Gareth Butterfield tests out the fresh and funky Citroen C3 supermini
IF there’s one manufacturer you can rely on to produce a model that stands out from the crowd, it’s Citroen. Now suitably clear of the forgettable run of bland small cars it came up with several years ago, it’s back on its refreshingly bonkers form. And the latest of its quirky offerings is this, the new C3.
You need to have a wander round the C3’s funky bodywork to drink in the details, because there’s a lot going on. There’s hints of retro, but at the same time it’s unapologetically futuristic. And then there’s nods towards the weird and wonderful C4 Cactus. I was a huge fan of the Cactus, but it was perhaps too bold a step – whereas this C3 might be just the right balance between the weird and the wonderful.
For starters, the colour combinations will have fashionistas going weak at the knees, while the individualists will love the optional Cactus-style “Airbump” rubbing strips on the side. Fans of minimalism might like those sleek LED front running lights and they’ll probably also be won over by the finely-detailed interior.
Everything about this car screams “look at me, I’m different” and that is so refreshing in a world of bland Euroboxes.
Because it’s bursting with so much character, it’s hard to pinpoint a position in the market for the C3. It does the whole supermini thing quite well, but it’s roomy enough for four adults and has plenty of luggage space.
It makes a fine city runabout, too, but it’s chunky and rugged enough to spoil the small-crossover party we’ve got going on at present.
It feels light and nimble on the road, but it inherits Citroen’s classic trait of soaking up bumps extremely well.
It’s comfortable inside too. The cabin might seem a bit new-age and back-to-basics, but the thin seats are nice places to sit and the simplistic lack of buttons makes it feel modern and a bit old-fashioned at the same time. It’s quirky, but in a more universally acceptable way to the madcap Cactus.
So what’s not to like? Well, the styling won’t be to everyone’s tastes but that’s the price Citroen pays for standing out in the crowd. It’s also a tad uninvolving. The focus here is on ride comfort but ticking that box always comes at the price of handling prowess and the C3 can’t claim to deliver the thrills of a Ford Fiesta or Skoda Fabia.
The engine range is also pretty simplistic. There’s a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol unit which produces either 67bhp, 81bhp or a rather fruity 109bhp with the help of a turbocharger.
There’s also a 1.6-litre diesel with 74bhp or 99bhp, but the petrol models are likely to be the more popular choice these days, especially in a car this size.
All cars come with either a five or six-speed gearbox, but if you want an auto, the only option is to go for the top-spec 1.2 PureTech.
To complicate matters slightly, the engine you choose will have to fit in with one of the three trim levels, these are Touch, Feel and Flair. You might find your favoured engine can’t be had with your chosen trim, which is a shame, but might not be a deal-breaker. Thankfully, all the engines are good on fuel.
There is also a lot to be had in the way of gadgets. On top models, beneath the simple facade of the dashboard lurks It includes a touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, a camera fitted near the rear-view mirror that can snap stills or take video and plenty of other options to choose from.
Sometimes a break from the norm can wander so far from convention that some of the bare essentials are lost along the way. But the Citroen C3 feels good to drive, is very practical has plenty of technology built in and, with a starting price not far north of £10,000, it’s also keenly priced.
If you like a bit of style but don’t want to lose out on substance, this might be the car for you.