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
What's not so good
Citroen C3: what would you like to read next?
The Citroen C3 is the manufacturer doing what it does very well – namely making a car that grabs your attention, no matter whether you’re walking past them or driving them.
Alternatives to the C3 have more space in the back and are better to drive, but few have the Citroen’s style or offer you the ability to make it ‘just so’. You can choose from seven shades of paint, four contrasting roof colours and even four colour packs that brings a choice of highlight to the plastic ‘Airbump’ panels on the side as well as to the front fog light surrounds.
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 top-spec models with Citroen letting you choose from two optional interior themes – Techwood or Emerald.
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 across the range.
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 two petrols and one diesel. The more powerful petrol is cheap to buy, costs little to run and has zippy performance that makes it ideal for a small car that’ll probably spend a lot of time in town. The less-powerful petrol is a bit lethargic out of town but perfectly capable within it, while the more expensive diesel is only worth considering if you have a cover lots of miles where their improved fuel economy will pay off.
The Citroen C3’s absolutely deserves a place on your shortlist, though. It may lack in 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
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.
Sense models include 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.
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 a bit slow
The Citroen C3 is available with two petrol engines and a choice of two diesels.
The petrols are basically the same 1.2-litre PureTech, but tuned to produce 82 or 110hp.
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 110hp Citroen C3 will return 50mpg, officially, or about 40mpg in the real world with a light right foot.
Making a case for the 100hp 1.6-litre diesel isn’t easy when the petrols already deliver such decent fuel economy, although the diesel should manage more than 60mpg. Still, you’ll have to live on the motorway to make up the £1,500 premium it costs 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 Citroen includes rear parking sensors as standard from mid-range C-Series and up (also available as a £150 option on entry-level Sense cars).
Shine Plus models can also be specified with 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. It is £150 to add, though. 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