The new Citroen C3 has more visual character than its predecessor, it offers a comfortable ride, and its light weight has the potential to deliver good levels of efficiency if driven carefully.
The new C3 has more visual character than the old model, which it desperately needed to give it a stronger identity. But does the driving experience match the interesting looks?
The new Citroen C3 follows in the footsteps of the C4 Cactus in the area of design, which means that externally it has more visual character than its predecessor. The styling shares the ‘airbumps’ on the side doors, which also appear on the Cactus.
The interior also has similarities with the Cactus, being modern, but also quite basic, and our test car was very dark inside overall; there wasn’t much feeling of fun in the interior.
Under the bonnet is a 3 cylinder, 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine, mated to a five-speed manual ‘box – and of course front-wheel drive.
The C3 gets a tick in the first box – the steering wheel has height and reach adjustment, which means that most people should be able to find a decent driving position.
As soon as you turn the ignition you’re aware from the thrummy noise that this is a three-cylinder engine – and one of the more vocal ones. Myself and two others drove our test car and all three of us commented that the clutch bite was in an unusual position, and that getting through first and second gear wasn’t the smoothest of affairs.
However once you’ve passed that stage, the C3 is pleasant enough, and if it has a stand-out point, it’s the comfortable ride. Perhaps because the suspension is tuned for comfort, it doesn’t have the sharp agility of some other class rivals such as a MINI in terms of its chassis and steering – which is a shame, as the 980kg kerb weight should result in a fun driving experience.
The C3’s lightness should also mean decent performance, but there’s not much acceleration, especially at motorway speeds. You’ll also find that the revs are high on the motorway – at 70mph in fifth gear the rev counter was showing 3300rpm. At lower speeds, if not under load, the engine sounds more refined.
As with increasing amounts of cars that we’ve tested over recent years, most vehicle controls are on the touchscreen. This includes heating controls, which is always a bad idea in our view, and there’s no ‘home’ button to provide a base to navigate around from.
If you delve into the touchscreen sub-menus, you’ll discover that you can switch off the traction control – but only for it to come back on again at round 30mph. Probably a wise idea to help prevent young drivers from continuing straight on through a hedge on sharp corners.
If you like American-sized cups of coffee, then the C3 will be no good for you, as the cup holders are very small – to the extent that they can’t even fit an iPhone.
Another thing that appears to be small is the door frame aperture; there’s a tendency to brush into the seemingly wide central door pillar when getting into the driver’s seat – even for a person of regular size.
The official combined fuel economy of the C3 is 60.1mpg, equating to 109g/km CO2. We averaged an indicated 52.2mpg at 70mph on the motorway, and even managed 64.1mpg at a constant 50mph. However around town the economy fell to 40.8mpg. Overall, after a week of mixed driving, we averaged 45.5mpg. This range of real-life economy figures shows that the C3 can be economical if an effort is made to drive it carefully.
The Citroen C3 Feel S&S Puretech 82 manual costs £14,035. With options, our car came to £16,010. There are three C3 spec levels: Touch, Feel and Flair. In terms of engines, there’s the PureTech 68, PureTech 82 and PureTech 110 S&S – all with 1.2-litre turbo petrol engines, and the BlueHDi 75 S&S, and BlueHDi 100 S&S – both with 1.6-litre turbodiesels. All have manual transmission.
The Citroen C3 has gained more character and it does most things competently for a car in this class. It has a comfortable ride, but beyond that it doesn’t really have a stand-out unique differentiation. With previous small Citroens, a cheap price was often a key selling point. However at £14,035 there are more affordable small cars (the Dacia Sandero starts at £5,995). So overall the C3 provides decent transport with the promise of low running costs, but the driving experience isn’t the best in class; as such it gains a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.