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Minitest: 2016 Skoda Citigo

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On: Thu, Jul 28, 2016 at 1:26AM | By: Jon Summers

Minitest: 2016 Skoda Citigo

It’s always instructive to glance at the vehicles car makers offer outside of the market you’re familiar with – often you encounter interesting, clever vehicles. The Skoda Citigo sits in a niche which doesn’t exist in the USA - cars smaller/cheaper than the Ford Fiesta. The Citigo has 995cc three cylinder turbo diesel usually mated to a six speed manual transmission, and returns a real world 65mpg and costs less than $100 a month.

Firstly, and most importantly, it goes down the road feeling like a real car: the Citigo fully occupies its lane, isn't blown around by other traffic and has the power to keep up with the ambient flow of traffic, as opposed to feeling like your writer felt on a rainy freeway on a Yamaha 125 being overtaken by 18 wheelers.

The evolution of Skoda is worth examining: by the eighties a number of Eastern bloc car makers were offering cars on Western European markets basking in seemingly willfully uncharismatic socialist brand names such as Moskvich, Wartburg and Zil. If communism was these cars, and capitalism Camaros and Mustangs, show me the way to Wall Street! From Czechoslovakia came the Skoda. Initial offerings had the engine out between the rear wheels, like a Beetle, with predictably treacherous handling for those not used to cornering like Bo Duke or Colin McRae. Build quality and price were equally low. A well-known joke of the period ran “What do you call a convertible Skoda? A skip”. But when VW acquired Skoda in 2000, all this changed. In a genius marketing stroke, VW were able to flip Skoda’s market position from “cheap” to “value” – bringing us to the Citigo – the owner, who drives for a living, told me “you know, my wife just wanted trouble free motoring”. When I asked “Did you look at the Peugeot 107?" He raised an eyebrow and gesturing the Citigo said “this is basically a Volkswagen…” the implication being “and thus more reliable”.

Once this kind of tiny-wheel-on-each-corner, cartoon character small capacity high-tech city car only crossed my radar in photos of the Tokyo motorshow, since tax laws in Japan have given rise to a special class of small car, the kei ( light) car. Strikingly, the Citigo is perhaps as alien, as a true Kei car next to my V8 Mustang: the Citigo achieves literally four times the gas mileage of the Mustang, almost making it a totally different form of transport from the old Ford.

In the twentieth century car makers did a good job making us believe cars were more than appliances, but increasingly we seem to be less convinced. The cars we buy nowadays are the colors of appliances and electronics equipment in their uniform monochrome, perhaps speaking to our view that cars too are simply appliances. No one cares how a toaster operates,only whether the toast is done properly or not, and thus it is with modern cars: astute readers will have noticed your scribe didn’t drive the Citygo, however, that does not seem to matter with this kind of transportation. Welcome to the era of mobility, not motoring.

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