WHETHER YOU THINK it looks funky or frumpy, you have to admit Citroen has tried to spice the small car market up with its its latest C3. This new small hatchback borrows a heap of style from its bigger brother, the C4 Cactus, so from whichever angle you look it bristles with difference. Why? To woo you away from such gems as the Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia. The new C3’s underpinnings are carried over from the previous car, but elsewhere it comes at things afresh.
The plastic Airbumps on the doors, which are standard on the top Flair trim, mean minor dings won’t damage the car’s bodywork as much. Also standard on that trim is an inbuilt dashcam that could save your no-claims discount after more serious mishaps, and if you get an accompanying smartphone app, will allow you to take videos and pictures of your road trip and then upload them to social media. The C3’s infotainment system has Citroen’s latest software, along with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto apps, enabling you to control your phone through the car’s 7.0in touchscreen.
We tried the Sibhp 1.2-litre petrol engine, which has a cheery and largely unobtrusive thrum at low speeds that matches the C3’s cheeky looks. It has enough pace for urban driving, but outside town it starts to feel a bit pedestrian, especially when asked to get to 70mph on the mo to way. Once there, though, it maintains pace without complaint However, at higher speeds, the engine’s constant buzz begins to rankle. It comes only with a five-speed gearbox, and the lack of a sixth gear for cruising means that engine revs are relatively high at motorway speeds.
Changing gear isn’t pleasant either, because the gearshift has Citroen’s typically long and woolly gate. On twisty roads, the C3’s handling isn’t as precise compared with that of the tightly controlled Fiesta. The C3’s steering is relatively accurate and largely intuitive when it comes to placing the front wheels where you want them, but the car’s body leans so much in corners that you soon learn to take it easy. Back in the city, though, the C3 feels at home, and is perfectly easy to manage. The light controls let you drive smoothly in heavy traffic and don’t tire you out, and the oh-so-soft suspension gives a floaty and quite cosseting ride.
The C3’s interior is best described as spartan. That’s partly due to its minimalist design, but also because of the liberal use of hard, recycled plastics that feel cheap compared with plusher (but pricier) cars, such as the Volkswagen Polo. The driving position is excellent, though. Seat height, steering wheel rake and reach adjustment are standard, so it’s easy to get comfy.
Space is tighter in the rear; it’s more akin to a Fiesta than roomier rivals such as the Fabia. Head room is the main issue for taller adults, while leg room is class-average at best Boot size is decent, though It’s not quite a match for the Fabia’s, but it is roomy enough to take a couple of medium-sized suitcases. Of the three available trims, we’d stick with mid-range Feel. It’s competitively priced with plenty of kit, including 16in alloys, climate control, and a 7.0m touchscreen with smartphone compatibility, a DAB radio and Bluetooth.
No class leader
If you value ride comfort, stylish looks and a sense of fun, the C3 is worth considering, but it’s not a class leader. The best all-round package you can buy remains the highly practical and competitively priced Fabia, while the Fiesta should be your go-to option if you want entertaining handling. However, if you still have your heart set on a C3, be sure to choose the engine that best suits your needs.
The 1.2-litre Puretech 82 is fine for town driving, and its competitive CO2 emissions and fuel economy make it cheap to run, but if you’ll regularly be driving on the motorway then you should definitely go for the more powerful 1.2-litre Puretech 110. Doing so will further push the price past that of the Fabia, which costs from £13,600 in 1.2-litre petrol form, but if you’re going to buy a C3 it’s a premium worth paying.