Auto Express New Car Award winners come and go, as each year a batch of fresh segment rivals arrive to steal the limelight. The Skoda Citigo has had it all its own way for a while, with an impressive five category wins since its launch in 2012. This year, however, the facelifted Volkswagen up!, beat it to the punch.
But hot on the heels of its VW sister car, Skoda has now injected a similar set of midlife tweaks into its smallest model. As with the up!, we’re not looking at dramatic changes to the exterior – with revisions limited to a set of re-profiled bumpers, a new grille, redesigned bonnet and new headlights incorporating LED daytime running lights on SE spec and above. A couple of bright new colour choices help freshen the Citigo further.
The Citigo’s interior upgrades largely mirror that of its VW sibling, too, save for a few absent details like that car’s ambient lighting option. Tweaked instruments, a new multifunction steering wheel and two-tone trim options feature, while SE spec cars bring the new Swing infotainment setup with a colour display, Bluetooth and six speakers.
While the basic system is perfectly fine (if a little tinny), the new screen is easy to operate and adds a bit of extra class to the cabin – although a few rivals like the new Kia Picanto now offer a full touchscreen sat-nav on models higher up the range. If you want navigation in your Skoda you’ll have to use the smartphone docking cradle on top of the dash, but there is at least an app for iOS and Android phones that provides sat-nav, driving data and eco driving tips.
As we’ve come to expect from Skoda, the list of ‘simply clever’ convenience features has grown, with a wealth of storage options, plus an umbrella stored under the front passenger seat. You’ll even find a bag hook built in to the glovebox handle.
Even without these, though, the Citigo’s cabin remains a spacious, practical and pleasingly solid environment, with logical switchgear and a comfortable driving position. Five-door models offer easy access to the rear and a surprising amount of space for adults, while five years on it still has one of the biggest boots in the class.
Skoda has made no changes to the engine range, meaning your choice is limited to a naturally aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol putting out either 59bhp or – for an extra £390 – 74bhp. Both have identical torque figures, however, meaning that unless you’re planning regular motorway journeys, you’d be hard pushed to feel the difference in normal driving.
Neither offers sparkling performance, requiring plenty of revs and frequent gearchanges to keep up with traffic. What distinguishes the unit is is the level of refinement; vibrations are kept to a minimum, while it’s nicely subdued once up to speed. Economy figures are competitive, too.
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It’s a real pity, however, that there are no plans to offer the excellent 1.0-litre turbo petrol from the up! TSI – Skoda says there’s no financial case for doing so, but we suspect that Volkswagen wants to keep the punchier unit to itself for now.
In ride and handling terms the Citigo is identical to before. That’s not a big issue, though, it still has a composed and fluid ride quality that shames some larger superminis. It shrugged off the potholed tarmac of our Czech test route with ease, while both road and wind noise are very well isolated. The soft set-up means roll is a touch more noticeable than in a Kia Picanto, but the Skoda still offers decent body control, accurate, well-weighted steering, and a slick gearshift.
With prices rising by around £200 over the outgoing car, the Citigo still looks strong value, and is roughly £500 less spec-for-spec than the VW up. We’ll have to wait until we try both back-to-back to give a definitive verdict, but there’s a good chance the Skoda has what it takes to rise back to the top.
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