Citroen is a brand currently on something of a reinvention with a renewed focus on creating cars that major on design, comfort and technology. The quirky Citroen C4 Cactus of 2014 may have made many more traditional buyers feel uncomfortable with its avant-garde looks, ‘evil eye’ headlamps, and innovative plastic Airbumps stuck to the side, but it’s this sort of bold design that Citroen believe will help their products stand out in the market and drive their sales in the right direction (up!).
The C4 Cactus was bold, but definitely not beautiful. The new Citroen C3 is far more palatable, taking many of the same crossover-style design cues from the C4 Cactus – raised ride height, lashings of plastic cladding and of course the Airbumps – but wrapped up as a cuter and more compact B segment supermini. This segment is highly competitive with many credible competitors. But on looks alone the new Citroen C3 won’t be easily forgotten. Personalisation and the desire to exert some creativity on a car is also a key element of Citroen C3 ownership, and there are a number of cool bi-colour combinations to choose from.
Inside the C3 has all the ingredients to become a little of a style icon. Citroen’s designers drew inspiration from home interior design with an emphasis on creating an uncluttered cabin. The attention to detail in the design is marvellous and it’s a very pleasant environment with beautifully soft seats and neat design details like the oblong shaped air vents. In the spirit of keeping things uncluttered, most of the controls are managed from a touchscreen in the centre of the dash. The ventilation controls and air con are controlled from here too, which is a little fiddly. Tapping on a screen is never quite as practical as turning a dial.
In terms of interior space, driver and passenger are well-accommodated for, while rear seating space is also competitive for this segment. The boot is a good 300 litres, but there is quite a high load lip.
There are three trim levels for new Citroen C3 in Ireland: Touch (from €15,490), Feel (from €16,990) and Flair (from €18,990). Standard equipment includes cruise control, USB socket for media streaming and Bluetooth handsfree, and safety features like lane departure warning and a coffee break alert. Feel is the sweet spot of the range adding 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, the 7-inch touchscreen with Mirror Screen and Apple Car Play, and automatic air conditioning. Top spec Flair models add 17-inch alloy wheels, black Airbumps, automatic lights and windscreen wipers, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. There’s also a ConnectedCAM positioned below the rear view mirror. It can take photos and videos that can then be shared on social media using an app or saved as evidence in the event of an accident.
In terms of engines, the new C3 is offered with 68hp, 82hp or 110hp 1.2-litre petrol engines or BlueHDi diesel engines with 75hp or 100hp.
My test car had the 1.2-litre 110bhp turbo petrol engine that we’ve sampled before in the Peugeot 208. It’s priced from €20,890 and carries a premium over the lower powered naturally aspirated petrol engines but it is a great choice if you value performance matched with low running costs. It’s really nippy at low speeds around town but robust enough to be perfect out of town too.
Comfort has been a key quality for Citroen in the development of the new C3 and it really shows: it’s so stable and composed, and deals with the roughest of Irish roads exceptionally well for a small car. The negative side of this is that the Citroen C3 is not the sportiest drive among its competitors, but Citroen has not set out to be this. There is body roll in the corners if you push it, and while the steering is light and makes the car easy to manouvre at low speeds, there is not much in the way of feedback. Yet there is still charm to this small car that helps forgive a lot of these ails.
There is a revolution going on at Citroen and the brand evidently has a clear vision of the type of cars they want to produce. The C3 is a wonderful execution of this plan and manages to be distinctly different in a segment crowded with competitors. The 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine is definitely a bonus here and makes the C3 good fun to drive even if the steering and handling is weak compared to the best in the supermini segment. But this is a resolutely comfortable small car that’s easy to drive with a distinct personality and a stylish minimialist cabin. It won’t be for everyone but if you are looking for a small car there is now a very good reason to visit your Citroen dealer.
Model Tested: Citroen C3 1.2 Puretech 110bhp Flair
Price: €20,990 (Range starts at €15,490)
Engine: 1.2-litre, three cylinder turbo petrol
0-100km/h: 9.3 seconds
Top speed: 188km/h
CO2 Emissions: 103g/km
Motor Tax: €190 per year
If you’re looking for a small petrol car you might also like this review of the Peugeot 208.