The Citroen C3 has been one of the mainstays of British supermini culture for many years. Released in 2002, it superseded the Saxo, itself a frequent sight and so simple it was the modders go-to for more than a decade. The C3 might not hold the same street appeal, but with the new version, it has a fantastic opportunity to put Citroen in a position to challenge the accepted, established cars in the sector.
There’s a ‘Citroen look’ of late, and this is by no means a bad thing. With airbump design cues from the Cactus and a revised front end from the more recent Picasso, Citroen appears to be getting its design charm back. The C3 is a quaint and cute looking car, both fitting well in the small car sector at the same time as being a little more exciting to look at than your average Polo. In fact, in the looks and style department it excels, with the aforementioned charm and self-conscious cute-ness that’s rarely found elsewhere from cars of a similar size.
Inside the charm continues, and the interior holds a fresh appeal and approach with personalisation very much at the centre of things. Top spec models (‘Flair’) get a good range of kit, with the higher powered engines and little extras that make a big difference on a small car such as panoramic glass. Even the lower spec models are welcoming inside, and it feels different from the competition, something that Citroen has been working hard to hold on to as one of its core brand values. Dominated by a 7” touchscreen and plenty of soft touch fabrics, there’s little in the way of distraction when it comes to other bits and pieces, and it makes for a pleasant and stress-free experience. It doesn’t feel cheap and even though luxury isn’t the first word that’ll spring to mind, it’s certainly good enough to keep up with and compete with market leaders like the Skoda Fabia.
The car comes with the kind of engines you’d expect, but it has been kept pretty straightforward and there aren’t any claims from Citroen that the new C3 will set the world alight with pure speed or performance. The three-cylinder engines are what most people will buy and will be most likely what you’ll see on the road, seeing as there won’t be a huge demand for the diesel variants. There are essentially two motors with different tuning levels – a 67bhp unit, an 81bhp powerplant, available across the range, and a topping 109bhp model that manages to push out double the torque. Diesel-wise, there’s a 1.6 model with a couple of power outputs, but they’re likely to be a bit trashy and might not appeal to the masses.
The core thing I took away from my time with the C3 is the levels of efficiency and relative comfort on a range of road surfaces. The compliancy of the suspension is such that it’s a seamless, casual drive both in and out of town – out of town especially if you plump for the larger engines that don’t make a hassle of being pushed a motorways speeds in the slightest. Travelling to Anglesey, via Birmingham, was an utterly comfortable experience and after a while I realised the fact that Citroen has concentrated on this to such an extent has to be applauded…it’s smooth and quiet…and even though it won’t win any handling awards there at least feels like there’s a direct connection to the front wheels – it’s relatively sharp and accurate.
This version of the Citroen C3 is such a step up that it almost doesn’t bear comparison to previous versions. It manages to stick out in the sector and provide something a little different, at the same time as fulfiling many of the roles you’d anticipate a Citroen should – it’s smooth, comfortable and the higher powered versions are at home on longer distances. Citroen have managed to make something a little different here, and although the C3 will only generally be used as an A to B workhorse, it’s sometimes all you need to see something a little left-field from the French manufacturer to restore your faith in their ability to put together cars that make you smile.