Citroen C3 (2009-2016) 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.

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Citroen C3 (2009-2016): what would you like to read next?

Overall verdict

The Citroen C3 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.

Citroen says this new C3 will bring it back to its innovative best

Mat Watson
carwow expert

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.

What's it like to drive?

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.

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.

The C3 was built under the Citroen Advanced Comfort program (ooh, fancy!) so 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.

What's it like inside?

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.

Next Read full interior review
Buy a new or used Citroen C3 (2009-2016) at a price you’ll love
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RRP £10,985 - £17,700
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