f you work in London but live in the sticks, a tiny electric two-seater could have a certain appeal as something to get you to and from the station, or for other local trips.
On paper at least, Citroen’s ugly-but-endearing looking Ami baby car ought to fit the bill. It costs nothing to tax, can be recharged from a domestic socket in three hours and can be funded using a finance deal that will cost you a fiver a week.
The car’s pregnant Dalek shape is fun and dictated by function.
A lot of its matt-finished plastic panels, including those at the front and rear and the doors, are interchangeable, presumably to keep build costs down. One eccentricity of those doors is that the driver’s one opens like a taxi’s rear doors. It’s rear hinged and the passenger one is conventionally hinged at the front. Neither has any kind of door ‘checks’ so can end up flapping about when you’re trying to get into or out of the car.
You can forget about anti-lock brakes, air bags and side impact bars; the Ami is classed as a quadracycle (and in its native France can be driven by 14-year-olds) so legally can do without them, saving space and cost, if not its occupants if something hits it.
The theme continues with the door glass, which can’t be wound down, but has a 2CV-like split hinge so that it can be opened like a greenhouse vent.
Potential for hothouse comparisons continue with the Ami’s sealed glass sunroof which doesn’t have a blind to prevent a hot head on sunny days. There is a single speed heat/vent fan, which makes a racket, while air conditioning exists in your dreams only.
Seeing what’s behind involves looking at a pair of tiny, round, manually adjusted door mirrors, as there isn’t an interior one -presumably because the windscreen is such a long way from the driver, who sits on the left, which isn’t really a problem in such a minute vehicle.
The plastic, high backed seats, with flat, vinyl covered cushions, are actually more comfortable than they look. The passenger chair is fixed, the driver’s side one can be shifted backwards and forwards. Luggage space? That will be the passenger footwell. There isn’t a boot, although there are a pair of decently sized door storage areas, made from stringy webbing.
Long way round
I volunteer for a local charity which provides lunches for the housebound elderly, and decided the Ami would make an ideal mode of transport for the 11-mile, once-weekly trip.
Normally, half of the route is on a twisting, derestricted country road, where people frequently travel at 60mph plus. The Ami runs out of puff at a governed 28mph, which would make it vulnerable, so I worked out a circuitous route along slower, wigglier lanes and set off, aware that its slowness would put our nearest railway station, some 12 miles distant and reached by busy roads, out of bounds.
The Ami is controlled by three buttons (drive, neutral and reverse) and a brake an accelerator pedal. Acceleration is relaxed and when it picks up, the Ami’s 8 horsepower motor sounds like a domestic washing machine on spin cycle. The non-power steering has a go-kart like immediacy and a taxi-beating turning circle that would make city driving fun. The ride is unyielding, which is hardly a surprise for something so short and light (about 500kg), so navigating pot hole-riddled Kentish rural byroads involved a lot of crashing and banging.
The Ami’s between charging range is a claimed 46.6miles, but in real world conditions I suspect you could deduct five miles plus from that figure. Charging involves unfurling a cable in a recess in the rear wing that’s hidden by the passenger door. If you’re using a wall mounted charging unit a built-in adaptor is supplied which has a couple of switches to lock it in place and start the charging process. It takes around three hours, whatever the charging medium, so is just as quick when plugged into a domestic three pin socket as for a public charger.
I have a tethered home charger, that has its own cable. For reasons of electrical safety, having cables joined together in this way isn’t a good idea, so it wouldn’t replenish the Ami, which was a bit annoying. This also meant the charge dropped to four miles on my final journey and the Ami instigated power conserving measures, which meant the gentle hill into our village was traversed at a stately 8mph, much to the amusement of at least one neighbour.
Despite everything, I rather liked the Ami. It’s characterful and its minimalism is refreshing, but unless you are city-based and do a lot of blatting about in 20mph zones, its appeal is likely to be limited.
News Source: www.standard.co.uk