North East Connected

A friend for a sustainable life

Ian Lamming experiences a new toy for grown up boys and girls that will clean up the environment and could solve the problem of congestion

IT MUST be nap time, I’m asleep and dreaming of driving around in a children’s movie, except I can feel the ride through the seat of my pants.

That’s because I’m in the latest electric vehicle from Citroen. Did you see how I didn’t call it a car because officially the Ami isn’t one, it’s a quadracycle. A what? Well, that’s a four-wheel, urban mobility object, apparently, designed to solve our transport woes.

Citroen is definitely bringing this new ‘friend’ of the environment to the UK. Put your order in now and it should be with you by 2023 sometime. In France it can be driven by 14-year-olds, not that this is likely to happen in this country.

In the meantime, Citroen motor dealer Sherwoods are among the first to dip a toe in the electrolyte and have brought one in from Europe, mainly, I’m sure, for the comedic value.

Sitting in a car just 1.4m wide and 2.4m long, with 6ft 2in managing director Simon MacConachie, could only be described as a laugh – and we certainly spend a considerable part of the journey giggling, feeling like Noddy and Big Ears. If he places his feet in the section marked for suitcases he’s fine for leg room and strangely, very much like a Tardis, the Ami does feel surprisingly spacious inside.

Not only does it bring a permanent smile to the faces of the occupants, it also offers cheer to anybody looking on.

It is square, symmetrical and could be going backwards or forwards whichever way you look at it. Other road users simply beam your way, with some feeling the need to talk to you about this strange little electric vehicle.

With a 6kW electric motor powering the front axle and a range of about 45 miles the Ami is never going to stray far but could be the answer to urban congestion, replacing the big polluters, public transport and electric scooters.

Imagine a school run with mothers and fathers dropping off their only child in an Ami. There will be no danger of being clocked for speeding en route because the Ami tops out at 28mph.

When you get to school, there’ll be no problem parking because this thing would fit in a rucksack. There’ll also be no difficulty getting the little ones to school in the first place as it is like riding in a Lego car. The body is actually made from plastic, as is the interior, including the thinly padded passenger and driver’s seat. It’s not the most comfortable ride but then you are not going to be in Ami for any length of time so does that matter? I would suggest not.

When you get home you’re likely to want to plug it in. The Ami will only charge from a domestic three pin socket, which is great for convenience, and, amazingly, is ready to go again in just a couple of hours. So no need to fight for rapid chargers at the supermarket, just stick it in at home.

Specification is minimal. On the outside you do have headlamps which come on automatically, there is a single front windscreen wiper and two external mirrors but no interior view mirror. There is a rudimentary heater, mainly so you can keep the windscreen free from steaming up.

There is a mobile phone holder, a USB port and something for your drink, albeit quite a stretch away from where you are sitting. The side windows flip up a bit like the old Citroen 2CV and the door releases are fabric.

The doors – there are only two – open in opposite directions so the passenger door hinges at the front like a conventional car but the driver’s door hinges at the back like a Rolls-Royce. But just to confuse you further this particular model is actually left-hand drive, not that that seems to make a difference when you are going so slowly in a vehicle this small.

I can’t remember the last time I drove a car with no power steering but the Ami doesn’t bother with that unnecessary luxury. The wheels and tyres are fairly small so it is never heavy but we are spoilt nowadays and it feels less precise than we are used to.

Ride and handling are, should we say, sufficient. It does feel very hard, there is cabin roll through the corners and it’s unlikely to generate enough confidence to inspire you to drive exuberantly.

That said, it is more than enough for the job at hand namely whizzing across town to drop off the kids, in a fun, cheap and environmentally sound fashion, while bringing a bit of joy to anybody you encounter along the way. Now that does sound like an ecologist’s dream.

Fact file
Citroen Ami
Engine: 6kW electric
Top speed: 28mph
Range: 45 miles
Transmission: automatic
CO2 g/km: 0
Price: from £7,695.00

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