Non-turbo three-cylinder petrol engine powers distinctive-looking new supermini
Abstract design can be hit or miss, but on whichever side of that divide you fall,you have to agree that the new Citroen C3’s avant-garde looks add some froth to a sea of sa mey superminis.
Old a nd new are literally welded together here, with the new C3’s funky body sitting ont he PF1 platform of the previous car. It has been modified at the front to be kinder to pedestrians and toughened up a round the B-pillars and front seat mountings to be kinder to you in a side impact.This, of course, adds weight, so the rest of the chassis has been lightened where possible, keeping the kerb weight roughly on a par with the outgoing model’s.
Instead of gunning for the Ford Fiesta’s crown of best-handling supermini, Citroen has gone back to its roots. The springs and dampers haw been softened and more suspension travel added in the pursuit of improved ride comfort.
There’s new tech, too. The world’s first OEM dashcam is standard on this top-spec Flair trim, recording 30 seconds of video before and after an impact. Naturally, where there’s a camera there’s a social media opportunity, so you can also download an app that lets you take pictures and videos and then share them with friends.
For now,there are three petrol engines, with this 81bhp 1.2 Puretech sitting in the middle of the line-up.
It’s perky a round town, but you need to rev it hard on faster roads. Without a turbocharger to boost its mid-range, peak torque arrives at just under 3000rpm, and you need at least that dialled up to join motorways with any vigour.
Unfortunately, with only five gears to work with, engine noise at 70-80mph gets a touch wearing after a while, and the gearbox’s long, loose throw isn’t exactly thrilling, either.
You’d expect a supermini to handle well in town, and the C3’s light steering, allied to its tight turning circle, makes ita handy urban prowler. The ride is good at low speeds, but the occasional bump on our mainly smooth Spanish test route caught it out.
The softness engineered in to the suspension makes things mildly amusing at higher speeds. Body roll is pronounced, and because the seats offer next to no side support, you find yourself clinging onto the steering wheel to avoid plunging head first into your passenger’s lap. The faster you corner, the more you notice the steering’s numbness, but its gearing is decent, so the C3 is easy to place.
If you’re tall, you’ll find one of the best driving positions of any supermini, with loads of space in the front and a proper range of seat and steering column adjustments. The back seats are tight, though, even by Fiesta standards, with head room the most pressing issue. Still, the boot is a good size.
The dashboard is best described as spartan,but that’s exactly the look Citroen wanted. The cabin works well, with enough neat touches, such as the leather strap door pulls and classic DS instruments, for you to forgive the hard, recycled plastics.
Flair-spec models, such as our test car, encourage you to express your individuality with mix-and-match roof a nd body colours. The Airbump side strips, meanwhile, are a keep-or-remove option that can be highlighted with an extra splash of colour.
Citroen’s new infotainment system is standard on this trim, too. It’s much easier to operate than the PSA Group’s previous clunky efforts. Don’t bother with the optional £500 sat-nav, though, and instead use the standardApple CarPlay/Android Auto function to mirror your smartphone’s nav onto t he 7.0in touchscreen.
The new C3 isn’t as sharp to drive as a Ford Fiesta; nor is it as spacious as a Skoda Fabia or as plush as a Volkswagen Polo. It is different, though, and most people seem to agree that Citroen has done a good thing with the styling.
The C3 doesn’t top the class, but that doesn’t have to stop you from liking it or, indeed, wanting one. Although this Puretech 82 is cheap to run and fine around town, anyone frequently venturing farther a field should go for the pricier but pokier turbocharged Puretech 110.
Not a class leader, but funky looks and a swish cabin give it appeal. Needs the turbo petrol engine, though
Citroen C3 Puretech 82 Flair
Engine: 3cyls, 1199cc, petrol
Power: 81bhp at 5750rpm
Torque: 87lb ft at 2750rpm
Gearbox: 5-speed manual
Kerb weight: 980kg
Top speed: 104mph
Economy: 60.1mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 109g/km, 18%
Rivals: Ford Fiesta 1.0T Ecoboost 100, VW Polo 1.2TSI 90