Ralph Nader began a crusade in the 1960s to rid the world of General Motors’ Corvair. The noted American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney, noted for his involvement in consumer protection, first came to prominence in 1965 with the publication of the bestselling book Unsafe at Any Speed, where he researched case files from more than 100 lawsuits then pending against the Corvair.
The rear engine and swing axle design of early models allowed rear tires to undergo large camber angle changes during fast cornering due to side g-forces causing “rebound” camber and decreasing the tread contact with the road surface, leading to a loss of rear wheel grip and oversteer – a dynamically unstable condition where a driver can lose control and spin.
The folks at Fifth Gear, the British motoring magazine series, just took aim at the new Citroën Ami 100% electric, in a road test test where they took the urban runabout to the track to test handling parameters within its 28 mph (45 km/h) top speed. They shockingly discovered that the Ami can potentially rollover if pressed hard to corner at speed. Of course the Ami is not a race car, so why try to drive it like one?
For starters, Citroën named their new little 2 seater the Ami and claimed lineage to the Ami 6, a car that with its 2CV-like suspension can hold its own when pressed to corner hard even though it looks precarious doing so.
And the new Ami can be driven (in France at least) by 14 year-olds. Didn’t most us, when we first got the opportunity to drive, tend to go a little too fast at times to hear the screech of tires in turns and experience our cars’ limitations?
Citroën’s reaction to the near flip was to issue a statement saying that; “it is not a car… and is only intended for use at low speeds in busy stop and start urban traffic.”
Fifth Gear’s point was that if the Ami can go 28mph on a road it should be treated like a car, albeit a slow one. Some people are going to try taking a roundabout or corner at that speed, and it should be able to handle the side g-force without tipping over.
Granted, in taking it to the track for a test, they don’t get the point of the vehicle. Most are not going to drive it way they did. So while some would argue that it was a pointless test, it certainly serves as an illustrative safety video to present the danger of driving the Ami in a way it’s not supposed to be.
What remains to be seen is how this sensational Fifth Gear test of the Ami is going to affect its sales and the reputation of the Citroën brand.
One thing is for sure — the new Ami handles more like a golf cart than the near-impossible to flip original Ami 6. It’s too bad that Citroën did not incorporate 2CV-like suspension to allow it to ride much smoother and handle cornering better.
Given this latest revelation about the new Ami, Citroën would be crazy to offer it in the USA, given the litigation that has arisen over here as a result of questionable automobile handling. It may not be a “car” by Citroen’s and the DMV’s definition, but on the road with that potential roll-over capability, it would be Ralph Nader’s best friend for a lawsuit against the brand.
Watch the Fifth Gear track test here: