Citroen’s new C3 adds quirk to the small family car

Mechanically unadventurous but the new C3 does have a welcome dose of style

How quirky is too quirky? We take the Citroen C3 out for a test drive to try and gauge how it will fare with Irish consumers. Video: Neil Briscoe

Make: Citroen

Model: C3

Year: 2016

Fuel: Petrol

Date Reviewed: November 4, 2016

Wed, Nov 9, 2016, 01:00

   

It’s all really a question of just how much quirk you want in a small car. By and large, we consider Irish car buyers to be conservative, safe-pair-of-hands sort of consumers. It’s why Toyota’s uncomplicated, reliable nature chimes so much better with buyers on these shores than it does across the rest of Europe. We, generally speaking, don’t care much for show-offs.

Quite how the new Citroen C3 will fare in Irish sales terms then remains to be seen. This is a car so outgoing that some versions even come with a windscreen-mounted camera which allows you to take snapshots of your drive to share with friends on social media.

No, we’re not quite sure what the point is either (although there is a potential insurance benefit from the fact that the camera can also record looped video).

The previous C3 was, while not being an especially bad car, almost totally anonymous and entirely overshadowed by its flashier cousin, the DS3.

There’s little chance of the new C3 ever being overshadowed though – it borrows the double-decker front-end styling from the C4 Cactus and C4 Picasso to striking effect, and the optional “AirBump” door protectors add another layer of love-it-or-loathe it quirk.

With a contrasting roof and a range of bright colour options and stickers, it’s quite distinctive and rather handsome. You can either go nuts with bright greens or oranges, or class everything up with blues or greys and either version looks nice.

Inspiration from C4 Cactus

Inside, there’s a great deal of inspiration from the C4 Cactus (the luggage-handle door pulls, the ovoid air vents, the central touchscreen) but thankfully a good deal more attention to functionality has been paid then in the Cactus.

So you get four fully winding windows, instead of rear pop-outs, and the seats are far more comfortable. Like those of the Cactus, they still have a touch of bum-down, knees-up about them but the overall driving position is much better here.

Overall quality seems good too, and might eventually underline Citroen’s stated ambition of being in the top five brands that you’d recommend to a friend.

Space is decent, although this is no Honda Jazz inside. Rear legroom grows by 22mm compared with the old C3, but headroom is a little tight in the back for tall passengers. Boot space, at 300 litres, is very practical.

There are essentially two engine choices – a 1.2-litre petrol or a 1.6-litre diesel. The 1.6 diesel, although not excessively expensive, will likely not be a big Irish seller as diesel sales in this class are minimal.

A 68hp 1.2 PureTech petrol costs as little as €15,490 but the far more impressive 82hp version starts at a still-reasonable €17,590. Standard equipment includes a USB socket for media streaming & Bluetooth handsfree, safety features including Lane Departure warning and coffee break alert, as well as comfort features including cruise control and power steering.

To drive, the C3 feels essentially unexciting. Which is not to say bad, in fact it’s quite good. It’s far, far better in fact than the old C3, with steering that, while still over-light, feels as if it might actually be connected to something.

The C3 feels agile and adjustable in most situations, and its ride quality is truly impressive. Now, it doesn’t yet benefit from Citroen’s potentially game-changing Advanced Comfort suspension, which will only begin to come on stream from next year, but the C3 is notable for being far gentler on your spine than most.

Noisy suspension at times

Okay, so these were impressions gleaned on mostly smooth Catalan tarmac – Irish roads will present a stiffer challenge, and it’s worth pointing out that although smooth, the suspension can be a bit noisy at times.

The engine’s noise is mostly pleasant, revving with a warbling, rasping three-cylinder note, but around town it can start to feel lumpy and coarse especially at idling speed, which is a shame as most C3s will spend most of their lives in town.

That said, for a compact 3.9-metre long car, it’s an accomplished motorway cruiser – a combination of those comfy seats, refinement and that 82hp engine’s solid mid-range power.

Refreshingly, Citroen also gave us its new Real World fuel economy figures, assessed in association with environmental think tank Transport & Environment. The official laboratory tests gave it a combined fuel economy score of 4.7-litres per 100km for the 82hp PureTech petrol, but real-world testing, over a 90km route, suggests that 6.8-litres per 100km is closer to the truth. Driven gently, I’d say you’d split the difference.

The C3 is basically unremarkable – it’s an entirely conventional five-door small hatch with some Francophone styling tinsel sprinkled on at the last minute. Still, that tinsel is actually rather charming, and all the more welcome in a class of cars that tends to be dominated by dullness, rather than by quirk.

The lowdown:

Citroen C3 1.2 PureTech 82hp Feel.

Price: as tested, €17,590. C3 range starts from €15,490

Power: 82hp.

Torque: 118Nm.

0-100km/h: 13.0sec.

Top speed: 167km/h.

Claimed economy: 4.7-litres per 100km (60.1mpg).

CO2 emissions: 109g/km.

Motor tax: €190 per annum.

Verdict: Comfortable and really rather stylish, the C3 is utterly conventional under the skin, but likeable all the same.

Our rating: 3/5