If the C4 Cactus represents Citroen’s reinvention for a lateral-thinking, post-premium world, this new C3 writes the next sentence. Both models major on bluff-nosed, ‘urban capsule’ looks that, with their bash-proof Airbumps, are recognisably different from their rivals, and both woo a tech-sawy clientele through the use of touchscreen controls, coolly minimalist dashboard designs and proper co-ordination with everyone’s hand-held devices. As well as aiming to do things differently from other manufacturers by returning to its past specialities of original thinking and ensuring its cars are recognisable as Citroens, the company cites the likes of Ikea and John Lewis as examples of the brand values it is chasing.
The new C3 is intended to offer something not found in rival small cars, and amid all the marketing brainstorming is one very solid attribute: the promise of a car more comfortable than any rival. The new C3 has a longer wheelbase (by 75mm) than the previous one, despite being based on broadly the same PFl platform, but its overhangs are shorter and it’s slightly wider and lower than before. Bigger wheels and black plastic wheel arches help to give it a slightly SUV look and it weighs almost exactly the same as it did. Optional two-tone paint emphasises the ‘floating’ roof, separated from the main body colour by black windscreen pillars, but the vast panoramic windscreen option of the previous C3 is no longer available.
All three petrol engines offered have three cylinders. The 8lbhp and turbocharged 108bhp 1.2-litre units are available from launch, with the 67bhp 1.0-litre motor arriving later along with the option of a six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission. The two 1.6-litre four-cylinder diesels give 74bhp or 99bhp. We’re driving a C3 fitted with the most powerful engine, known as PureTech 110, and presented in the highest Flair trim level. It’s further endowed with the Urban Red interior pack, in which a red stripe surrounds the wide, flat dashboard and red stitching abounds. The round-cornered rectilinear look of this red stripe is echoed all over the C3, inside on the door trims and vent surrounds, and outside on the Airbumps, the foglight surrounds and the tail-lights.
There’s a rectangular depression in the roof pressing, too, unless your C3 has the optional panoramic glass roof. You sit quite high, crossoverfashion, and ahead is not the digital dash of a C4 Cactus but a pair of conventional cowled dials. The steering wheel is adjustable for both height and reach. A large central screen handles audio (including DAB), sat-navand phone-mirroring functions (Mirror Link and Apple CarPlay feature, plus Android Auto from next year), as well as air-con controls, which would be more easily accessed via conventional buttons.
There’s also a built-in camera, like a dashcam, located behind the rearview mirror, which links to a phone app and lets you send photos and videos. It also records video in the background, a feature that could be useful following an accident. Rear passengers sit high enough to get a good view out and have plenty of leg room, given the C3’s compactness. Boot space is a decent 300 litres, extendable by folding the rear seats, which otherwise neither slide nor recline. Oddments space includes door pockets with pale grey linings so you can find their contents when light is poor, and the door pulls continue the luggage-handle look featured in the Cactus. The Pure Tech 110 engine suits the C3 well.
It’s smooth and punchy, with little lag and a deep, tuneful note. Its ample torque enables it to pull quite long-legged gearing in the highest of five forward ratios, but the springy gearchange is more functional attribute than tactile delight. Claimed top speed is 117mph, with 0-62mph taking 9-3sec. And of comfort, Citroen’s intended new unique selling point? The seats are yielding but supportive, road and wind noise are low and the suspension proves pleasingly calm and supple, given the C3’s low roll angles and its alert response to the steering’s inputs. It’s an easy, restful travelling companion, with all its control efforts well matched and with enough verve to give the driver a good time.
It needs to have this turbo petrol engine to give its best, but the official 6l.4mpg and 103g/km CO2 figures suggest you won’t pay too dearly for that pleasure. Pricing is fair, too. The range starts at £10,995 and stops at £17,095- Two things, however, make the C3 an appealing choice. One is that it really is very comfortable and the other is a strong personality absent in most of its forgettable-looking rivals. The C3 transcends the premium/not-premium fixation, and you’ve got to love it for that.