Citroen C3 Review
The Citroen C3 has quirky looks and a cabin that’s comfortable unless you’re a tall person in the back. However, it’s hard to drive smoothly in town and the infotainment system is clunky
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The Citroen C3 is an eye-catching small car that’s comfortable and quiet to drive, although alternative models have more space in the back and are better to drive.
Few have the Citroen’s style or level of personalisation, though. You can choose from nine shades of paint, three contrasting roof colours and – in the top-of-the-range model – two colours for the protective plastic cladding (Citroen calls Airbumps) that run down the side of the car. There are also a couple of £250 packs that add orange or white highlights to the interior.
The striking styling of the outside is mirrored inside, where you get a rectangular theme and leather-effect door pulls that look cooler than the moulded ones you get in other small cars. There’s even an element of customisation available (on all but the entry-level model) with Citroen letting you choose from two interior themes – Red Urban or Hype Colorado.
There’s only one option for the infotainment system, though. It’s neither the sharpest looking nor quickest touchscreen available in this sort of car, but its saving grace is that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available. So all but the entry-level Citroen C3 (which doesn’t get the touchscreen) can mirror the sat-nav on your compatible smartphone.
Sitting in the Citroen C3’s driver’s seat is a bit like slouching down in a big comfortable sofa – the front chairs are wide and yielding, although they don’t offer much support in bends. It isn’t quite so comfortable in the back seats – headroom is just average (and even tighter if you spec the panoramic sunroof) and a Nissan Micra has more knee room.
In terms of interior cubbies, the Citroen C3 is only really let down by the small glovebox because its door bins are big and it has a number of smaller storage areas.
The 300-litre boot is also a reasonable capacity for this size of car. It’ll happily swallow a pushchair or a couple suitcases, but it would be easier to load if you got an adjustable boot floor like you get in the VW Polo.
The Citroen C3 is not fun to drive like a Ford Fiesta, instead its soft suspension means it’s very comfortable for a car like this and the cabin is also relatively quiet on the motorway.
The Citroen C3 stands out from more sensible alternatives like a bottle of chocolate milk in the semi-skimmed aisle at the supermarket
The Citroen C3 is not the safest though – it scored four stars compared to the five stars Euro NCAP awarded the SEAT Ibiza. Top end models do get automatic emergency braking, though, which can stop the car automatically at slow speeds if it detects something in your path.
Engines include three petrols and three diesels. The two more powerful petrols are cheap to buy, cost little to run and have zippy performance that makes them ideal for a small car that’ll probably spend a lot of time in town. The more expensive diesels are only worth considering if you have a very high mileage where their improved fuel economy will pay off.
The Citroen C3’s absolutely deserves a place on your shortlist, though. It may fall down on rear seat space and driving fun, but its interesting styling is sure to win hearts.
The Citroen C3 lets passengers in the front seats get nice and comfortable, and there’s lots of stowage in the cabin, but some alternatives have more room in the back seat
When Citroen gets so much clever stuff into the C3 - like painting the inside of the door pockets white - why do they take up so much space in the glovebox with the fuse box?
Every Citroen C3 comes with a driver’s seat that adjusts for height and a steering wheel that moves for height and reach, so getting a comfortable driving position in the C3’s soft and squidgy sofa-like front seats isn’t a major problem.
Mid-range Feel models are worth upgrading to because they add electrically operated mirrors – which are easy to adjust when you’re buckled into your seat – and steering-wheel-mounted stereo controls. But the height adjustable passenger seat available in the SEAT Ibiza isn’t even an option here.
The SEAT is also a better bet if you need a spacious back seat. Anyone over six-feet tall will brush their head on the Citroen C3’s curved roof and your passengers will also have less kneeroom than a Nissan Micra. Specifying the panoramic sunroof (£400 in Flair models or as part of a £525 pack in Feel cars) makes headroom tight even for those of an average height.
The Citroen C3’s saving grace is that with three in the back it doesn’t feel appallingly cramped for shoulder room, the big footwells have space for everybody’s feet and the middle seat itself is comfier than in alternative models.
Fitting a child seat isn’t a major hassle because the Citroen C3’s reasonably large doors give you good access to the back seat – although they don’t quite open 90 degrees – and the Isofix anchor points are easy to see.
Once you’ve got over the initial shock of the Citroen C3’s comically small glovebox (in right-hand drive models it houses the fusebox), you’ll find the Citroen’s interior storage is pretty good.
The front door pockets are massive – they’ll carry enough bottles of water to douse a campfire and even the smaller rear doors have space for a litre bottle of water. The insides of the door pockets are also painted white, so it’s easier to sift through all the junk you store in there.
On top of that, you get a tray for your phone and a couple of shelves that’ll take smaller items such as a wallet. There’re also a couple of cupholders in front of the gear shifter, although they’re too small for a litre bottle of water.
The Citroen C3’s 300-litre boot is about average for this size of car, being bigger than the Ford Fiesta’s (292 litres) and smaller than the SEAT Ibiza’s (355 litres). You won’t exactly be bowled away by features, though – the Citroen C3 gets hooks for keeping your shopping from spilling all over the place and tethers to tie your luggage down, but that’s about it.
Loading is a pain because you have to lift luggage over the boot’s tall load lip and an adjustable boot floor that would solve this problem isn’t an option. That said, the Citroen C3’s boot has space for everyday items such as a kid’s buggy, a set of golf clubs or a couple of suitcases.
For anything more, though, you’ll have to pull the levers on the back of the rear seats to fold them into the floor – increasing boot capacity to 922 litres. The Citroen C3 can take a decent load of boxes, suitcases and soft bags, or you can get a bike in without having to take its wheels off. That said, loading is hampered again by the high boot lip and also by the hump in the boot floor that’s left when you fold away the seats.
On the upside, the rear bench splits 60:40 so you can carry up to two rear seat passengers and have something long poking in from the boot.
Driving the Citroen C3 is a bit like sitting in a comfortable armchair in your living room – it’s quiet and relaxing, but in no way exciting, and the basic petrol engine is slow
The C3 drives like a motorised sofa with suspension composed of blancmange – it’s comfortable, but not what you’d call agile
The Citroen C3 is available with three petrol engines and a choice of two diesels.
The petrols are basically the same 1.2-litre PureTech, but tuned to produce 68, 82 or 110hp. Even in the small Citroen C3 the 68hp motor feels underpowered so you’re better of choosing between the other two.
The 82hp model is perfectly adequate in town, but if you often venture further afield then go for the turbocharged 110hp version – it feels quite nippy for a car this size. It’s the only model available with Citroen six-speed automatic gearbox that changes gear smoothly and isn’t jerky at low speeds in town like the one you can get in the SEAT Ibiza.
Even with the automatic gearbox fitted, the Citroen C3 will return 60mpg, officially, or about 50mpg in the real world with a light right foot.
Making a case for one of the 1.6-litre diesels isn’t easy when the petrols already deliver such decent fuel economy. Diesels come in pedestrian 75hp or punchy 100hp forms and should both be capable of more than 70mpg, but you’ll have to live on the motorway to make up the £1,500 premium they cost over the equivalent petrol.
The Citroen C3’s front seats feel like one half of a big comfy sofa, which helps take the edge off long journeys. They’re a nice match for the Citroen’s soft suspension and quiet interior.
The flipside is that it doesn’t feel as at home on twisting country roads as, say, a Ford Fiesta. Its suspension leans in bends (not helped by the seats’ lack of lateral support) so if you whip into a corner too enthusiastically it feels like you need hang on to the steering wheel to avoid getting slung out of your seat.
Luckily, the light steering and slushy gearbox action (that feels a bit like stirring cake mix) don’t really encourage that kind of driving.
That said, you’ll be thankful for the that steering when you’re making tight manoeuvres in town. The Citroen C3 has an upright driving position that gives you a good view out the front of the car that isn’t impeded too much by the thin pillar that runs up the sides of the windscreen. The back window seems quite small though, which causes a large blind spot towards the rear corners of the car.
That can make reversing into tight spaces quite tricky, although top-of-the-range Flair models solve this with a reversing camera and parking sensors. They’re a £500 option on mid-range Feel cars.
Top-of-the-range Flair models also offer a feature that is unique to the C3 – called ConnectedCam. It constantly films the view out the front as you’re driving along and can record the first 30 seconds up to an accident. Unfortunately, the Citroen C3 only scored four stars when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP in 2017, compared to the SEAT Ibiza’s five stars.
The Citroen C3’s interior has bags of character and gives you lots of opportunities to personalise it