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Citroën’s Ami One urban mobility concept: small yet significant

19 February 2019 | by Chris Maillard

Citroën has built some fabulously grand, large cars during its existence – the SM and CX immediately spring to mind, among others – but somehow it’s always been defined by its cars for the people. Somewhat like Volkswagen and its Beetle, the 2CV became the marque’s guiding light, and it’s since had a highly successful string of clever, minimal and small cars like the Ami, Dyane, Visa, AX, Saxo and C1.

So in its 100th anniversary year it’s hardly surprising that the company’s big Geneva reveal will be another downsized, accessible vehicle, which brings back the Ami name – and this is even more accessible than its distant ancestor, which was designed for the aspiring middle-classes to upgrade from their 2CVs. It’s designed as an electric, urban, mobility solution which has a 28mph top speed and a 62-mile range, meaning that it could be driven without a licence in some countries (note the word ‘driven’ – no mention of autonomy here).

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The original Ami with its quirky reverse-sloped rear window, designed by Flaminio Bertoni

However, there are plenty of other nods to current tech thinking – the centre of the experience is a smartphone app operated through the ‘Free2Move’ brand which allows users to reserve a vehicle; there will be physical sites called ‘Ami One Counters’ and you can reserve one through Citroën’s ‘Rent&Smile’ website. So far, so millennial.

There are some parallels with the ambitious yet failed Paris Autolib scheme – a bolt-on electric car sharing concept which used very minimal (even unpainted) Bolloré-built electric cars, but dissolved after a good number of the city’s street people found uses for the cars as convenient and comfortable shelters, impromptu party spots and venues for other, much less pleasant functions.

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The Autolib was also very much built around a smartphone app

There are also more than a few parallels with our uncannily timed Concept Car of the Week story this week. Read it here and you’ll find out some useful background.

The Ami One itself, however, is a much more chic and sophisticated product than either of those two predecessors; it’s both cheerily bright and cleverly designed for sharing to make use of swappable and multi-use parts.

An urban mobility vehicle boasting design, intelligence and economy,” says Citroën, “it introduces new possibilities through its symmetrical parts. These include identical doors on the right and left, opening in different directions, rear-hinged on the driver’s side for better access and conventionally positioned on the passenger side.

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“There are identical bumpers (partly concealed on the front and open on the rear to display the registration plate); identical wings on both the front and rear; identical panels on the right and left; reversible Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) and rear lights on the left and right. There are also four parts to the door mirrors and door handles.”

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The design team have taken cues from the brand’s current signature DRG for its distinctive front mask. How do we know that? Well, here’s a convenient animation that shows how it’s morphed from the recent CXperience concept (if it doesn't do anything, click the image. We’re getting a new website soon, honest.)

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We’ll let the Citroën team tell you about the interior too:

“Inside, the cabin is simple with a limited number of materials used and a finish consistent with the intelligent spirit central to the design of the concept.

“The designers of Ami One Concept have created an asymmetrical layout for the driver’s seat (on rails) and the passenger seat (fixed). This set-up creates extra shoulder room and ease of movement for both occupants. Ami One Concept invites everyone to tour the cityscape amid an energising atmosphere. The generous seat cushions and headrests stand out with deep blue fabric inspired by easy-maintenance outdoor furniture, enhanced by orange-coloured elastic. The openwork, sculpted appearance of the seat backs showcase the Out of the Blue colour on the front, with the Orange Mécanique colour on the back. The grey floor mats are soft and functional, and feature the cube patterns found elsewhere on the vehicle.

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“Ami One Concept scores top marks for storage space too, ingeniously laid out around the cabin. Thanks to the concept’s new architecture, maximum use is made of each and every nook and cranny. At the front, the upper part of the blue door panels is pleasant to the touch. These arm rests are fitted with a soft PVC strap similar to that used on the outside door handles. The straps evoke the world of travel and allude to those originally introduced on C4 Cactus. The lower part of the door panels is home to an elastic-stretched canvas creating a storage space with a ‘beach’ vibe.

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“The ‘Drive-Pod’ (on the driver’s side) has enabled the Citroën Style teams to create an original storage space on the passenger side for a cabin bag and a handbag. At the rear, a platform accessed via the folding driver’s seat can be used for occasional luggage and is equipped with a Safety Box complete with a fluorescent jacket and warning triangle. All the panelling features two-tone paint with a finely flecked and durable appearance, while the various storage areas are finished in blue.”

Here’s a little video of the little car in action – and below are a couple more longer videos, one of its potential use, and the other with some very good shots of the design details. We’ll be taking a close look at it in Geneva, and talking to its design team, so we’ll bring you more details then.

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