Citroen’s third-generation supermini has the looks to turn heads. We drive it to see if it’s more than just a pretty face
What do we have here?
It’s Citroen’s all-new five-door C3 supermini, which is now entering its third-generation, It’s reinvented itself with designer looks, a sleeker profile and Mini-rivalling customisation.
At the front, it gets Citroen’s latest family face with two tier headlights and chevrons that stretch across the width of the car. Down the flanks, there’s a reintroduction of the Airbump panels from the C3’s big brother, the C4 Cactus, with dark grey body panelling giving it an SUV/crossover look.
At the back and cementing the more rugged appearance are wheel arches that get a plastic finish with matching lower bumpers.
Citroen has stuck with the recent popularity of having a ‘floating roof’, which works well here. Contrasting fog lights surrounds and 3D effect rear lights finish off the attractive styling.
Measuring in at 3.9m long, 1.75m wide and 1.47m tall, it’s similar in size to its predecessor but is 40mm lower, giving it a more purposeful sporty stance. It’s now roughly the same size and shape as the Fiesta, albeit with a slightly larger boot.
Powering the C3 are three petrol and two diesel engines. The petrol options consist of three versions of the 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine with either 67, 81 or 108bhp, all of which get a five-speed manual gearbox. There’s a 1.6-litre diesel available with either 74bhp or 99bhp, again with a five-speed manual. In February, a six-speed automatic will be introduced.
You can choose from three trim levels; Touch, Feel and Flair. All get newly designed ‘comfortable’ seats, a 7.0in touchscreen, keyless entry and start, mirror screening for your smartphone (so you can control your phone through the touchscreen), 3D navigation, a reversing camera, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and hill-start assist.
There are 36 possible colour schemes available for the C3 with nine exterior paint colours and body colours and three roof colours (white, black and red) to pick from.
We’re testing the 1.2-litre 110hp petrol in Flair trim which has an asking price of £15,995, however, our car came fitted with; polar white paint (£260), urban red ambience (£150), blind spot monitoring (£100), Citroën Connect Nav 7” touchscreen with Citroën Connect box (£500), keyless entry and start (£250), 17in black 'Cross' alloy wheels (£300); which pushed the price to £17,555.
How does it drive?
Citroen makes no bones about the C3 being engineered to be a comfortable riding car, and it is. It soaks up large bumps and small undulations to provide a truly cushiony ride.
This wollowy ride, however, does affect body roll. As you sweep through the bends the body will lean and can become light and floaty, before settling back down.
It does, however, grip tenaciously, even in the wet conditions we tested in. The front-end clings on impressively well, meaning you can commit to a series of bends in the knowledge the C3 won’t fall off the road. It can be entertaining to drive if you can live with the body movement.
What’s less entertaining is the steering. While it’s well-weighted and easy to operate, it does lack consistency and there’s no feedback. Saying that, if you drive with less commitment, then it becomes less noticeable.
The 1.2-litre engine is a chirpy delight. With its 108bhp and 151lb ft of torque, it really shifts, pulling smoothly from low revs to well past the red line (at 5,500rpm) and onto over 6,000rpm. Getting from standstill to 62mph takes 9.3 seconds but it feels even swifter.
Delightfully, the three-cylinder petrol fills the air with a charming thrum, reminiscent of the original CV2.
Shifting cogs is a five-speed manual box, which feels precise, solid and is easy to use, although it has a slightly long throw.
Impressively, the gearing is well judged and even at motorway speeds in fifth gear, the engine becomes quiet and unobtrusive. At these speeds, there’s a little wind noise around the doors. If the speed drop too much in fifth gear and there’s some engine rattle through the steering wheel as it attempts to pick up speed.
What's it like inside?
It’s worth selecting the Urban Red ambience (£150) or Hype Colorado Ambience (£380) as this extra insertion of colour really uplifts and complements the design, which is modern and stylish.
There are cues from the C4 Cactus such as the luggage style door pulls, air bubbles and the stainless-steel flute with rising infotainment screen. Black gloss and chrome detailing add pleasing touches of class to the dash, which clear of clutter.
The instrument panel is clean and simple and gets an attractive brushed aluminium cowl detail. A leather insert on the dash looks good but all plastics are hard.
Most should be able to find a comfortable driving position as the seats adjusts well for height by using a pump lever. You sit high up but there is plenty of head and shoulder room.
The squared off and stylish steering wheel adjusts for reach and tilt. Visibility is restricted around as all the roof pillars are quite thick.
The door bins are lined in a light colour so you can find your belongings in low light conditions. There are three central cupholders and while the glove box is deep it is split in half.
The 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system is clear, simple, easy to use and comes with good graphics. There are seven touch operated short cut buttons that surround the main screen.
Unique to the C3 is the onboard wide angle HD camera with a 128GB of memory. Sync the car to a downloadable app on your phone and you can take photos of the road ahead or record film. In the event of an accident, the camera will record 30 seconds before the accident and 60 seconds after, which can be used as evidence.
In the rear, the amount of head room is surprisingly impressive, while leg and knee room is decent, although taller people may struggle. There’s a low central transmission tunnel and combined with the good levels of head room, three should be able to sit abreast for at least short journeys.
The boot opening tapers at the bottom and is quite high up, leaving a high lip. This means it is more difficult to load larger and heavier items. The boot floor is flat and square and there’s 300-litres of capacity, which is impressive in this class.
Claimed fuel economy figures are impressive at 61.4mpg on a combined cycle and we managed to return 55mpg on our test route.
Low CO2 emissions of 103g/km means that one year's road tax will cost £20 while company car users face a 17% BIK tax banding.
This model gets a 16E insurance group banding.
Service intervals are every 20,000 miles and the C3 gets a three-year 60,000-mile warranty.
Should your main requirement for a supermini be all-out handling, then the Ford Fiesta is the chosen route for you.
However, if you’re after a great looking, roomy and comfortable car with a wealth of customisation options, then the Citroen C3 hits the spot perfectly. Think of it as an entry level Mini.
Choose engine and trim levels well and this can be an affordable, cheap to run, characterful little car that is full of French flair.