£11,075 - £17,565 Price range
43 - 83 MPG
While the Citroen range is stacked full of different ideas, the C3 is the conventional choice – and it has to be in order to sell the volume Citroen expects of it. The good news is that while it’s not quite as interesting as its peers it’s not wholly boring like many other vehicles in the sector and it retains traditional Citroen values – it’s quiet, comfortable, refined and has a nice set of frugal diesel engines.
But it’s four years old now and, despite a mid-life facelift in 2013, the little Citroen can’t really hold its own in a class stuffed full of new rivals. While it has plenty of virtues other players have moved the supermini game on somewhat and it’s a lot harder to recommend the C3 above a whole slew of its competitors.
A new car that hopes to address these issues has been revealed – take a first look at the new Citroen C3 in our price, specs and release date article.
Cheapest to buy: 1.0-litre VT petrol
Cheapest to run: 1.6-litre BlueHDi 75 VT diesel
Fastest model: 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 Platinum diesel
Most popular: 1.0-litre VT petrol
Interior quality and feel are greatly improved over the old car, giving a more luxurious and stylish feel to the inside. Attractive as it may be though, some reviews pick out a few issues – plastics aren’t as high-quality as those in other cars of this size, and the seats can be a little unsupportive, if still comfortable.
Practicality is also good – there’s a large boot with a wide opening and low lip to help things in and out. Unfortunately the seats don’t fold completely flat, something which could prove irritating on occasion, and most reviewers agree that rear legroom is a little lacking – items of note if you’re planning on carrying lots of people or things.
One of the C3’s more unique attributes is its panoramic windscreen. This stretches right back over your head for a unique view of the road (and the sky, mostly). It’s an interesting touch, but we’d not like to think how much it might cost to repair or replace should you suffer a stone chip…
While there are other, similarly sized, cars that offer a more involved driving experience the Citroen is still a reasonable choice. That’s particularly the case if you’re more interested in comfort or styling than pretending to be a racing driver.
To that end it has a comfy and refined gait on most roads and is better for tackling long distances than some of its rivals. The downside of the smooth ride quality is plenty of body roll in the turns – and a general lack of sharpness if you push up the pace. Rivals like Ford’s Fiesta still offer the best compromise between ride and handling.
The gearbox choices are also a little sluggish and dull-witted and not really suitable for enthusiastic driving. If a sporty small Citroen is more your sort of thing, you’ll need to look in the direction of the DS3 instead.
The relaxed nature of the C3 is reflected in the engine reviews. Reviewers generally agree that the car’s better off with one of the refined and capable diesels than the 1.6-litre petrol (shared with the MINI) that marks the most powerful of the selection.
Those diesels have always been the economical choice, particularly since Citroen introduced its 1.6-litre e-HDi unit. In eco-biased Airdream specification it returns up to 78.5 mpg with a 95 g/km output – or 83.1mpg & 87g/km with the automatic gearbox. Some rivals may now have topped these figures, but it’s a refined, punchy unit that should prove inexpensive to run.
Also inexpensive is the recently-introduced 1.2-litre VTi, a three-cylinder petrol with 61 mpg combined economy and £20 per year car tax. It’s refined at a cruise and fun to thrash when you’re in the mood. The entry level 1.1-litre petrol, with 68hp, hits that magic 99g/km mark for free VED, but it’s a little sluggish so worth giving a swerve.
The engine is a small-capacity three-cylinder unit, and reviewers say that while it needs working hard, it isn't a chore - the three-pot is smooth and offers a "throaty" exhaust note under hard acceleration. It "responds enthusiastically" and returns a useful 61.4 mpg combined - while tax is only £20 a year.
That’s not to say it doesn’t warrant a second look, though - experts say that it’s still perfectly happy cruising along the likes of the M1, and has absolutely no trouble with a stop-start city environment either.
Also not unlike the other diesel of the range, this should hit around 70mpg, and sits in a £35/year road tax bracket - pretty impressive!
Testers say it’s eager to pull the car along with vigor, and it’s keen not to raise its voice in the process - matching the C3’s refined, relaxed nature. It’s likely to be very efficient, too - the official figures suggest it will break 70 mpg, and tax ratings are also low
The HDi was replaced by the e-HDi in 2013, but so far no reviews of this exact model have been posted. It's proven popular in other Citroen and Peugeot cars though, so remains a solid choice.
With that said, if you’re particularly after a petrol, the 1.6 shouldn’t be ignored - not least because it has a higher MPG figure than the 1.4 along with a lower output of CO2, meaning that it should be the same or perhaps a little cheaper to run than its little brother.
The C3 was tested in 2009 when the new generation was launched and while the facelift may have addressed some of the shortcomings in the pedestrian safety and safety assist categories it remains a four star car unless it is retested.
It actually performed reasonably well in adult occupant protection tests, netting 83%, though there were poor marks for whiplash protection and in the side-impact pole test. 74% for child occupant safety is creditable if not stellar.
Lack of stability control on most models really hurt the score in the safety assist category, while a zero point performance for pedestrians’ pelvises means it rated just 33% in that area.
Surprisingly for a Citroen the C3 is priced in line with most of its rivals – the cheapest five-door versions of the Fiesta and Polo both sit at around the same price point once you’ve factored in any offers Citroen have on at the time. Equipment levels are also similar, though the C3 lacks clever features like the voice control system currently available in a Fiesta of similar price.
Unsurprisingly for Citroen, however, depreciation is still a concern. Bear that in mind if you’re considering buying new.
The C3 has suffered at the hands of time and if it’s a while since you last checked this review you’ll probably notice its score has dropped. There’s no real reason to mark it down, but with Fiestas and Polos still around and a new Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio appearing since the C3 debuted, there are certainly fewer reasons to opt for the Citroen than there used to be.