Depending on your point of view, the 2021 Citroën Ami is either a deeply pragmatic take on personal mobility or an idea for a car that should be thrown into the sixth circle of Hell. Whatever your take, this much is clear: The Ami is one of the quirkiest vehicles ever from an automaker whose historical portfolio overflows with quirky vehicles.
A quick aside about that term “vehicle”: Even Citroën doesn’t call the Ami a car. The company describes the Ami as an electric-powered “light quadricycle.” It’s an accurate description. The Ami weighs just 1,069 pounds and is powered by an 8-hp e-motor that drives the front wheels. It is not a modern interpretation of the snail-shaped 2CV, the brilliantly utilitarian, two-cylinder Citroën that put France back on wheels after World War II. But in many ways, the tiny Ami takes a similarly elemental approach to automobility.
It also takes a tiny approach. Measuring just 95.0 inches long and 55.0 inches wide, the Ami is golf-cart-esque. Four Amis, running two-by-two, would take up little more road space than a single Chevy Suburban. The very physicality of the Ami makes its mission statement crystal clear: This is not a vehicle for the wide-open spaces of Wyoming, but for the narrow and traffic-choked streets of European cities and towns.
The Ami’s top speed is 28 mph. It sounds laughable, but in a city like central London, where traffic speeds struggle to average 7 mph on a good day, and most roads are speed limited to 20 or 30 mph, the Citroën’s fast enough. More important, the instant-on torque from the e-motor means the little Citroën has little trouble scooting away from the lights with the rest of the traffic. Because it’s so light, it stops on a dime, helped by tiny disc brakes up front. The rear brakes are drums.
A 5.5-kWh battery under the floor can be fully recharged in three hours from a household socket via a cable that pulls out from the passenger door jamb. This pack gives the Ami a range of 43 miles, which is more than enough for the slow urban journeys it’s designed for. And, in truth, that’s probably about as far as you’d want to drive the Ami in a single stint.
The little electric drive motor whirrs noisily, and the short wheelbase and narrow track mean the Citroën pitches and rocks over uneven road surfaces, though there’s enough compliance in the suspension and Czech-made 155/65 R14 Barum Brillantis tires to take the edge off the impacts. At 3.9 turns lock-to-lock, the steering is geared for slower responses to reduce the likelihood of the 59.8-inch-tall Ami tipping over if cornered enthusiastically. The turning circle is just 23.6 feet.
The Ami is a two-seater, and unlike the Renault Twizy—a sportier 17-hp electric quadricycle from Citroën’s rival with tandem-style dual seats like in a fighter jet—your passenger rides alongside. (A cargo version without a passenger seat now exists, too.) The driver’s the only one who gets an adjustable seat—the passenger seat is set back in the cabin to allow room in the footwell for bags—and both seats are simply single-piece molded plastic items with padding on top.
You settle in behind a car-sized steering wheel and twist a car-sized key. A tiny LCD screen mounted atop the steering column lights up to show speed, battery charge level, and remaining range. There’s an old-school e-brake between the seats, and the D-N-R drive selector is in a pod on the left side of the seat base. Another pod extending to the right of the steering wheel has just three buttons—window de-mist, fan, and hazard lights—and a USB port for your phone, which can be secured in a clamp on top of the pod so you can use its nav and other functions.
Because the Ami is basically a box on wheels, it’s a relatively long way from the steering wheel to the base of the windshield. The cabin is light and airy, courtesy of the large windows and standard fixed glass roof panel; fully 50 percent of the car’s surface area above the beltline is glazed. The top of the dash has indents that can be filled with various configurable storage hardware, including a cupholder. There also is a cupholder just behind the instrument screen and a large hook on the dash in front of the passenger seat from which a purse can be safely hung.
Plenty of storage room is carved out of the door panels, not the least because the side windows don’t slide up and down. Rather, as in the original 2CV, the bottom half of the side glass simply hinges upward and can be secured open if you want cooling air. There are no door handles, either; you open and close the doors using nylon straps, “just like in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS” Citroën’s PR person deadpanned. Yes, just like in that fire-breathing, track-destroying sports car.
Ah yes, the doors. The left side door is hinged at the rear, while the right door is hinged at the front. That’s because both doors are identical. In fact, when you walk around the Ami you realize that, including the doors, the bodywork comprises just four unique panels, all rendered in self-colored plastic and attached to a light steel frame. Only the curvature of the roof, and the different backlight, enables you to tell the front of the Ami from the back. It’s a clever piece of industrial design, form driven by a desire to deliver maximum function at minimum cost.
Yep, the Citroën Ami, which is built in Morocco, is designed to be cheap. And cheap it is, retailing for the equivalent of about $7,000 in France, where it can be legally driven on the road by 14-year-olds who have passed a road safety certificate course. Or, after a down payment equivalent to about $4,100, it can be leased over 48 months for about $23 a month. And Free2Move, the mobility company set up by PSA before it merged with FCA to become Stellantis, allows Amis to be rented in Paris for as little as 30 cents a minute.
Free2Move hinted earlier this year it was considering bringing the Ami to the U.S. for use as a ride-share vehicle in Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon, but has said nothing official. Meanwhile, Citroën has just confirmed the Ami will go on sale in the United Kingdom next spring. About 9,000 Amis have been sold in Europe since the little Citroën’s launch last year—6,500 of them are in France and 2,000 in Italy.
There’s a quirky appeal to the Citroën Ami, a boxy, industrial-chic cuteness that leaves folks smiling as you whirr past them down a busy street. And in cities whose narrow streetscapes predate the bulky, noisy, smelly automobile by centuries, it’s a robustly practical little device, quiet and clean, easy to maneuver and park, and indifferent to the inevitable scuffs and scratches that are the result of ultra-close proximity to stone walls and locals who park by ear or feel rather than sight.
It is, therefore, the Citroën of quadricycles, arguably the most imaginative vehicle in a long time from an automaker whose imagination once knew no bounds.
Source: Read Full Article