I don’t think it’s fair to call the Citroën Ami a “weird car.” Not because it isn’t weird, but rather because it isn’t a car. It’s technically considered to be a quadricycle, a type of vehicle classification in Europe that falls somewhere between a motorcycle and a standard car. That helps it thread the needle of low cost and low regulations while still offering much the feeling of an actual car. It may not have a dozen airbags like some cars (or even one airbag), but you weren’t planning on hitting anything anyway, right?
To test out one of these funny little microcars, last month I went to the Greek Isles and rented one. After my wife and I relied on it as our main form of transportation for a week, I got pretty good sense of what the Ami can and can’t do, and who it might be best suited for.
Now let’s get the major questions out of the way right up front. You want to know how far, how fast, and how much, right?
Basically, this tiny car can go 75 km (47 miles) on a charge, is software limited to 28 mph (45 km/h), and costs somewhere around €7,400 depending on the country, which is around US $8,000.
If you’re still with me, awesome. You’re about to see a really cool little vehicle. If you stopped reading after the specs, well, then how are you still here? Ha, I caught you! Stick around, this thing is really cool. Trust me. In fact, you can check out the video below to see my testing experience and thoughts on this odd little vehicle.
So obviously the Citroën Ami is not a powerhouse of a car. But it’s not meant to be.
Instead, it’s designed for purely city and local driving needs. It’s for the kind of person that likes the idea of a Vespa, but wants to be able to carry a bunch of groceries, bring a friend along, or just doesn’t want to get rained on.
I’m very much a bicycle/scooter/motorcycle kind of guy, and you’ll rarely find me reviewing four-wheeled vehicles. But microcars are that fun little overlap where we can say, “Sure, sometimes you want a box around you, but you don’t want to take up more space than you need, either.”
That’s kind of the beauty of the Citroën Ami. Weaving through the tiny Greek roads was easy. Parking into spots that weren’t really parking spots but are too small for a “real” car, well, that’s easy too. Or at least it is after a couple days. In the beginning I kept thinking I was closer to bumping parking signs and other cars than I really was. I’d get out and look, sure that I was kissing it, when I really had another 50 cm (nearly 2 feet) left. You don’t realize how close you are to the front and back of the car, but you can just about reach out and touch both.
That’s really the winning feature of the Ami, is that it is small. It’s easy to drive since there isn’t more vehicle than you need. It’s easy to park. It’s easy to squeeze past other cars, at least to an extent.
The downsides though are similar to many “real” cars, in that you’re still getting stuck in traffic when the shoulder isn’t wide enough to squeeze past, and you’re still left searching for parking instead of being like a bike and motorcycle where you can basically park anywhere. Both of those were occasionally frustrating, especially for someone that is used to seeing any area the size of my body and parking my two-wheeler there.
Is the Citroën Ami powerful enough?
It doesn’t look like a very big car, and at 458 kg (1,009 pounds), it isn’t very heavy either. But that means the little 6 kW (8 hp) electric motor doesn’t have to work too hard either.
The little guy is actually decently torquey, and I could occasionally spin the tires on dusty roads when pulling out of an intersection.
I even took it on the winding mountain road up to Ancient Thera, a daunting climb with 22 switchbacks and a distinct lack of guardrails. My wife didn’t join me on that little excursion since she didn’t think the Ami would actually make it. I didn’t fight her too hard – if I didn’t survive then someone would have to go home and feed the dog.
Lo and behold, that little buggy wound it’s way up that mountain road like it was born for it! The cobblestone road was pretty bumpy, and at one point I think I started driving up a pedestrian path and then had to back down at a crazy angle while trying not to lose traction and slide off the side of the mountain, but despite those few hairy moments it was largely a success. So the Ami might not be fast, but it sure can climb mountains.
And now that I mention it, the little car can be faster than you’d think. I actually got it up to 73 km/h (45 mph) at one point – that story is coming up further down in this article.
Not a lot of creature comforts
As much fun as the Citroën Ami is to drive, as if it’s a little go-kart on the road, it’s not exactly the most fully featured. In fact, I’d wager that it shares its seats and accessory list with a go-kart too.
There’s minimal padding on the seats, though the driver side is decently adjustable forward and backward. There’s no radio, speakers, or air conditioning, but you do get a fan and a USB-A charging port.
There’s also not much storage, at least not in the conventional sense. There’s no trunk, but there is space behind the driver’s seat for a (very) small backpack. The amount of storage space there is inversely proportional to the length of the driver’s legs, as in it grows when the driver’s seat slides forward. Most of the storage is at the feet of the passenger, since their seat is offset further toward the rear of the vehicle. There’s a cutout there for trolley-style luggage, which we used and can confirm fits one typical carry-on bag. Then there’s the whole open area at the passenger’s feet where we’d toss a couple backpacks. There’s also a weirdly large amount of storage space above the dashboard in a set of three cutouts, and we’d often store water bottles or my wife’s purse up there.
The suspension is adequate but not the stuff of your dreams, though it handled some off-roading when the GPS inexplicably directed us onto a donkey road – see below. It’s definitely not the most comfortable suspension though, and otherwise the car feels quite basic. And that makes sense, since it was designed to be super-cheap to produce. That’s also why the front and rear are nearly identical except for the LED light colors. They share the same mold to cut down on cast. The doors are identical as well, which explains why the driver’s side has a suicide door. It’s the same thing as the passenger door and so they only have to have one set of door molds.
Other notes to frugality include the lack of conventional door handles. To open the door, you simply push the lock from the outside (no power locks) or pull a ribbon from the inside.
Charging the Citroën Ami can be an issue
The Citroën Ami was a lot of fun for us to use, despite its simple design and modest power. But the major issue for us was simply charging. I had checked in advance to ensure the island had several electric car charging stations, and it did. But when I arrived and picked up the Ami, I realized that didn’t matter since the car could only charge from a wall outlet, not from Level 2 public chargers.
There’s literally an electrical cable coming out of a hole in the door frame on the passenger side that lets the car plug in just like a toaster or electric kettle. It’s pretty funny the first time you see it.
The upside is that the small 5.5 kWh battery charges in 3 hours from empty or closer to 1.5 hours during typical charging stops with around half of the battery left. The problem for us was that we were staying at a hotel that didn’t have a garage with an outlet we could use to charge. It didn’t even have a garage, but rather a dirt parking lot outdoors.
That meant that we had to find our own charging solution on the go. Fortunately there is a single charging station on the entire island of Santorini with a wall outlet (and it also has a Level 2 charge outlet). It was installed by a lamp store who told me they put it in to attract more customers. If you’re ever visiting, go buy a lamp from them, they deserve it. We charged there several times, but also found charging at a Chinese restaurant, on a sidewalk, and by running an extension cord out of the hotel lobby a few times. Check it out in the video above.
If you own an Ami and have your own garage or other place to park that has an outlet available, you’ll never have to worry about it. I doubt you’ll ever go more than 75 km in a day. If we could have charged in a hotel garage, this wouldn’t have been an issue. But if you’re an apartment dweller or otherwise don’t have a charging location, this could be a hurdle. One solution would be to use an adapter for typical charging stations, though it’s not an ideal solution.
One note on charging: like many electric vehicles, the Citroën Ami doesn’t have regenerative braking when the battery is full. It’s a safety feature to prevent someone from overcharging the battery if going down a hill right after charging.
Which is what I did once, and accidentally discovered that the Ami can get up to at least 73 km/h (45 mph) on a downhill when regeneration is disabled. With nothing to prevent the motor from freewheeling, I was grinning ear to ear while racing down a long straight road for the coast, racking up an ever higher number on the tiny dashboard.
Normally the motor would enter regen after surpassing 45 km/h, even on a downhill. Until then, my highest score on a downhill had been 47 km/h. But if you ever have the chance of charging at the top of a big hill, you can try to beat my all-time best of 73 km/h!
In summary, I would totally buy one
Even as someone who much prefers to be on a two-wheeler, I would buy a Citroën Ami if it was available in my country. It’d be good for those times when I just need to use a car for something.
My 33 kg (72 lb.) dog doesn’t fit on my e-bike, my wife doesn’t always want to ride on my scooter, and sometimes it’s raining like crazy and I don’t feel like riding. A tiny, low-cost car-like vehicle such as this would solve those types of problems. And when I’m not using it, it doesn’t take up more space than it needs to.
But alas, Citroën hasn’t brought the Ami to my country, and so I’ll have to be content with this experience of renting one. Which by the way, I got mine from Pyrgo on Santorini, and I’d definitely recommend it if you ever visit the island. And I’m not just saying that so they hopefully won’t charge my credit card extra when they see the donkey road I took it on and that I didn’t register my wife as a second driver.
It was definitely fun as a vacation rental, but I wish I saw more of them on the roads everyday replacing oversized cars in cities.
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