Citroen C3 review
The Citroen C3 supermini blends quirky styling with a new range of efficient engines
Thanks to new, sleeker dimensions the Citroen C3 is a stylish alternative to superminis such as the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and Suzuki Swift. The Citroen C3 comes in four different specifications, including the entry-level VT, mid-spec VTR+, followed by Citroen C3 Selection and top-of-the-range Exclusive versions. Basic VT specification gets electric front windows and a CD player, but we'd opt for the VTR+ spec, which adds air-con and cruise control, while manual versions get alloy wheels too. Meanwhile, the Exclusive trim level adds a huge panoramic windscreen that helps distinguish the Citroen C3 from its rivals. A facelifted Citroen C3 was revealed at the beginning of 2013, and went on sale after its debut at the Geneva Motor Show. The changes saw the introduction of a range of efficient PureTech engines, including three-cylinder 1.0-litre and 1.2-litre petrol engines. The Citroen C3 is practical as it is, but if you still need more room there's always the larger C3 Picasso. Those after extra performance should opt for the Citroen DS3 supermini or the DS3 Cabrio convertible.
Our choice: C3 1.2 VTI PureTech VTR+
A mid-life facelift in 2013 introduced a sleeker, more stylish Citroen C3 featuring LED daytime running lights, a new body-coloured splitter in the lower air intake and a bolder front end featuring Citroen's latest double chevron grille. At the rear of the car, the taillights have been updated and new reflectors have been fitted to the bumper. Entry-level VT cars come with a CD player and front electric windows, but that's about it. Mid-spec VTR+ comes with more equipment, including, air-con, 15-inch alloy wheels and body-coloured bumpers. Meanwhile, the top of the range Exclusive model gets 16-inch alloys, cruise control, electric windows, front fog lights, luxury velour carpet mats and a huge panoramic windscreen. Buyers should bear in mind, though, that this can be hugely expensive to replace if it breaks.
The Citroen C3, like the C4, succeeds in providing a comfortable ride - managing potholes well and staying nicely controlled on the motorway. Even at high speeds the C3 is impressively refined and makes a surprisingly relaxing long-distance cruiser. Unfortunately, handling isn't great and the body has a tendency to lurch around bends. Our pick of the range, the 1.2 VTI PureTech VTR+, manages 62.8mpg and returns 107g/km of CO2. Also available in 1.0-litre capacity, the new three-cylinder petrol PureTech engines come loaded with technology such as direct fuel injection and are designed to reduce weight and running costs. Bear in mind, then, that they do need to be worked quite hard for maximum performance. The smooth and torquey HDI diesels offer very low running costs - the 1.4 HDi VT emits just 99g/km - but come at a very hefty price, meaning they're only worth it if you cover a lot of mileage. Those that want a fast Citroen should opt for the stylish Citroen DS3.
Citroen finished a disappointing 24th out of 32 in our 2013 Driver Power manufacturer results, falling down two places from the 2012 survey. Citroen's biggest problem is with the handling of its cars, and the fact that it was ranked worst in the category of handling is telling. It also ranked disappointingly for performance, reliability and build quality. The Citroen C3 received a four-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP when it was tested back in 2009, scoring just 40 per cent in the safety assist category. The reason for this is that ESP isn't fitted as standard to any C3 in the range and it's only available as an option on the VTR+ and Exclusive models. However, all versions do come with driver, passenger and side airbags. No problems or recalls have been reported with the current Citroen C3, although the previous model did endure a series of recalls.
The Citroen C3 is similar to most superminis in its dimensions, but thanks to its tall stance and some clever packaging, it offers nearly as much space as family hatchbacks such as the Ford Focus. Boot space is large enough to transport a bulky suitcase or pushchair, and at 300 litres, it's only 16 litres behind the Focus. You can lower the 60:40 split-fold back seats to expand boot space to an impressive 1,121 litres. As well as this, there is some extra space under the floor to store the parcel shelf when you've got the rear seats down. Unfortunately, a large load lip does ruin things slightly, making it hard to load several bulky objects. Inside, the front seats are very adjustable and legroom and headroom is plentiful. The glovebox is very small, though, as it's compromised by a large fusebox.
Thanks to the introduction of the new PureTech engines, the Citroen C3 is more efficient than it ever has been. The 67bhp 1.0-litre VTi PureTech, which returns 65.7mpg in fuel economy, has replaced the old four-cylinder 1.1 VTi. There's also a 1.2 VTi PureTech, which produces 81bhp and manages 62.8mpg in fuel economy. The old 1.2 VTi engine makes the least efficient option, emitting 136g/km of CO2 and managing just 48mpg. The eco-special diesel Airdream models are better still - the 1.4 eHDi Airdream gets a range of mechanical and aerodynamic tweaks enabling it to return an average mpg of 83.1mpg combined with CO2 emissions of 87g/km. Plus, the 1.6 eHDi Airdream model manages a road-tax busting CO2 output of 99g/km. Pre-paid servicing deals help to further reduce costs.