I’m moving the goal posts this week and going over our capped £1,500 budget but for all the right reasons. With my Alfa 166 still up for sale, I decided to stick to rule 2.8 and scour the classifieds for a small, more economical set of wheels. I happened to spot said vehicle in a non-descript box ad in my local rag. I must admit it’s not a car I’ve considered before – mind you so was the Alfa – but with a £3,000 window sticker a phone call to the owner was an absolute must.
Mention a Citroen and most people run a mile. Horrible stories of unreliability and scary electrical gremlins didn’t put me off picking up the phone and dialling the number though. I must have some sort of perverted attraction to cars that seem to get huge stick by the motoring press and the C2 is no exception. The original and much loved Saxo was an absolute hoot and with its shared partner the Peugeot 106, is still a “must have” hot-hatch. Both the original VTR and the more spritely VTS became being somewhat overdressed by the under 21s. When the Citroen C2 donned the famous three letter badge the high anticipation Citroen were hoping for was like breaking wind at Sunday mass.
This particular £2,950, 2004 C2 is the ice-breaker VTR. Only putting out 110bhp versus the 120 from the VTS, it’s still a peppy little package. Fitted with Citroens “SensoDrive”, the C2 VTR is worth a closer look, if only for its low 6 insurance group category. The owners’ had it since new and although it’s clocked 96,000 miles he’s made sure it’s been serviced by his local dealer and maintained no matter what. The temptation was too much so I arranged to pop down to take a closer look (not again!). Up close and personal his black C2 VTR needed a bit of paintwork, such as the scuffed front bumper and the large door dings from the weekly trips to Tesco. I reckon it needs about £100 worth of work from a SMART specialist to get it looking tidy again. The interior, though, is spotless and doesn’t even need a wipe down. Yet another fully stamped service book is opened like the Bible so all that’s left is the test drive.
The semi-auto SensoDrive takes some getting used to, and now I can see why the press gave it such a hard time. It’s no smooth BMW SMG or magical Ferrari F1-trac. Citroen seemed to have missed the boat and delivered a practical, but not very sporty set of cogs. The 1.6-litre engine has real potential and revs neatly right up to the top of the power band but is restrained by the snappy gearbox. It’s a spritely package and once you’re on the move it feels just as quick as any rival warm hatch. It handles brilliantly thanks to a precise steering set-up and a very well balanced chassis and sporty suspension. I’d give it a respectable, eight out of ten.
Despite having a somewhat compact appearance, it is rather practical. There’s plenty of room up front, and if you don’t need to haul a full house around all the time, rear space is adequate for two teenagers. Although it looks like it could only accommodate a bar of soap, the boot can swallow a lot more: In fact, two large suitcases plus a couple of sports bags to be precise.
Now down to the sums, and more importantly, how economical is the C2? Well, we all know that manufacturers claimed figures are not always replicated in the real world, but during my 20 mile varied test drive I managed a decent 46mpg overall – worked out with a C+ in Maths GCSE. The current owner claims that it only takes £34.00 to fill up and can average over 300 miles until the next pit stop. In terms of servicing, each visit to the dealer is no more than £200, and the £36.00 per month insurance cost is too good to ignore. It may not be diesel, but without the pocket saving running costs, it wouldn’t have made our BOTW grade (you should see how many candidates are turned down every week!).
With Christmas just around the corner what a great finish to our BOTW 2008 series. You shouldn’t turn your nose up at considering a Citroen C2 VTR, especially as prices are so good at the moment. Compact, affordable and great fun to drive and no, I didn’t get too carried away as I still have to shift the Alfa first.