Are the chunky looks of this small SUV enough?
Remember when CitroÃ«n made the C3 Picasso MPV? Now that people arenâ€™t buying MPVs, the French company has had to change those initials to SUV. Take the small MPV, add in some chunky styling and a bit of height, and there you go, another small SUV and, given the market, itâ€™s bound to sell. Isnâ€™t it?
It starts off solidly enough, with a perky 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine. With 128bhp and a solid 151lb ft, the three-pot provides more than enough thrust to get things going in a mildly exciting manner. Thereâ€™s that offbeat three-cylinder sound, but actually it gets a bit ragged under pressure and isnâ€™t terribly refined on the motorway. Fun comes at a price here.
In an ideal world youâ€™d have taut steering and some movement in a comfy suspension, but here the roles are more reversed, with a wandery and wooly steering offset by suspension that is overly firm. The steering really does lack any feeling, which makes the whole experience feel a bit remote, which isnâ€™t a good thing.
Citroen C3 Aircross
Engine: 1299cc, petrol
Power: 118bhp at 5500rpm
Torque: 151lb ft at 1750rpm
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1188kg
Top speed: 124mph
Fuel economy: 53.3mpg
CO2 rating: 119g/km
The ride can be a bit fidgety on most roads although it does settle down on the motorway, leaving you free to listen to the engine and wind and road noise.
But at least the cabin looks like a fun place to be. Where many vehicles in this sector err on the side of cautious drab, the C3 Aircross goes all out for French style and itâ€™s all the better for it. Everything from fabrics to design tells you this is a sunny, upbeat and optimistic kind of cabin. The materials arenâ€™t first-rate but letâ€™s not be curmudgeonly.
There are various options on offer but weâ€™d counsel you not to choose the panoramic sunroof. Because youâ€™ll spend nearly Â£1000 and what youâ€™ll get is distinctly diminished headroom front and rear, particularly so in the rear.
The C3 Picasso MPV was a fairly blameless small people carrier. What we have here with the C3 Aircross is an attempt to inject fun into the equation. It looks quite fun, inside and out, and at first glance the engine matches that ambition. But to turn it into a small SUV there have been a number of compromises and youâ€™re left with a vehicle which is really neither one thing nor the other.
If youâ€™re so shallow that you simply want to look like youâ€™re having fun, like someone at a party with a permanent smile on their face, then this will match your aspirations nicely. But if you actually want to have fun then perhaps you should look a little farther afield â€“ after all, this sector is simply jammed with choices and alternatives.