Hit and miss crossover from CitroÃ«n manages to be funky and familiar at the same time
The mad popularity of SUVs these days must have made it easy for CitroÃ«n to reinventÂ its C3 Picasso MPVÂ as this chunky new C3 Aircross crossover.
It looks fun, in the same way that a Fiat Panda 4×4 does.Â As itâ€™s a CitroÃ«n, though, it will only ever be two-wheel drive because itâ€™s based on theÂ C3 superminiÂ (andÂ Vauxhall Crossland X) platform. So itâ€™s not a full-fat SUV, but it does have a respectable 175mm of ground clearance, plus hill descent control, adaptable traction control for off-road use and â€“Â on some versions at least â€“ all-season tyres. As long as youâ€™re not a polar adventurer or a deep-jungle explorer, it should transport you to most of your favoured active lifestyle destinations.
The engine choices start with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder 81bhp petrol which you can have in a basic car from Â£13,995. There are three trims on offer. The second one starts at Â£15,100 and turbocharges the 1.2 to produce 109bhpÂ or 128bhp. Thankfully CitroÃ«n has binned the terrible single-clutch automated manual gearbox and replaced it with a proper six-speed automatic thatâ€™s an option on the 109bhp car. For diesellers there are 99bhp and 119bhp 1.6-litre cars, neither of which can be had with the auto â€˜box. The top spec Aircross is Â£19,525.
CitroÃ«n C3 Aircross BlueHDI 120 Flair
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, diesel
Torque: 224lb ft
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1233kg
Top speed: 114mph
CO2/tax band: 107g/km, 23%
All Aircrosses throws in roof rails, 60/40 split rear seats, opening rear windows (donâ€™t laugh, you don’t always get those on a small CitroÃ«n), and a fold-flat passenger seat. On this top-spec Flair model you also get a sliding rear bench to boost cargo capacity from 410 to 520 litres, or 1289 litres with the rear bench down. That means you can dig quite a lot of active stuff out of the garage.
As you can see, styling-wise it falls into that oft-quoted â€˜funkyâ€™ category, inside as well as. If you insist on solid, high-quality cabin materials, best look elsewhere, as the surfaces here feel mainly unyielding and look eminently crackable. A bit of dolling up hither and yon gives you a reasonably favourable impression, but buyers will know theyâ€™re not in premium country. The big touchscreen that features in the two higher-spec models is slightly annoying because thatâ€™s where the climate controls are buried.
As far as driving it goes, it does the job and is maybe even a bit better than you might expect.Â Relative to the C3, CitroÃ«n has stiffened up the roll resistance to try and dilute the hatchâ€™s tendency to wobble during turning, braking, or acceleration. The consequence of that characteristic is to make smooth driving in C3 a pretty challenging affair.Â The factory tweaks have added much more control to the Aircross. The steering is still light, and lurches a bit from nothing happening to suddenly everything happening, but some would say thatâ€™s a very CitroÃ«ny (and therefore not unwelcome) quirk. The diesel in our car was very quiet, and the manual gearshift nicely effective.
Whether youâ€™d want to go out and buy an Aircross depends on what sort of a premium you place on standing out in a crowd. It looks different and fresh, but from a driverâ€™s perspective youâ€™ll find nothing remarkable going on. Youâ€™ll notice an absence of solidity, but again, many actually like that feeling in their CitroÃ«ns. Dynamically, itâ€™s not bothersome, which sounds like faint praise and is, but its rivals arenâ€™t exactly blinders, so relatively speaking it stands its ground in the marketplace. Same old CitroÃ«n, then â€“ and who will damn them for that?