The Citroen C2 is, to many, the spiritual successor to the legendary Deux Chevaux, the 2CV that put Citroen on the map by offering a true "Car for the People".
However, unlike the 2CV the C2 is no stripped-out "farm-mobile", but a modern, sporty and well-equipped small car that is more likely to appeal to a trendy youngster than your average housewife.
Although the C2 is based on Citroen's "Platform 1" underpinnings - same as the bigger C3 - it is a compact car that is a full 15 cm shorter than the C3, but thanks to its versatility gives unbelievable legroom in the back - if you're prepared to swap people space for luggage room.
What's more it can carry BIG loads thanks to a special drop-down tailgate that can accommodate a full 100 kg.
Faster car later
Available only as a 3-door in VTR trim, the C2 is currently available only with a 1.4-litre engine and 5-speed manual transmission, but Citroen SA marketing manager Ian Beales told me the company was investigating introducing an 80+ kW 1.6-litre version later.
However, he did not foresee a diesel C2 as this would undermine sales of the C3 Hdi - the company's top-seller.
Spunky-looking, the C2 has a definitive style that sets it light years apart from the controversially-styled C3, including "double wedge" side windows and a deep front airdam, as well as a chopped-off tail complete with tailgate spoiler, plus wide wheels shod with fat 185/55 R14 takkies.
Beales said the main target market was expected to be younger people, with 60/40 ratio men to women.
The C2 is 3.66 m long, 1.66 m wide and 1.46 m tall. Its size places it squarely in the middle of the compact 3-door segment. As well as being an excellent tourerit is also very much a city car, with its compact dimensions, modular passenger compartment and four individual seats.
Initially, the C2 is launched with a 1.4i 16v petrol powerplant, which develops 55 kW at 5 400 r/min and 118 Nm of torque at 3 300 r/min.
High equipment level
And it features standard equipment normally reserved for segments further up the market, such as dual-stage front and side airbags, variable electric power steering, ABS braking with electronic brake distribution (EBD) plus electronic brake assist (EBA) and pyrotechnic pre-tensioner safety belts.
Its wide range of comfort equipment include electric front windows (the rear side windows are fixed), electric mirrors, air-conditioning and a radio/front-loader CD player with six speakers and remote, steering-wheel-mounted controls.
There's remote-controlled central locking using a transducer key, and fog-lights are fitted front and rear.
Inside the C2 is bright and trendy, with a two-tone colour scheme and the use of modern materials, including translucent plastic on the gearknob and door pulls, plus aluminium trim on the central console.
The dashboard is similar to that on the C3, with a centre console area containing the sound system and heating and ventilation controls, plus two eyeball air vents (with aluminium "fins") to complement the eyeballs at the dash extremities.
There's a covered dash-top stowage area in addition to the small drop-down glovebox, plus other nicknacks areas, while a trip computer screen is perched on top of the dash in a hooded binnacle.
The instrument panel, trimmed with carbon fibre-look material, is right in front of the driver in a deeply recessed binnacle, and contains the same digital instruments as on the C3, with the speed indicated in large orange LED numerals, with the revs reading on the outer rim, and water temperature and fuel in smaller gauges.
Good seat support
The front seats are cloth-trimmed - on the car we drove in black and red - and are tightly form-fitting to give support during hard cornering.
The steering wheel features a modern design with three spokes, and the switches for the electric windows are just forward of the gear lever.
There are two independent rear seats, and these fold forward easily to give more stowage space, and slide backwards and forward to maximise (or minimise) rear legroom.
The cleverly designed tailgate opens in two sections, so the boot can be accessed in all circumstances even when limited space is available, as is frequently the case in the city.
Thus you can just open the top part to chuck in your briefcase (there's a built-in cover that is attached to the tailgate) or you drop down the bottom part to put big items in. The bottom part also contains a hidden stowage area, and it has strong steel wire ties that allow you to carry big loads with the tailgate open.
Depending on the position of the rear seats the boot volume can vary between 166 and 224 litres.
The C2 offers a load volume of 629 litres with one rear seat folded forward and 879 litres with both seats folded.
On the road
Although modestly powered, the C2 is a lightweight, which means it is much nippier than expected, and has a turn of speed out of keeping with its segment, returning a top end of 172 km/h and 0-100 km/h acceleration of the order of 12.2 seconds. Click here to see how it compares with other cars.
The engine begs to be revved, hence its excellent overtaking performance, but nevertheless it returns good economy figures.
Citroen says the 1.4i 16v C2 uses 8.3 litres/100km in the urban cycle, 6.1 litres/100km in the combined cycle and an outstanding 4.9 litres/100km in the extra-urban (open road) cycle.
We travelled on a wide variety of roads on the launch, which was held in the Cape Town area, and I was particularly impressed by the ride quality - easily absorbing bumps on some of the many-repaired rural roads - as well as its handling.
The car is taut and stiff, and there's little understeer, in stark contrast to some of its competitors. This is a car you can throw around with impunity, with short overhangs and a design that puts the wheels fair and square on the corners of the vehicle.
The running gear components are similar to those of the C3. The MacPherson type front suspension features a decoupled anti-roll bar linked directly to the shock absorbers, while at the back there's a flexible transverse beam with hydraulic shock absorbers and an anti-roll bar.
The C2 features an electric power steering system in which power varies continuously depending on speed.
This means when parking the steering is light and easy to turn, while on the road it gets heavier and offers more "feel".
Parking, by the way, is second only to the diminutive Smart car, with all the corners easy to see and a tiny 9.6m turning circle.
The steering wheel is adjustable by 40 mm for height and reach and the driver's seat height-adjustable by 50 mm, while the front seats are designed to slide a distance of 230 mm. As a result, drivers of almost any shape can find the ideal driving position.
The seat height of 305 mm offers a good balance between a clear view of the road and a position adapted to a lively driving style.
Limited maintenance is needed on the C2, reducing running costs. For example, the timing belt only needs replacing at 120 000 km and standard service intervals are only necessary every 20 000km.
Competitively priced at R119 995, the Citroen C2 1.4i VTR comes standard with a three year or 100 000 km factory warranty. There is a warranty of three years on the paintwork, as well as a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty.
A comprehensive road assistance package is standard on all Citroens and a 2-year/60 000 km maintenance plan is available as an option at R5 000 plus VAT.
Citroen South Africa is part of the Associated Motor Holdings stable (part of the Imperial group). Citroen came back to South Africa in June 2001, and has doubled its sales year-on-year since then to the position where 3 500 cars were sold last year.
This year's target is 6 000 units, with more than 2 000 expected to be C2s.
There are a total of 27 different models available in SA, ranging from the Berlingo vans through to the C5 luxury car.
There are currently 21 dealers across SA, with three more expected by the end of the year.
Citroen sells almost 1.4-million cars a year worldwide, of which 19% are exported.