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The future of urban mobility?

Discover EV get the chance to drive Citroën’s Ami, designed as a response to customer behaviours and the challenges of energy transitions in cities.

What is it?

Inspired by the AMI ONE Concept revealed at the Geneva Motor Show last year, the Citroën Ami is classed as a light quadracycle (or ‘object’ as it’s commonly referred to in all of the press materials) rather than a car and is 100 per cent electric with a range of up to 43 miles. It’s designed to be a practical and zero emission solution for urban mobility, and depending on the country it doesn’t require a driving licence, so in France for example you can be as young as 14 years of age, but its 16 on average in other European countries, depending on legislation.

Can I buy one now?

At present the Ami is only available as part of Free2Move’s car sharing fleet in Paris from €0.26/min (subject to a monthly subscription of €9.90 with no commitment) or via long-term rental from €19.99 per month (with an initial payment of €2644 with an ecological bonus of €900 deducted in France and over 48 months).

While the cost of car sharing is comparable or even lower than the majority of moped, standard car-sharing and even scooter offers in France, renting the Ami is cheaper than many mobile telephone packages!

Alternatively you can purchase it from €6000 which if it were a car would make it the cheapest on the market, but it’s not. AMI has so far received around 2000 orders in France. Other European countries that will be able to benefit from Citroën’s affordable electric mobility solution in the first half of 2021 will include Italy, Spain and Portugal.

From a UK perspective, Citroën has recently launched a ‘Register Your Interest’ form for Ami with a view to gauging interest levels from the public, and to assess whether they should bring it over here. So far they’ve had around 1250 people express interest.

Interestingly, the brand has moved away from its usual distribution method – in that one can acquire the Ami, integrating all stages of the customer journey from configuration to home delivery all online. With the car buying journey changing thanks to coronavirus forcing manufacturers to implement several changes (some not even involving a dealership), Citroën are certainly one step ahead in moving these processes online.

Will it be available in right-hand drive?

Sadly not due to the costs involved in converting it, however being so compact (2.41m long, 1.39m wide and 1.52m high) it doesn’t pose much of a problem. That may put off buyers but due to the size of the car, the difference between having the steering wheel on the left or the right is probably only about eight inches, so it’s not a huge disadvantage. Indeed, our test drives were conducted from PSA’s headquarters and upon re-entry we had to press an intercom button to connect with security. Rather than having to get out and walk around the Ami all I had to do was lean over the passenger seat (yep, unlike the Twizy, there’s room for two people, and it has two doors)!

So you drove it then? What was it like?

As part of the "final assessments" ahead of offering it for sale in the UK, Citroën invited media to test and evaluate the Ami. The first thing we were told by the Head of Communications was don’t think of it as a car – and he was right. When you approach it with a different mindset – i.e. this is an ‘object’ to run multiple short errands in the city – then it’s perfect. It’s a great alternative to public transport (especially during a pandemic!) and with a closed and heated interior it offers a greater level of protection and comfort compared to a bicycle or scooter.

It’s dead easy to drive - turn the key, select D from the three buttons to the left of your seat, release the handbrake and press the accelerator. A teenager could do it, and indeed do in some countries! Performance is not exactly exhilarating with the electric motor offering just 8hp, with which it reaches a top speed of 28mph, but you move off with a surprising kick and it’s more than adequate for what it’s built to do.

It is strange in that you’re the same level as other vehicles around you, and like a car there is a (albeit simple) instrument panel display on the steering column (showing speed, battery level and kilometres remaining before the next charge) as well as a main dashboard screen (albeit via your smartphone when you have network coverage that is!), yet we still felt vulnerable when driving in the suburbs of Coventry, where the speed limit was 40mph.

That said in a city like Paris or London where speed limits are restricted by law to 30mph or 20mph or you're travelling slower than that due to the sheer volume of traffic, this would be irrelevant – and it’s also when being 100 per cent electric works hugely in its favour with a smooth clutch-less ride and instant acceleration.

The ride is rather firm, but it is very agile, making it perfect for zipping in and out of traffic or weaving though tiny inner-city streets. With a turning diameter or just 7.20m it’s easy to park too, despite the fact there’s no rear view mirror. With large areas of glass – the windscreen, side windows and rear window (which is literally just behind your head) and standard panoramic roof accounting for 50 per cent of the Ami’s total surface – you have a very wide field of view.

Boasting four wheels on a proper chassis, it’s more stable than a two or three-wheeled vehicle, too, although it did get a little twitchy on a large roundabout at almost top speed in the wet. Suffice to say, I didn’t make that mistake again!

The downsides… It’s not the quietest modes of transport with a symphony of road and wind noise and a whine from the electric motor that then steps up a notch when you turn on the rudimentary heater. Combined with the fact there’s a complete lack of cooling and the seat is very hard (why not offer seat cushions in your Ami-inspired collection of accessories Citroën, probably more useful than your unisex canvas tennis shoes) it’s not something you want to spend a huge amount of time in.  Make no mistake though, this is Citroën as its best – unconventional, fun (it will put a smile on your face) and delivers on what it’s intended to be.

Form, function and style

Citroën have taken an intelligent and economic approach through its symmetrical parts. These include fully identical doors on the right and left, resulting in different opening directions, (rear-hinged on the driver’s side for better access and conventional on the passenger side); front and rear ends with repeated components assembled in an inverted manner (plate on the upper part of the front and the lower part of the rear); bumpers (partly concealed on the front and open on the rear to display the registration plate); wings and rocker panels.

It’s rather like a Tardis, in that its interior space belies its small footprint. The layout of the two seats is such that each occupant has plenty of shoulder width, leg and headroom. The driver's seat slides backwards and forwards while the passenger seat is fixed and every other bit of space is utilised to the max. There’s a storage recess ahead of the passenger's feet, which can take a cabin-sized suitcase and a handbag, and while it doesn’t have a boot there is another storage area behind both seats, and there’s also door pockets.

Despite the fact the cabin is utilitarian and devoid of plush materials, this thing is eye-catching from the outside – and what with it being an alien concept on the road, we lost count of the number of heads it turned. Do you remember that episode in Top Gear where Jeremy, Richard and James built their own electric car and then drove it on the streets of Oxford? I kind of felt what it were like to be in their shoes, except for the fact this was so much more sophisticated (no TVR chassis or milk float batteries here)!

Despite its minimalist body shape, the Ami manages to carve out its own distinct character with some non-conformist details such as the two-tier light signature front and rear, and the rounded, manually adjustable exterior mirrors inspired by furniture. Some are also typical Citroën like the almost vertical windscreen and side windows, which open by tilting the glass upwards, harping back to the 2CV.

Further accentuated by its customisation possibilities

With seven different customisation possibilities we see its range of accessories being popular with the kids. The kits incorporate functional yet decorative items such as a central separation and door storage nets, mats, storage tray on the top of the dashboard, hook for a handbag, smartphone clip and a DAT@MI box. What’s that I hear you ask? It’s a dongle device that connects to the MyCitroën app to access essential information via your smartphone, such as range, charge status and time remaining for a 100 per cent charge, mileage, maintenance alerts and aftersales appointment scheduling. It is even easy to locate nearby public charging stations, a feature offered by Free2Move Services. You can also buy an Ami Bluetooth speaker which boasts 15 hours of battery life and fits in a dedicated space on the dashboard.

Outside one can add touches of colour via with a choice of wheel trims, quarter-panel and roof stickers, or Airbump inserts for the bottom of the doors, in keeping with the current Citroën range. It comes in a choice of four colours (grey, blue, orange and khaki) and if you’re looking for a two tone effect all of the aforementioned decor elements are available as two packs: MY AMI POP in orange, which also includes a rear spoiler and MY AMI VIBE with black roof bars, wheel arch extensions and various bits of trim, together with two large grey door decals.

Micro mobility for everyone, then?

In a nutshell yes. Whether you’re commuting to work, running an errand or going out for the evening, the Ami has a range that Citroën say is far greater than the average travelled by people living in urban areas, as well as those on the outskirts. And based on the pricing for France it’s a very cost-effective way of revolutionising urban mobility.

Its 5.5 kWh lithium-ion battery is recharged via the on-board electric cable located in the passenger-side doorway and takes just three hours for a full charge on a conventional 220 V socket. It can also be recharged at a public terminal or wall box using a suitable cable that in France cost €219.

The Ami rewrites the rulebook with its approach to design, and while it’s a product rather than a vehicle, we think it will play a key part in driving the automotive world forward.  A lot of young people nowadays are not really interested in cars, but they obviously still like and need mobility in cities, and this is the perfect solution. In fact, it also meets the needs of older couples who already have a main vehicle, or business people.

Is it too ahead of its time, or is it just like the 2CV – a cheap, utilitarian model to make motoring affordable to the masses? We put our money on the latter.

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