IMAGINE if the entire population of Ainsdale decided they’d like to drive about in a tiny French box that won’t quite do 30mph.
That’s near enough what’s happened this week; 13,000 of you, albeit not concentrated in a single coastal village, all took a look at Citroën’s new Ami and decided that, yes, you want to have one tucked up in the garage. So much so that there’s now a sizeable swell of people who have gone online and spent £250 on a reservation fee to get into the queue – and it’s all happened in less than a week.
The all-electric Ami, I reckon, must be one of the most eagerly-awaited new cars of the year, which is a stretching things a bit as it isn’t technically a car. In theory, it’s a quadricycle, but for anyone who remembers people piloting Reliant Robins on bike licences can forget it as being a neat way to circumnavigate the laws of Her Majesty’s highway, because Citroën’s confirmed that you’ll need a full, proper car licence to hop behind the wheel. It’ll also only be available in left-hand-drive – and the imaginary population of Ainsdale should count itself grateful, because up until very recently it wasn’t going to be coming to the UK at all. Finally, it doesn’t have proper opening windows (you lift up a set of glass flaps to grab a gasp of cool air), it’ll only do 46 miles on a charge, and it runs out of puff at 28mph.
But it has a bucket full of that key quality I look for in any new motoring arrival, regardless of whether it runs on petrol, diesel, electricity, or even recycled copies of last week’s Champion. Character.
It has mad-looking 14-inch alloy wheels, and the back end is virtually identical to the funky-looking front, and inside Citroën’s chucked a load of cargo nets for luggage in it – and a place to dock your smartphone – rather than cram it with gadgets. What’s really clever, however, is that virtually every drawback has been turned into a virtue. It might be left-hand-drive, but it’s so narrow that you won’t even notice, and – voilà! – it means you can step straight out onto the pavement when you park. Those flappy not-really-windows are a nod to the old 2CV.
Even the speed – or rather, the absence of it – is a good thing in an Ami. You could hammer it a full tilt past an entire platoon of 30mph average speed cameras, and they won’t even notice because the most you’ll ever be doing is 28mph. Admittedly, this does rather limit its abilities on the M58, but in the urban environment it’s intended for, the Ami is a bit of a laugh.
And that, to be honest, is all a lot of us are looking for in a chum, even a four-wheeled one. Who would you rather go for a night out with – someone who’s class-leadingly good at everything, or a mate who makes you laugh? You never hear anyone make wedding speeches, saying they fell for their husband or wife because they were the safest and most efficient option. Yet you hear plenty of them saying they make them laugh.
I know which I’d go for. I’m just glad about 13,000 of you agree.
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly