Caffeine&Machine cultofmachine Yard Visitor Say hello to my little friend: Citroen Ami

Say hello to my little friend: Citroen Ami

Tiny, French, electric and not technically a car – the Citroen Ami came to visit us in the Yard. But who exactly is it for?

A car’s name is important. Done right, it can help define its character. The golden age of muscle cars wouldn’t have been nearly as cool without thrusting, aggressive names like Charger, Challenger, and Barracuda. Rolls-Royces emphasise their ethereal smoothness and silence with the likes of Ghost and Phantom. The Italians can call cars whatever they please, because everything sounds good in their native tongue. (Maserati Quattroporte, Ferrari Testarossa and Fiat Grande Punto all sound terribly exotic, but respectively, their names mean ‘Four Doors’, ‘Redhead’ and ‘Big Point’.)

Then there’s this curious little Gallic box. This is the Citroen Ami, and ‘ami’ is French for ‘friend’. Awwww.

If you’re familiar with Citroen’s long and very rarely normal past, you’ll know that this isn’t their first car bearing this name. This is partially because there was an Ami family car in the 1960s and ’70s, and partially because this isn’t really a car at all. Citroen would prefer that you call it a ‘mobility solution’, but in the UK, it’s classed as a quadricycle. The last notable entrant in this category was the Reva G-Wiz, but the less said about that the better.

In the Ami’s homeland, it’s a voiture sans permis, which means ‘vehicle without permit’. That’s exactly what it sounds like: providing you’re at least 14, and obtain a couple of French road safety certificates, you can drive one of these bundles of joy without a licence.

When the Ami was unveiled in 2020, there was some doubt over whether it would come to the UK, but enough people made their desires known, and now you can put one on your driveway for £19.99 a month. In fact, don’t leave it on your driveway – let it in the house. It looks cold out there.

Gratuitous anthropomorphism aside, the little Ami only really works for city use. Unsurprisingly, it’s electric, and the dinky 5.5kWh battery means a quoted range of 46.6 miles (on the flipside, though, it will fully charge in three hours from a three-pin plug). The regulations around this type of vehicle also mean top speed is pegged at 28mph.

This particular Ami is the Pop model, endowing it with a set of racy orange graphics and, delightfully, a roof spoiler. It’s owned by Trevor Sherwin, for whom it was the definition of a heart-over-head purchase. “It was one of those things you see and think ‘that’s bonkers’. I’d like to say I bought it for environmental reasons, but it was just for the fun of the thing. It’s instant smiles as soon as you get in it.” Despite the self-confessed frivolity of the purchase, the Ami is already proving a genuinely useful urban runabout for Trevor and his family.

It would be easy to write the Ami off as a mere novelty that serves no function beyond a chic urbanite’s accessory. In reality, though, it’s packed with the kind of brilliant simplicity that’s defined the best small, cheap French cars since the days of the 2CV and the Renault 4. As a cost-saving measure, the front and rear panels are identical, as are the doors – one hinges at the front and one at the rear.

The interior, meanwhile, maximises the space offered by the completely flat floor with staggered seating for two, and a glass roof panel that gives it the airy ambience of the buildings of Paris’s Belle Époque.

This is at risk of devolving into a smattering of lazy French metaphors, so it’s worth wrapping up with this: the cost of a dinner out a month really isn’t a lot for all the joy and curiosity the Ami brings to its owner and everyone around it – even if it did need trailering to the Yard behind a Land Rover Defender.

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