C-Aircross concept sees Citroen ramp up its SUV plans

Compact but roomy, the C-Aircross will be a replacement for the C3 Picasso

Following news that Opel was going to call time on its Meriva small MPV and replace it with the Crossland X crossover, Citroen has confirmed it is following suit, replacing the current C3 Picasso with a production model based on this C-Aircross concept.

Not only is that taking a leaf from Opel's book, it's also borrowing a chassis; thanks to collaboration between General Motors and PSA Peugeot Citroen, the Crossland and the C-Aircross share a chassis.

It is the second link in Citroen’s steady move towards being a maker of SUVs, a major change of mind for a brand which until relatively recently had never built one. The success (both critical and sales-wise) of the C4 Cactus has convinced Citroen top brass to change all that, and so this C-Aircross will in short order also be joined by a Qashqai-sized rival and a larger seven-seat SUV, both of which will platform-share with Peugeot’s 3008 and 5008.

Style-wise it borrows heavily from the new C3 hatchback (it also shares most of that car’s mechanical package) and the C4 Cactus. The ‘Airbumps’ are there, but they’re now mounted lower down, along the line of the door sill, ostensibly to protect from unseen tree stumps or errant rocks.


The C-Aircross is a compact SUV, just 4.1-metres long (making it barely more than 10cm longer than a Ford Fiesta), but one that boasts considerable interior space and flexibility.

Concept car

As this is a concept car, that interior is full of items that will not make it through to the final production model, including seats hung from a central spine, a full-width glovebox running across the dashboard, a massive heads-up display for the instrument panel and a 12-inch central touchscreen.

Connectivity being the motor industry buzzword that it is, that touchscreen is pretty clever. Its display can be customised and divided into thirds, depending on what the driver and passenger want to look at, while the front and rear headrests are equipped with both speakers and microphones, allowing each vehicle occupant to have their own personal sound space.

There is the same forward-facing digital camera that you will find in the C3 hatchback, as well as a built-in sharing service that allows the vehicle occupants to share videos, images and other electronica with each other.

More conventional items include roomy storage areas (the centre console has been designed with a hidey-hole for a handbag or small backpack), while less conventional items include rear-hinged back doors. Don’t expect to see those make it to production, although Opel doubtless has a job lot of Meriva rear door hinges going cheap.

Although Citroen hasn’t released details of the powertrain yet, we do know that it will be exclusively front-wheel drive and based largely around the award-winning PureTech 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, in both naturally-aspirated and turbocharged forms.

Rugged appeal

In spite of being front-drive only, Citroen is trying to appeal to those of a more rugged nature by saying that the C-Aircross has some off-road capability, thanks to its Grip Control traction control system which includes modes for snow, sand and off-road driving.

The C-Aircross will also be one of the first cars to benefit from the Citroen Advanced Comfort programme which includes a mix of comfier, more supportive seats, softer, gentler suspension settings and easy-use electronic set-ups designed to make a Citroen more relaxing to drive than most rivals.

"The C-Aircross Concept demonstrates Citroen's pursuit of its international product offensive. Based on the state-of-mind of New C3, it illustrates a different vision for the compact SUV segment, full of confidence and boldness. This concept also embodies the ambitions of the Citroen Advanced Comfort programme, making its interior space a source of well-being," said Linda Jackson, CEO of Citroen.

Just as the Crossland X does for Opel though, the C-Aircross might give Citroen’s product planners something of a headache, as it will be priced and sized to compete with Citroen’s existing C4 Cactus, but it will be much more spacious and practical than that car. Who will still want a C4 Cactus when they could just stroll across the showroom floor to a roomier C-Aircross?

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring