AS summer ends it seemed a good idea to wind up my occasional series on day-trips by car with a
AS summer ends it seemed a good idea to wind up my occasional series on day-trips by car with a visit to the home of a true British eccentric.
This week’s drive, the new CitroÃ«n C1, is no stranger to eccentricity. I have just finished reading an article on the history of the wonderful CitroÃ«n DS — the car that wowed everyone on its world debut at the 1955 Paris Motor Show.
To me, the new C1 has resonances of that perfectly affable French eccentricity that seems literally to drive CitroÃ«n car culture.
For instance, this C1 Flair Edition PureTech 82 in an arresting shade is adorned by a curious nautical-inspired motif.
For the life of me, I could not see the significance of this emblem until I realised it must simply complement the colour of the car: Blue Lagoon. Very French indeed!
So in an hour-long drive from our home in Gloucestershire — and about an hour-and-a-half from Henley in South Oxfordshire — we drove this little buzz bomb to Snowshill Manor, a National Trust property in the north of the Cotswolds near Broadway.
Should you get the chance, I would thoroughly recommend this day trip to the erstwhile home of the eccentric 20th century collector, Charles Paget Wade.
I’m not sure if Wade was into cars in any way, but he was certainly into how things work — his was a sort of one-man mission to preserve artefacts of the last century that showed craftsmanship and original design elements.
Wade, the son of a sugar plantation owner, and who died in 1956, was always well placed financially to indulge his passion for collecting. He bought Snowshill Manor in 1919 after surviving his stint as a sapper with the Royal Engineers in France during the First World War.
Yet he never lived in the manor, preferring instead to make the nearby Priest’s House his comparatively modest home. He bought Snowshill Manor itself simply as a home for his collection — a lifelong passion.
This cornucopia of everything from Japanese Samurai swords and suits to penny-farthings and printing machines, is displayed in 20 rooms.
The garden at Snowshill Manor as also a delight in its own right: I have seldom seen such an interestingly designed garden space full of nooks and crannies on many levels and all overlooking a stunning Cotswold valley.
Of course, this area with its lavender fields is best accessed by car, and that’s what makes it such a grand day out.
Unsurprisingly, the C1 — which is officially a city slicker — seemed greatly at home on the winding country lanes surrounding Snowshill, some of them no more than single tracks.
But its plucky little three-cylinder PureTech petrol engine never faltered. I suspect Charles Wade would have found this invention fascinating.
PureTech is the name given to CitroÃ«n’s new range of three-cylinder naturally aspirated and turbocharged 1.0- and 1.2-litre petrol engines.
CitroÃ«n says the 1.2-engine has the power and torque of a 1.6-engine. The French carmaker claims a “genuine breakthrough in terms of fuel economy, low CO2 and drivability”.
I found the car to be both economical (it has official figures of 65.7mpg on the combined cycle) and this rasping new engine very willing. Sometimes it was wanting on motorway inclines when you needed swift acceleration but once you built up the revs, the C1 was soon humming along. And the gearbox was a treat.
Comfort was good for such a small car — though the rear seating area is small but boot space perfectly adequate.
There is also a lot of standard equipment included and I like the bright and clear graphics on its seven-inch touchscreen.
On the Flair model I drove the DAB digital radio/MP3 audio system with four speakers, Bluetooth handsfree, USB socket and steering mounted controls were all included as standard.
There are some attractive options available on the new C1 Flair to make life even better, including black leather upholstery and auto air conditioning and auto headlights.
All in all a good day out to a treasure trove of 20th century tech at Snowshill Manor — a fitting place to visit in a car that embodies our super-sophisticated technological age.
For more on Snowshill Manor, visit the website www.nationaltrust.org.uk/snowshill-manor
C1 fact file:
Test car: CitroÃ«n C1 Flair Edition PureTech 82 manual 3-door in Blue Lagoon