Paris was a great place to unveil the little Citroen Ami quadricycle. It’s got streets packed with people, cars, mopeds, bicycles and e-scooters. The French capital is literally brimming over with inner city street detritus. It’s chaos out there. So is the pint-sized, all-electric Citroen Ami going to solve the problem or simply make matters worse?
Citroen’s idea is brilliant in principle. The French manufacturer is promising 100% ‘electric mobility accessible to all’ by the middle of this year. And, if you're in France then the most interesting aspect behind the Citroen Ami is that it can be driven by 14-year-olds without a driving licence. It’s cheap too, priced at just €6,000 (£5,239) if you want to buy one outright.
However, Citroen is being canny by producing a range of options that’ll allow you to drive the Ami one way or another. You can rent it from €19.99 (£17.50) per month, or thanks to Citroen’s car sharing offshoot Free2Move you can pay-as-you-go, for say an hour or more if you get bitten by the Citroen Ami bug. And, for peanuts, there’s a lot to like about the little battery-powered machine too.
We drove the prototype creation of the Ami last year and that featured some natty styling and lots of innovation, as you’d expect from Citroen. However, that version of the quadricycle was rather rough around the edges. By contrast, what we saw in Paris proved to be a revelation. While we didn't drive it this time we did get a passenger ride around the test track. Its appeal is infectious.
What’s to like? Well, it’s kind of cute with a body that’s made of sturdy plastic and four tiny 14-inch wheels at each corner. Inside it’s much bigger than you’d expect. Somehow, Citroen has managed to create something that seems larger on the inside than it is on the outside and with two seats. While refinements are thin on the ground—there’s no air-conditioning, for example, though there is a heater—the seating is comfortable enough if you’re doing a quick flit around town.
The styling pulls in all sorts of influences. There are folding split-in-the-middle windows on the doors, which is an idea straight from the 2CV but brought bang-up-to-date. Those doors by the way, open in opposite directions depending on which side you get in. It’s an unnecessary but great fun touch that highlights how much ingenuity has been put into the Ami.
As for performance then our spin around a sports arena was able to illustrate the zippiness of the Ami. The test driver even got his foot to the floor on the home straight, which revealed that the little Ami has a bit of vim beneath its plastic exterior. Okay, so the top speed is only 45km/h but that’s more than adequate for city stuff. More importantly, the Ami is super agile thanks to its shoebox length of 2.41 metres, skinny 1.39-metre width and low 1.52-metre height.
Crucially for a machine that’ll see most of its use on city streets there’s a turning circle of 7.20 metres. Citroen also flagged up how two Ami’s would be able to fill a parking space normally occupied by one car. The battery, meanwhile, can be charged in just 3 hours from a standard electrical socket. The Ami has a range of up to 70 kilometres (43.4 miles) and power gets delivered via a smooth clutchless stop-and-go process using a brace of pedals.
Citroen designers have done an excellent job at shoehorning the 5.5kWh lithium-ion battery into the floor of the Ami. On a practical note there’s a charging cable housed in the passenger-side doorway. Citroen has also been inventive on the styling front as there are a range of 6 coloured accessory packs that can be purchased online and allow you to personalise your Ami. We couldn't help but think that the Ami’s smooth plastic exterior looked ripe for a vinyl wrap too.
Producing this quadricycle’s body panels from plastic seems to have been prudent given the fact that the Ami will see a lot of use as a ride-sharing machine. The front and rear bumpers are actually identical, while other panels can be easily replaced if they get the odd ding or two during city life. Whether or not the resilience of the Ami will be enough to fend off the worst effects of having a 14-year-old behind the wheel remains to be seen.
Still, in-between playing bumper cars with their Ami (rented, owned or otherwise) they’ll also be happy to know there’s an area to the right of the steering wheel that can safely house a smartphone. The do-it-yourself appeal might strike a chord too, as alongside the options for customising Ami owners can further accessorize with a DAT@MI box. This, promises Citroen, is a dongle that can be connected to the My Citroen app installed on a handset.
We had to ask the assembled Citroen executives about the appeal of the Ami. Sure, it’ll be handy for anyone and everyone who needs to get around clogged-up city centres. Unlike scooters, mopeds and bicycles you’re inside and out of the elements. There’s room for a passenger, and your shopping too. More importantly, the Citroen bods were keen to underline that driving an Ami would offer more protection than something like a scooter. Fair comment.
Currently there’s not much else like the Citroen Ami and that, depending on how it goes, could be very good news for the French manufacturer. Unfortunately, the little battery on wheels project will not be available in the UK for now. Maybe that’s because the Ami could, potentially, be picked up and thrown in a river a la shopping trolleys by groups of drunk people on a Friday night. It really is that dinky.