Citroen C3

Quirky supermini is a breath of fresh air

7.6
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 5 reviews
  • Comfortable and quiet
  • Punchy petrol engines
  • Characterful
  • Not as classy as a Polo
  • Not as good to drive as a Fiesta
  • Not as practical as a Jazz
 

£10,995 - £17,095 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

80 - 60 MPG

Review

The Citroen C3 is France’s take on cars such as the fun-to-drive Ford Fiesta, classy VW Polo and practical Honda Jazz. It offers a degree of personalisation that would embarrass a high street boutique and a driving experience that harks back to the firm’s classic 2CV – a car that focused, above all else, on comfort.

So the C3 is a cool-looking car at a time when rivals are starting to look a little staid, and with 36 combinations of contrasting exterior colours to explore it’s ripe for the kind of customisation that appeals to the younger customers that tend to buy smaller cars like the C3.

There are plenty of ways to add your touch to the interior, too, but what impresses most is the decidedly non-car-like atmosphere inside – the use of fabric on the dashboard and leather-feel straps for the door pulls make it feel quite cozy – lounge-like even. Sadly, the material quality is pretty low-rent, but – hey, this is a Citroen… and at least the materials that are there feel properly screwed together. Families will be happy to hear the C3 has a decent-sized boot and various other useful storage areas.

That lounge-like interior gives a decent hint at how the C3 drives. It doesn’t try to wow with go-kart-like handling but, much like the bigger Cactus, instead aims to be extremely comfortable. As such, it’s more roly-poly than a Ford Fiesta in corners, but also a lot more comfortable on longer journeys.

Engines range from 67-109hp so breakneck performance driving isn’t really on the cards. The top-spec 109hp petrol is the pick of the range thanks to its cheap running costs and revvy power delivery.

Equipment levels are pretty good for the price, all cars get DAB digital radio, a Bluetooth phone connection and cruise control. Options are nicely priced with the panoramic sunroof costing £400 and sat-nav available across the range for £500.

Citroen’s mission was to make the C3’s interior as comfortable and homely as possible by using materials that have a distinctively non-automotive look and feel. Quirky details such as the trunk straps on the doors and the fabric on the glovebox help the C3 stand out from rivals and the interior is available in a variety of bright colours depending on which model you go for.

The overall dashboard design is uncluttered with a seven-inch touchscreen controlling the car’s systems on all but the basic Touch model. Fitted to all but the basic model, the infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay (Android Auto support comes in early 2017) so you can play music through your iPhone, use Google Maps, plus send and receive messages hands-free using Siri.

The £500 optional sat-nav system has plenty of modern functions such as real-time traffic information with warnings for congestion and it can also supply information on the weather, fuel prices and local parking spaces. In reality, though, if you have an iPhone you’ll be perfectly happy with the more basic system.

A first for the class is ConnectedCam – a small, forward-facing camera mounted in the rearview mirror – that comes standard in the top-spec model. It can take videos of your journey and, in the case of an accident, automatically record the incident.

Citroen C3 passenger space

The outgoing C3 wasn’t cramped inside but, nevertheless, Citroen has increased the wheelbase (the space between the front and rear wheels) of the new car. That extra space translates to more room inside – enough to challenge the spacious Renault Clio if not the VW Polo.

Citroen says a lot of thought has gone into making the seats as comfortable as possible, with the help of a special foam filler that feels more supportive than the foam used in the C4 Cactus. Backseat passengers are treated to a great forward view of the road thanks to front seat backs that are sculpted to improve visibility.

Citroen C3 boot space

At 300 litres in capacity, the C3’s boot is about average for the class. Its square shape makes loading suitcases easy, but with the rear seats down there’s a ridge in the floor that makes it tricky to fit bulky items.

Instead of trying to beat the Fiesta at its own game, the C3 instead aims to be a relaxing place to travel – a bit like a hot bubbly bath on wheels.

That’s no accident – the C3 was treated to the Citroen Advanced Comfort program (ooh, fancy!) and a lot of time was spent on making the car comfortable to sit in, easy to see out of and simple to use. It’s easy to see the results of the makeover – the control weights are light, the seats are soft but supportive and there’s good rearward visibility. However, the high dash and tall bonnet mean it’s hard to tell where the front corners of the car are, making squeezing through gaps a little nerve-racking in town.

Travelling out of the city doesn’t mean the C3 is out of its comfort zone. There, the increased wheelbase over the older model makes it feel more stable, further helped by the fact the car’s now wider and lower. There’s a little wind noise at speed, but everything else is well suppressed, while the top-spec 110hp petrol has grunt in reserve.

The only real downside is that the comfy ride can occasionally get caught out by larger bumps, a problem that could be solved by fitting the clever suspension system that is destined for the new Cactus. Shame it’s not yet available on the C3.

Under the bonnet there’s a choice of three petrol and two diesel engines. Not all of them are turbocharged, so if you want a pleasing shove from low in the rev-range you have to go for the top-spec petrol or one of the diesel engines.

Buyers have a choice between a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic that’s much improved compared to the old, jerky robotised-manual ‘box. Picking the auto lowers fuel economy but makes the car easier to live with around town.

Citroen C3 petrol engines

The cheapest way into C3 ownership is with the 67hp 1.0-litre petrol. It’s a three-cylinder, so it sounds nice, but no turbo means the pace is sedate – feeling about as athletic as you do after a Sunday roast with all the trimmings. But it is frugal – returning 60mpg and costing £20 to tax.

The mid-range 81hp 1.2-litre is also a three-cylinder and cuts the 0-62mph time down to 12.8 seconds, so you can (occasionally) overtake things. It’s a good upgrade over the basic engine, sharing exactly the same runnings costs.

If you want the absolute best fuel economy out of your petrol C3, though, you have to go with the top-spec 109hp 1.2-litre. It manages 61mpg and costs the same in road tax as the other petrol engines. Its 9.3-second 0-62mph time is quite nippy and the torque from the turbo means it has the legs to deal with the motorway.

Citroen C3 diesel engines

While the petrol-powered C3 models are fuel-efficient enough, the diesels sip fuel like a desert explorer on their last bottle of water. Starting with the cheapest, the 74hp 1.6-litre is capable of 80mpg, if you stick to the small 15-inch wheels, or 78mpg on the 16-inch versions. Road tax is free, regardless of wheel size.

The 99hp 1.6-litre diesel is a better bet, though. With a fuel economy figure of 76mpg and free road tax it costs about the same to run, but you’ll appreciate the extra performance.

Personalisation is a strong feature in the new C3 – there are more than 160 possible combinations of body and roof colour, interior trims and wheel styles.

Citroen C3 Touch

The cheapest models make do without Citroen’s protective Airbumps, but still get a reasonable amount of standard equipment such as cruise control, electric front windows, DAB radio and Bluetooth phone connectivity.

Citroen C3 Feel

The best cost to equipment ratio is offered by the mid-range Feel model. It gets Citroen’s seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink connectivity – so there’s no need to buy the £500 sat-nav. There’s also air-conditioning, all-round electric windows and 16-inch alloy wheels (up from 15-inch on the Touch model).

Citroen C3 Flair

However, for the head-turning looks of the car you see in these pictures, you have to move up to the range-topping Flair models that comes with contrasting roof paint, the Airbump panels, rear parking sensors along with a reversing camera and the forward-facing ‘Connected Cam’.

Conclusion

It’s best to forget the previous C3 ever existed because few of its characteristics are carried over to this new model. Instead, look at the C3 as a very good effort at being different when everyone else in the class is scared to think outside of the box.

And it’s not just the brave styling that makes the new C3 a top contender in the small car class – it’s also easy to drive and comfortable to ride in. Practicality isn’t compromised by the design and the engines are frugal and powerful enough for a city runabout. If this is an indicator of Citroens to come, they’re on the right track.

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