Citroen takes the quirky approach to the supermini market
This is the car Citroen wants you to buy instead of a Ford Fiesta. But rather than trying to beat the Fiesta at its own game, the new C3 ramps up the comfort levels with an easy-does-it suspension set-up.
On sale from the start of next year, the C3 sits on a revised structure whose integral crashworthiness has been boosted â€“ to the benefit of those both inside and out. Itâ€™s also pretty distinctive to look at, in a way that has a touch of the love-it-or-hate-it going on but certainly wonâ€™t be tainted with any is-that-one-of-them-Micra-things action.
CitroÃ«n C3 1.2 Puretech 82 Flair
Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Five-speedÂ manual
Top speed: 104mph
Fuel economy: 60.1mpg combined
CO2Â emissions: 109g/km
When we canvassed opinion on the C3, at any rate, it got more smiles than scowls. And it youâ€™re a grumpy old man, or probably in reality a minimum of any one of these things, youâ€™ll be pacified to hear that the mouldings on the sides of the Flair model tested here can be deleted for free.
Said Flair model is the range-topper, so we gloried in a cabin featuring a much-improved media system with top-line smartphone pairing as standard. This allows you to use your phone as a sat-nav via the 7.0â€ screen, so why youâ€™d choose to splurge Â£500 on an integrated system is a bit of a mystery. Our test vehicle had it, however â€“ though having used it, why youâ€™d splurge Â£500 on it is more of a mystery to us than ever.
Something youâ€™ll hopefully never use is a standard-fit dash cam which will automatically record 30 secondsâ€™ footage both before and after an accident. The C3 is actually the first car in the world to get this simple and potentially very worthwhile feature â€“ whether crash-for-cash scumbags will know not to target the vehicle is doubtful, but the good news is that your carâ€™s evidence could help put them where they belong.
Well, in prison, at any rate. Obviously, where they really belong is face-down in a canal, but thereâ€™s only so much you can do.
Space and practicality
If you were to take the above a little too literally, the good news is that the C3 has a fairly generous boot in which to transport the insurance fraudster youâ€™ve just murdered. If your friends are a bit lanky, however, youâ€™ll only be able to fit them in the back seats by cutting their heads off, which isnâ€™t the idea at all.
Itâ€™s different up front, where a very good driving position means getting comfy is a breeze. Getting up to speed is not a breeze, however, more of a gale â€“ the engine in our test car was perfectly peppy around town, but on faster roads it needed a lot of revs.
Engine and driving
Said engine is the mid-range option in a choice of three petrol units. The C3 is a rarity in that thereâ€™s no diesel model at all, but the 1.2 Puretch 82 unit sings away cheerfully â€“ unless you ask it to settle on the motorway, in which case it moans like a frustrated teenager. The lack of a sixth speed in the manual box doesnâ€™t help here.
Keep it in its natural habitat, though, and the C3 can romp around town with the best of them. It doesnâ€™t pepper you with bumps, though body roll is your constant companion, but itâ€™s easy to drive and thatâ€™s what it feels like Citroen was aiming for.
It also feels like Citroen was aiming to make the C3 stand out from the crowd, and itâ€™s certainly mission accomplished there. While thereâ€™s a more conservative mainstream rival waiting to beat it in every major area, as a whole itâ€™s a perfectly decent car â€“ and when you factor in its character, youâ€™ve got a more attractive proposition than you might originally expect.
We think it would be more attractive still with the range-topping Puretech 110 engine, however. The 81bhp unit is one of this carâ€™s weak points â€“ adding a turbo, we think, would make all the difference.