REVIEW DATE: 05 Oct 2007
Citroen's C2 VTS has proven a popular and fun vehicle to run as a long termer. Andy Enright gives you the lowdown on this appealing but affordable hatch
You can guarantee this C2 VTS would have received a glowing testimony had we given it to one of the younger members of the road test team. It is, after all, one of the poster children of the Max Power generation and if you're at all embarrassed by the nods of respect from the baseball cap and hoodie brigade, the C2 VTS may not be your thing. Which is exactly why we gave it to a member of staff who didn't fit this profile at all. We knew the VTS was a cracking little sports hatch. What we also wanted to know was whether it had enough versatility to appeal across the board.
The trouble with many hot hatches is that the frenetic engines, retina-detaching ride quality and spaniel-like enthusiasm can get a bit wearing when you're faced with a crawl to work on a damp Monday morning. This is when you want an automatic gearbox, soft springs and cruise control. Tough - the VTS has none of that, but it's a good deal more comfortable and accommodating than any small car this small and with this sort of focus has any right to be.
The steering doesn't require strong arm tactics to point the nose at a corner. While some hardcore enthusiasts have bemoaned the amount of assistance, claiming the C2's helm lacks feel, as a day-in, day-out driver, it makes a lot of sense. You still have all the pep of that 125bhp engine but without the he-man compromises many sports hatches impose on you. The seating position is good for long distance cruising, making the VTS one of the better tots in this regard, but a few of the interior ergonomics are a little haphazard. The siting of the electric window switches is a real stretch and the door pulls force one to do an impression of a T. Rex, so close are they to the driver's hips.
As you would expect from a car that measures just 3,666mm from stem to stern, there's not a whole lot of space to spare if a long-legged driver sits up front. The sliding rear seats help divide space between the luggage bay and the rear to a certain extent, but in no way could the C2 be forwarded as practical family transport. Two holdalls will just about fit into the boot at maximum extension although Citroen's split rear hatch helps in this regard. Whereas with a conventional hatch, stacking bags on top of each other in this tall but shallow space would be a precarious exercise in balancing the bags and then slamming the hatch before the uppermost one toppled over, the C2's hatch means you can place the bags into a boot-like aperture with no problems. I was a little sceptical at first, but having used it in practice, I have to admit to being a convert.
"You could spend twice as much on a Hot Hatch and in many situations, end up not having as much fun."
The C2 has proven virtually faultless in terms of reliability. The only blot on its copybook has come with a rear parking sensor unit that was dislodged from position but this represented an easy fix. Otherwise there's little to complain about. Fuel economy has been very good, even if we didn't replicate Citroen's claimed 40.4 mpg average figure. The distance to empty gauge can also be a little idiosyncratic, as noted by a staff member who arrived at the office dripping wet after walking a couple of miles through pouring rain to a petrol station after the Citroen clearly indicated another ten miles to empty.
The suspension on the VTS has a pronounced sporty edge but the feedback from the wheels that you need in a hot hatch isn't too intrusive. Speed humps present little problem, either in terms of grounding at the front or the catapulting of rear seat passengers into the roof lining, and manhole covers aren't made to feel like cattle grids. The front end has plenty of grip with the traction control intervening only under serious provocation or in slippery conditions and the steering is accurate on the turn in.
Driving another car then getting behind the wheel of the C2 VTS, it's important to make a mental note concerning the brakes. There's some considerable travel on the middle pedal but when the ventilated discs bite, they do so in tenacious fashion. It's easy to apply them a little too firmly in an absentminded moment, in which case a look in the rear-view mirror at the sheepish face of the driver behind should be indication enough of how abruptly the C2 has halted. Of course, when it comes to avoiding accidents, anchors this effective could be invaluable and there's ABS, EBA and EBD to ensure optimum stopping power is always applied. So far as the other key controls go, the gearchange is not the slickest you'll come across with its loose, long-throw action but the thick steering wheel feels good in the hand. The drilled aluminium pedals look the part but caution is required in the wet because a damp-soled trainer can easily slip from the polished surface at an inopportune moment.
The keys to the Citroen C2 VTS are rarely seen sitting about the road testing department. While others will sing the praises of cars you know to be duffers in order to offload them for the weekend, the C2 has provoked all manner of skulduggery. One staff member even invented an entirely non-existent 'intermittent fault' that she would get sorted at the weekend in a desperate attempt to retain the VTS. One thing's for sure. We'll be sad to see the back of the Citroen. Some cars generate a feeling of elation when you realise you won't have to drive them any more, but when the Citroen driver arrives at the office, it'll be black arm bands all round.
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