You might be wondering what this strange little vehicle is. Part bug, part cable car gondola, it doesn’t look like anything else on the road today. And there’s a reason for that because, as yet, Citroen’s Ami hasn’t been brought to the UK.
You see, essentially it’s not a car – it’s a quadricycle. In France, they’re a common sight in the city, with firms such as Axiam producing tiny, small-engined models that are a hit with buyers in space-starved areas like Paris. On the continent there are a variety of ways to own an Ami – you can even rent one – and in France, people as young as 14 can get behind the wheel, providing a mode of transport for younger people.
But, as yet, it isn’t available on our shores. Citroen is currently testing the waters to see if the demand for the Ami is there. Technically if it did come to the UK, those aged 16 and above would be able to use it, while in cities it has the potential to provide a drier, more comfortable mode of rentable transport than a bike.
And it’ll have to stay in the city because it is by no means quick. It uses a 5.5kWh battery pack linked with a 6kW electric motor, giving around 47 miles of range and a dizzying top speed of just under 30mph. A vehicle for the motorway this isn’t.
To find out just what it’s like, Citroen has given us a quick go behind the wheel of the Ami. Approaching it, you realise just how utterly adorable it looks. Before you’ve even clambered aboard you feel like it should be given a name and a space by the fire on a cold day. It’s a tough thing not to love, that’s for sure. The outward structure is simple, without many of the complicated touches we see on ‘normal’ cars and when viewed from the side, you notice that it’s almost completely symmetrical.
You jump into the cabin via the suicide-hinged doors and find yourself enclosed in an area which is surprisingly airy, simply because there’s so much glass. Apart from that, there’s not an awful lot; you get controls for the blowers, hazard lights and heated rear screen and in terms of technology, that’s about it. There is a port to charge your phone and large cubby area up front for storing loose ends, but that’s about it. There aren’t even any door handles, just lengths of webbing material. The seats themselves are plastic and quite firm, while there’s some room for luggage in the passenger seat’s footwell. A tiny screen showcases your speed and range ahead of you, too.
Getting on the move couldn’t be simpler. There are three buttons to the side of the drivers’ seat – drive, neutral and reverse. Hit ‘D’, drop the handbrake and you’re off. The Ami pootles off merrily – it hardly zips off the line – while all of the road noise and traffic sounds are echoed through the uninsulated cabin. It’s not quiet and it’s not refined, but it’s a real experience.
Though the performance is hardly what you’d call breathtaking, you get up to that sub-30mph top speed soon enough. Though pacey enough for city streets, we did feel like a bit of a liability on a 40mph road. That said, those who passed us weren’t angry nor put out – it’s hard to be angry at the Ami.
The handling is heavy and direct, while the suspension merely feels like it’s keeping the car held together. It doesn’t isolate any of the bumps in the road. It just stops the wheels from falling off.
Its tiny proportions do mean that it’s a doddle to drive through small spaces and parking takes a moment’s thought. Perfect, then, for the heart of the city.
Plus, when you’re done with your journey and want to top-up, a full charge will take just three hours. Sure, the range isn’t by any means impressive, but for short hops across the city, it’ll prove to be more than enough.
Does the Ami have a place in the UK? Absolutely. We can’t see it taking off as a private purchase option, but as a rentable, hop-in-hop-out way of driving through town, it makes a great deal of sense. With zero emissions it won’t contribute to inner-city CO2 levels, while its compact size means it won’t take up much space. Particularly in the rain-soaked UK, the Ami will provide a great way of getting from A to B without getting wet.
As a new method of inner-city mobility, the Ami makes a strong case for itself. Let’s just hope that this adorable Citroen arrives in the UK soon.