credentials, from the G-Wiz and Aixam Crossover to the Renault Twizy.
That means it can be built to less stringent crash regulations – and therefore, if it goes on sale in the UK (which is still being decided), sold at a comparatively bargain price of around £6000, or with a £2500 deposit and £20 a week thereafter.
Or even for 25p a minute, hired like a ‘Boris Bike’.
What you get is inevitably basic – a top speed of 28mph; 8bhp of power and 29lb ft of torque; an electric range of 43 miles; pull-cords for door releases; and body panels that swap back to front and side to side (hence the rear-hinged driver’s door) – but, for even the most frozen of cold-hearted souls, utterly charming.
As one passer-by shrewdly noted, it is a real-life Duplo car.
Strictly a two-seater, it is roomy despite its modest dimensions and with enough luggage space for shopping bags in front of the passenger’s feet thanks to the battery pack sitting flat to the floor.
The turning circle is remarkably small, the steering direct, and it doesn’t struggle to keep up with city traffic.
The limited top speed is perhaps a fraction too limited: fine in the increasingly prevalent 20mph zones, but few appreciate that you are doing your best when you sit flat-out a couple of mph below a 30mph limit.
Bright colours break up the muted matt swathes of moulded plastic, with cartoonish chunky switchgear inside and just enough flourishes to make Terence Conran proud – from the storage areas to the on-board charge cable feeding into a recess by the passenger door.
It is greater than the sum of its parts.
That it is surprisingly spacious and agile lends you an unusual sense of freedom on roads that are normally chokingly frustrating.
That it looks so unconventional makes every trip an event and – let’s be honest – that it is so just-so, running on electric power, taking up no more room than it needs to, gives your halo a shine every time you turn the key and lower the handbrake (rejoice, it’s not a button).
It’s a niche car for a niche but, while it may well ultimately struggle for sales allure, it’ll never be short of admirers.
Images: Olgun Kordal
- Engine electric motor, 5.5kWh lithium-ion battery; 8bhp; 29lb ft
- Transmission single-speed auto, FWD
- 0-62mph n/a
- Top speed 28mph
- Range 43 miles
- Price £6000 (est)