There’s no denying that this is a crowded market. There are small SUVs popping up all over the place, and although the general consensus is that a lot of them are quite drab, it was always going to be a matter of time before someone broke the mould and came out with something which looks a little more exciting.
You can’t fault the C3 in this department. Like the Vauxhall Crossland, the C3 Aircross has been brought in to shake the shackles of the image of the car’s previous incarnation, the C3 Picasso MPV. It sits alongside the C4 Cactus, and does impress with its funky looks and jazzed up, raised ride-height SUV stance which looks to retain current buyers but at the same time, attract a far younger crowd. I was impressed when I first drove the C3 itself, reviewed at the beginning of the year, so I was interested to see what its brother had in store on the road.
Three trim models are available, starting with the base ‘Touch’ and ending up with the ‘Flair.’ Base models get the usuals – air conditioning and cruise control – and do a good job of feeling comfortable and relatively up market. Citroen say that 61% of the current C3s are bought as top spec, so it makes sense that with this ‘SUV offensive,’ the brand look to refine and update their top level models. As ever, Citroen are interested in becoming the ‘go to’ manufacturer for comfort, and with this repacement for the aging C3 Picasso it’s a good opportunity to rejuvinate the brand.
In terms of customisation, there are 85 external combinations and 4 colour packs. There are 4 petrol models, and 2 diesel, and following the trend for a move away from diesel, this looks to be in line with rival manufacturers. On my test, I drove the two most powerful petrol models, with 110 and 130PS. Performance was perfectly brisk, and the added £400 grip control on both cars provided some stability in the wet conditions. The 130PS especially was peppy and eager, but I would imagine most people would opt for the 110 version for a good mix of economy and performance.
Unlike the Vauxhall Crossland, with which this car shares many underpinnings, the Citroen C3 Aircross handles the bumps well and I didn’t get any sense of the rough ride which hampered my enjoyment of the Luton based offering. Like many of these SUVs, there is quite a bit of road noise to contend with, but the ride itself was generally smooth and enjoyable. Inside, notwithstanding the road noise, there’s quite a bit here to make you feel comfortable and generally headroom and legroom is good all round. I did wonder, however, whether the panoramic sunroof could shave a bit of the roof space off. At the back, the sliding rear bench is a nice additon and improves the practicality of this car no end. Citroen claim that at 1289 L flat, the space in the back is amongst the best in the class. To be fair I can’t deny it.
The highlight of the C3 Aircross is its ability to be proud to be different – to add a striking and attractive design to the mini SUV mix and provide a valuable alternative to some of the dull offerings that are churned out each year. It’s not without its faults, but when you add the practicality, colour combinations and customisation options and starting price of £13,995, it starts to begin to look like an attractive proposition.