The Citroën Ami is well-named, because if you drive one around town you’re going to make friends.
It’s not just the Fisher-Price styling (although that helps, not least with children who instantly recognise it as a car they might have designed themselves), but also the diminutive dimensions which mark you out among the hordes of too-tall-sided SUVs as someone who cares for their planet and their fellow road users. People wave, people smile, people let you out of side turnings.
Well, almost all people do. The angry lady driving the 152-registered Opel Astra clearly was not so keen on me, my Ami, nor my 45km/h top speed, and so even though we were in a 50km/h zone, decided to undertake me aggressively in the bus lane. Ah well, it’s her blood pressure, not mine I suppose…
45km/h? Yes, that’s all she wrote (although there is the faint sensation that more might be available if you could fiddle with the electronics a bit…). Not a lot, but not bad for 8hp. Yes, eight.
The 75km range on one charge seems tiny, but given that the Ami is running just a 5.5kWh battery, again it’s not bad. Surely that makes it the least capable of all electric cars, though?
Car or quad?
Well, no. It’s not a car at all, but technically a quadricyle. While Irish regulations don’t allow for such distinctions, the Ami is closer to appliance than car, which is perhaps why in France you can actually buy one at your local hypermarché.
Here in Ireland, the setup will be rather different. In fact, Citroën’s dealers are apparently foaming at the mouth (not literally…) with excitement about the prospect of selling Amis.
Which is somewhat surprising, given that it’ll likely cost around €10,000 when it arrives here next summer.
Sensible-shoes Irish car buyers, going nuts for a short-range electric two-seater? Yes, apparently so - some of them are even writing actual, physical letters to Citroën, looking to make a reservation.
What will they get? They’ll get a plastic bathtub with a wheel at each corner, two hard plastic seats, and enough space around the passenger’s feet and behind said seats for some bags or some shopping. That’s it.
Infotainment? Just connect your phone to the built-in Bluetooth speaker.
Heat? There is actually a heater, but it has just one speed and sounds like a cheap hair dryer.
Basic it may be, but you are at least better protected from the Irish elements that you would be on a bike, or a scooter (or a Renault Twizy for that matter; the Renault being the Ami’s only true direct rival).
Everything about the Ami is designed to keep costs down. The front and rear panels are identical, and only distinguishable because the bulbs at the back are red.
The doors are the same: so the one on the driver’s side is rear-hinged, and opens backwards, while the one on the passenger’s side is front-hinged, and opens forwards. Even the windows are simple; flipping up (like those of a 2CV) rather than winding up or down.
You charge it using a built-in domestic plug that lives at the end of a long lead, curled up into the door jam of the passenger side.
There’s no fast charging (if you hooked this thing up to a 150kW fast charger you’d probably send it into orbit…) but Citroën Ireland says it will offer an adaptor to allow you to use slower public charging points.
Of course, owning it yourself is not really the idea. In theory, what will eventually happen is that micro-renting services - the likes of GoCar - will buy fleets of these and leave them stashed at strategic points around town.
You just roll up, click the app, and off you pop. Someone else can charge it up later, and that 75km range will get you clear across town and back anyway so don’t worry about it.
That top speed would suggest that the Ami is slow, and it sure ain’t fast, but actually it flows along with urban traffic quite nicely.
With 40Nm of torque from the dinky 8hp motor, you can actually spin the wheels a little away from the lights - every Ami dreams of growing up to be an F1 car, after all… - but it doesn’t take long to hit the upper limit. At which point you simply rumble along until the next traffic light.
The suspension, short though it necessarily is, is surprisingly good at soaking up urban lumps, and the unassisted steering is light and makes the Ami stupidly easy to chuck about, to slip through gaps, and to park.
The downsides? The cabin is basically a plastic bucket, and every bit as noisy as that sounds, and the seats are as unyielding as those you remember from Inter Cert double-science, so you’ll get bum-ache within minutes.
As a way to get around town, using minimal resources, it’s something close to genius, and so much better suited to squally Irish conditions than some more California-centric ideas (a Segway? In the rain? Really?).
It’ll be expensive to buy as a thing for yourself, but probably very cheap to rent and grab one off the street, eventually. It’s drier than a bike, safer than a scooter, and nicer than taking a taxi, so frankly, that day can’t come soon enough.
The Lowdown: Citroën Ami
Power: 6kW electric motor putting out 8hp and 40Nm of torque with a single-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
CO2 emissions (annual motor tax): 0g/km (€120-€600).
Price: €10,000 approx.
Our rating: 4/5.
Verdict: Perfect minimalist urban transportation. Expensive to buy, though.