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Skoda Australia locks in Citigo

Green light: Skoda’s Citigo, a twin-under-the-skin to the forthcoming Volkswagen Up, will arrive Down Under by the middle of next year.

Citigo mini-car confirmed for Skoda Australia showrooms from first half of 2013

Skoda logo20 Jun 2012

By MIKE COSTELLO

SKODA has confirmed it will introduce its twin to the Volkswagen Up micro-car – the Citigo – to the Australian market, with sales to commence in the first half of 2013.

As with the Up, the tiny Citigo will be available in both three- and five-door hatchback body styles, but will be priced even lower than the baby VW, probably from around the $14,000 mark.

Volkswagen Australia has indicated it will seek to price the entry-level Up from around $15,000 when it launches in the fourth quarter of this year, which would make it easily the cheapest European car on-sale in the local market.

However, Skoda Australia director Matthew Wiesner told GoAuto earlier this week that the Citigo – which is almost identical to the Up but with Skoda styling touches such as a different grille and re-shaped rear windows on the three-door – would be priced even lower still.

“It’s too early to talk pricing, but we’ll have a clear positioning below Volkswagen in that sense,” he said.

“You can look at Citigo and Up and effectively they are just pure badge engineering, because they come out of the same factory, they have a different badge on theirs, we have a different badge on ours and quite frankly the rest is pretty similar.

“So we’ll just make sure we have that clear bit of daylight between the pair of them.”

Mr Wiesner said bringing the Citigo to the local market made sense because it allows the company to develop a ground-floor presence in a market segment that is primed for growth in the years ahead.

“The beauty of Citigo is that we can get a car with Skoda written on it into a segment that is really yet to grow, and the beauty of that is that as the segment does evolve – and it will evolve – we are already there,” he said.

As with the Up, the Slovakian-assembled Citigo is powered in Europe by a 55kW/95Nm three-cylinder petrol engine (plus a detuned 44kW/95Nm version) matched with either a five-speed manual gearbox or an automated ASG transmission.

The car will be pitched in Australia against the Korean-built Holden Barina Spark, Indonesian-made Nissan Micra ST, Malaysian Proton S16 and Indian-sourced Suzuki Alto, although only the latter is as compact as the Skoda.

Despite its miniscule dimensions, the Citigo scored a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety score earlier this year.

The decision to introduce the Citigo means Skoda Australia is unlikely to introduce a new entry-level Fabia variant any time soon, despite the fact that Volkswagen earlier this year introduced a $16,990 Trendline five-door Polo variant that undercuts the cheapest Fabia by $2000.

Mr Wiesner said Skoda would instead focus on higher-end Fabia variants like the Monte Carlo and RS hot hatch, plus the quirky and unique wagon, because they have “more cache and are a point of difference”.

“Cheap is easy, anyone can do cheap, but once you do cheap, where else do you go?” he said.

“It’s something to look at it time, maybe, but I’d much rather get RS working really well and get more out of its, plus wagon, because nobody else has really got one.

“We’ve got enough to work on for now, but if we need to one day look at having a cracking entry point, we’ll look at that then.”

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