It has to be said that the Citroen range seems to be filled with joie de vivre. Apart from the slow-selling C4, the utilitarian Berlingo Multispace, and the C3 Picasso that’s set to be replaced shortly, the entire line-up is bang up-to-date. The C1 is the French company’s best-selling model, the C4 Picasso remains the benchmark for the MPV class, and the C4 Cactus is fresh, funky and fashionable. And now the latest C3 is set to shake up the supermini sector with a cheeky, fun design that takes inspiration from its Cactus big brother. In a world exclusive drive, Diesel Car got behind the wheel of the flagship diesel model ahead of anyone else, fitted with the 98bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 engine. Offering a little more power than most rivals’ motors, the unit pulls well with a good spread of torque across the rev range.
There’s decent pace away from the lights and enough overtaking muscle when you need it. The five-speed manual gearbox seems slicker and smoother than in other Citroen models, and the steering is light enough at low speeds to make town driving easy. While Ford’s Fiesta may feel more agile and dynamic, Citroen’s approach is different, catering for the sector of the market that prioritises comfort over the fun factor. Reassuringly solid on the road, the new C3 feels taut in bends, with minimal body lean. The suspension setup cushions all but the deepest of ruts, with decent damping, particularly at motorway speeds. From cold the engine is vocal, but once it warms through, it becomes more of a backing track that becomes drowned out by conversation or the radio. There’s a little wind flutter around the door seals, however, road and tyre noise are impressively hushed. One area to note is the fuel-saving stop-start system which cuts the engine in traffic. The system in the latest C3 is one of the smoothest we’ve experienced.
As well as a range of personalisation options for the exterior, it’s possible to do the same with the cabin, brightening up what could be a boring sea of grey and black plastics. Instead, it’s youthful, cheerful and innovatively fresh, and elevates the C3 above many of its rivals. The plastics may all be hard, apart from a soft band across the middle, but they are nicely textured, feel solid and should stand up well to punishing family life. The white on black instruments are easy to read, with all of the controls logically arranged within reach of the driver. The seven-inch touchscreen is ideally placed and easy to navigate around, though we wish there were separate controls on the dashboard for the ventilation system, as attempting to find the correct menu while driving along can be distracting. Sat in the nicely squidgy, supportive driver’s seat, there’s sufficient ways to adjust the chairs and steering column to gain a decent driving position, with excellent leg and headroom for the tallest of people.
In the back, legroom is more modest, but foot and head space is well catered for. Though there’s three seatbelts provided, the small proportions mean that the back seat is best for two adults, though a trio of children will fit just fine. The relatively upright driving position affords a great view out along the bonnet, while all round vision is pretty decent apart from the thick rear pillars. Thankfully our top-of-the-range Flair model comes with rear parking sensors and a camera as standard, though all other models of the C3 range do without. Oddment space is well catered for, with a big bin ahead of the gear lever, together with a tray up above. The door pockets are nicely proportioned, though the glovebox is disappointingly small, a casualty from the conversion from left-to right-hand-drive. Boot space is the same size as its predecessor at 300 litres, and opens out to 922 litres with the rear chairs folded down.
Innovations on the C3 include the world’s first fully integrated DashCam, which automatically records 30 seconds of footage before and after a crash, which is perfect for apportioning blame. On a more sociable note, it can also be used to take a photo with a click of a button, or a minute of video footage, all thanks to 128GB of memory. It’s standard on the top-specification Flair model and optional on Feel trim. Apple CarPIay and Android Auto are standard on the two top trim levels, while navigation is an optional extra. On the safety front, lane departure warning, drowsiness detection and speed recognition and warning are all fitted as standard to every model, and there’s a wide range of personalisation options, including contrasting colours for the roof, door mirrors, fog light surrounds and Airbumps. And while we’re talking about those practical impact resistant Airbumps, they come as standard on Flair models, and are optional on the mid-range Feel versions. Available to order now, the first examples of the new C3 will reach Citroen showrooms in the new year. It’s set to be one of the funkiest models in the supermini city car sector, rivalling the MINI for cheekiness.