To keep up with the best of what the ultra competitive B-segment has to offer, you’ve really got to be on your A-game. With the likes of the top-selling Ford Fiesta and VW’s Polo monopolising the market, the rather dowdy previous generation Citroen C3, with its snail-esque silhouette didn’t really cut the mustard, French or otherwise.
Citroen are undoubtedly taking this C3 a bit more seriously, though, and they’ve achieved this somewhat contrarily by adopting a more light-hearted approach. The inspiration drawn from the futuristically bumpy C4 Cactus is there for all to see. They share a rounded, almost grilleless face, with ultra-thin headlights slashed just below the bonnet, high above either one or two sets of ‘regular’ round lights that almost go unnoticed.
C3 Airbumps: love ’em or hate ’em
The glass-housing seems to have been sunk into the bodywork and this coupled with the ‘floating’ roof makes for a chunky, cartoonish looking car, but a pretty sleek one, too. Of course, you can’t talk about either the C3 or the C4 Cactus without bringing up those Marmite airbumps that still divide opinion; personally, I’d go for them on any car with a modicum of familyness about it.
In a world apparently designed by wind tunnels and market research, its great to see that Citroen still have the nerve to keep hold of what made them great in the first place. It’s not just the C3’s appearance that’s so very Citroen, though – the way it drives is, too. What I mean by this is how damn-comfortable it is; yes, the seats seem to have been also taken out of the Cactus, thereby offering precisely zero by way of body hugs, but they sure are a nice place to sit. Not only this but the C3’s ride is so well dampened that it’s far more forgiving and easy to live with on long journeys than its competitors, especially for a relatively small car riding on 17” wheels.
Space in the back is definitely designed with children in mind. Tall adults do fit in, but only just and anyone over 5’10” won’t thank you for a long journey in the back of a C3. At 300 litres the boot is very average for the sector but the 60/40 split rear seats make it far more practical; you can carry a rear passenger and a snowboard.
Inside the C3 is modern, but with its large central screen layout, the dash is actually becoming the norm in today’s cars. There are accents of the C3’s signature rounded squares dotted all around and they turn mundane features like air vents into far more funky affairs. The fabric door pulls are another carry-over from the Cactus and they’re cool enough, as long as in the long run they live up to the rigours of every day life.
Huge door-bins aside, the C3 isn’t exactly blessed with great storage. The front cup-holders, for example, only have enough clearance above them for a small coffee cup; Citroen mustn’t have envisaged longer journeys that require tall travel-size mugs. Something else that could do with being a bit bigger is the gap between clutch and brake pedals. I don’t have a penchant for wearing Ronald McDonald’s shoes, I’m an average size 10, yet I’d often find myself breaking up fights for space that had broken out between my left and right feet.
Go for the more powerful engine
From launch there’s a choice of two four-cylinder diesel engines and three petrols, all of which are three-cylinder. These are spread across four trim levels; Touch, Feel, Flair and Flair Nav, with certain engines only available with certain specs. There is an automatic transmission choice but that’s reserved for the 109hp petrol engine in Flair spec only, so will cost in excess of £18K.
Our test car is the Flair model which comes with climate, rear parking sensors & camera and a 7” touchscreen that’s compatible with CarPlay and Android. Under the bonnet is the more powerful 109bhp petrol engine; a quirky 3-cylinder petrol engine that suits the C3 far better than a diesel, especially when they’re as good as Citroen’s Puretech range. The 109bhp engine carries a £1,200 premium over the 81bhp unit, but it’s totally worth the extra as it’s nearly four seconds quicker from 0-62mph, whilst actually being cleaner and more economical.
Should I buy a Citroen C3?
Citroen have taken the fight to the likes of the Fiesta by not being scared to use the marque’s inherent character traits. For this they should be applauded because it could so easily have gone wrong. In the case of the C3, it’s gone very right and they’ve created an original look that’s comfortable to drive, despite its size. How very Citroen.
By Ben Harrington
Citroen C3 Flair Specifications
Engine – 1.2l 3-cyl petrol, Layout –Front engine, FWD, Transmission – 5-speed manual, Power – 109bhp, Acceleration –0-62mph – 9.3s, Maximum Speed –117mph, Maximum Torque – 205Nm @ 1500 rpm, Economy – 61.4 mpg combined, Emissions –103g/km CO2, Price – £16,845 OTR, £17,970 as tested
The Citroen C3 is available now. For full details go to: www.citroen.co.uk