Cute, simple, fun, cheap. Better than public transport
Slow, basic, only any use in cities, really
What is it?
The one thing it’s not, is a car. yes, it looks like one, having four wheels and all, but the Citroen Ami is actually designated as a quadricycle, neatly sidestepping a whole host of regulations needed to actually be classed as a grown-up vehicle. So you get a tiny 458kg (including the battery pack) ‘urban mobility object’ designed to be a personal transport module that replaces things like the Tube or a bus ride. Or even an eBike or scooter. Basically the automotive missing link. It is not big: well under a metre and a half wide (1.4, in fact) and less than two-and-a-half long, but can seat two in relative comfort. Although not a lot of comfort, and it depends on your definition.
Under the front is a 6kW motor and 5.5kWh battery pack - and no, that’s not a typo - single-speeding the front axle and providing a top speed of less than 30mph, with a possible 47 miles of range. The body itself is made of unpainted/impregnated ‘Blue Ami’ plastic draped over a rudimentary box-section chassis, and if you look closely, you’ll notice that the car is actually symmetrical - the front and rear panels are the same, the side glass and doors etc all swappable from side to side. That cuts production costs and makes it cheap - but more on that in a moment.
What this is, is a vehicle designed for the most niche of intra-urban commuting, literally across cities. Think of it less as a car, and more of the world’s most complicated umbrella - instead of biking across town or risking the vagaries of public transport, you just totter around in an Ami, keeping yourself personally secure and your hair dry.
There’s a variety of ways of owning or renting one in France (it’s not been sanctioned for the UK yet), and you could actually drive one in the UK without a driving licence from the age of 16, but the market is probably going to end up in the car-share environment, a bit like a funky Boris bike. It is, however, a completely joyful thing to potter around town in. Everybody loves it, and it generates the kind of feel good not possible even in a supercar. Basically the Ami is whatever the opposite of over-compensation is - although only for people who commute short distances where they very much don’t have to drive on fast A-roads or motorways. Mainly because it’s illegal to do so in a ‘car’ so small and slow...
What's the verdict?
As mentioned, the Ami is a rubbish car, but an entirely loveable object. It’s not fun to drive, but it is fun to use. In a city, at least. There’s a joy in it’s simplicity, in the way that it’s been designed, in the way that Citroen is embracing quirkiness. It’s not sophisticated or ground-breaking, but it is fun and interesting, and if it convinced a few Londoners to commute in one rather than a mostly-idling petrol or diesel SUV, then its a good thing. It’s also a good deal safer than a e-scooter or bike given the UK’s variable driving standards, not to mention weather. Would we buy one? Probably not. Rental? If there was somewhere convenient to charge, possibly. But for everyone else, a car-share, pay-as-you-go Ami experience would cover most bases.