Citroen has revealed a new and dramatically different C3 supermini - and its the look of things to come.
The French brand is at the early stages of a major product offensive in the coming months and years: this C3 is but the start. Now in its third generation, the new C3 boast much bolder styling inside and out.
Citroen's chief executive officer Linda Jackson told us: "A Citroen passing in the street has to be immediately recognisable at first glance." The new C3 certainly is certainly striking. It is lower than the outgoing car and sits on a longer wheelbase that frees up a bit more interior space, yet overall the five door remains compact. A double level nose helps makes the front friendly yet strong looking also. The C3 's resemblance to the larger C4 Cactus can also be seen with its new ultra slim headlights and the adoption of its airbump protective door mouldings.
Citroen design director Alexandre Malval told The Irish Times that we can expect more variations of airbump on future Citroen SUVs and MPVs. These interchangeable plastic side protectors give the car a chunky crossover appearance. If you don't want airbumps there is a nice concaved pressing in the doors that looks smart too. The roof can be a painted a contrasting colour and features a functional weight saving three dimensional 'graphic' - that's designer speak for any relief pressed in a metal panel. A large sunroof is optional.
Andy Cowell, in charge of the new C3 design said people "will get a different take on the automobile, which is something Citroen always used to do... it's about character, it's about feeling, it's about connecting with the vehicle again".
Gadgets and gizmos
Citroen has a number of unique selling points with the front wheel drive C3. The reality is that all the really interesting gadgets and gizmos are found only on the top level 3 trim.
In reality most buyers purchase mid-range versions of any brand of new car. Even the distinctive airbumps are not standard. Airbumps must be factory specified and cannot be retro fitted either as the plastic panels click into place.
A built in dash camera mounted behind the rearview mirror - called ConnectedCAM - continuously records what is unfolding in front of the car. If an impact is detected it will securely store the 30 seconds prior to the crash and 60 seconds afterwards.
The C3 was originally launched in 2002, it was a tall, skinny machine that even took some styling hints from the old 2CV. About 5,000 examples found homes in Ireland, while globally over 3.5 million C3s have been sold. In 2015 C3 accounted for 14 per cent of the French firm's global sales.
In Ireland Citroen's distribution is operated by a subsidiary of UK private importer IM Group. The French brand's market share has failed to recover in line with the rest of the market and the recent Brexit vote - and the consequent economic fallout - is unlikely to help matters. However, the long-awaited major model revamp should help. The C3 will be a small step along the way but what Citroen urgently need is a viable entrant in the crossover segment, dominated at present by the likes of the Hyundai Tucson.