Citroen C3 review
The Citroen C3 supermini blends quirky styling with an upmarket interior, to rival the Ford Fiesta
The Citroen C3 is a refined and comfortable alternative to superminis like the Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio and Suzuki Swift. It blends a quirky design with an upmarket interior. It’s also spacious, with room for five adults and a decent boot, too. A facelifted C3 was revealed at the beginning of 2013, and went on sale shortly after its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show in March. The changes included a new look, new options and a range of efficient engines, which includes new three-cylinder petrol PureTech engines in 1.0-litre or 1.2-litre capacities. As well as the five-door hatchback, the C3 also forms the basis of the practical C3 Picasso and the stylish DS3 supermini and DS3 Cabrio convertible.
Our choice: C3 1.2 VTI PureTech VTR+
When this all-new Citroen C3 was introduced in 2009, it certainly stood out from the crowd. But its bulbous and upright lines weren’t to everyone’s taste – it lacked the flair of the Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio, and just looked awkward from some angles. However, a mid-life facelift in 2013 brought a much sleeker look, with a bolder front end featuring the manufacturer’s latest double chevron grille, LED daytime running lights and a new body-coloured splitter in the lower air intake. At the rear, there's a set of mildly updated taillights and some new reflectors fitted to the bumper. The interior design has been borrowed from the DS3 supermini, while most of the plastics have a quality look and feel. The facelift added a new strip across the dashboard that's available in a selection of colours, while the dials are now backlit in white. Entry-level VT cars come fitted with front electric windows and MP3 compatibility, but not much else. In fact, air-conditioning isn’t even available as an option on it, which is why mid-spec VTR+ is our pick of the range. It comes with air-con as standard, as well as 15-inch alloy wheels and body-coloured bumpers, while range-topping Exclusiv cars also get 16-inch alloys, cruise control, all round electric windows and a panoramic windscreen. The options list now also includes a reversing camera.
As with the Citroen C4, the C3 has been designed with comfort in mind. A supple ride, low noise levels and a high-set driving position make it a surprisingly relaxing long-distance cruiser. It also offers precise steering and decent grip, too. But keen drivers are likely to be left disappointed. The new three-cylinder petrol PureTech engines are available in 1.0-litre or 1.2-litre capacities, and come loaded with technology such as direct fuel injection and are designed to reduce weight and running costs. Although both need to be worked hard, it’s never a chore as they’re fun to rev and sound great. The smooth and torquey HDi diesels offer very low running costs, but come at a hefty price, so are only really suitable if you cover a lot of mileage. If you want more performance, you might be better off with a DS3.
The Citroen C3 received a four-star crash test rating from Euro NCAP when it was tested back in 2009. It was awarded 83 per cent for adult occupant protection, but a score of just 40 per cent in the safety assist category let it down. This is because ESP isn’t fitted as standard to any C3 in the range, and is only available as an option on VTR+ and Exclusiv models. All versions do come with driver, passenger and side airbags, though, while VTR+ cars and above also get curtain airbags. As for reliability, Citroen finished a disappointing 22nd out of 30 in the 2012 Driver Power manufacturer results, having fallen three places in 12 months. One of the brand’s biggest problems is its cars’ handling, and it was ranked worst of all in this category. It was also ranked fourth worst for performance, as well as reliability and build quality. However, its dealers did fare better. Citroen has worked hard to improve the reliability of its cars over the past couple of years and newer models, like the C4, seem to perform much better in this area.
The Citroen C3 is a spacious car. It’s similar to most superminis in its dimensions, but thanks to its tall stance and some clever packaging, it offers almost as much space as family hatchbacks like the Ford Focus. Swinging open the tailgate reveals a 300-litre boot, which is almost as much as the Focus’ 316 litres. It’s just a shame that there’s a large lip, which makes loading more difficult than it should be. The 60:40 split-folding rear seats can be lowered to create a 1,121-litre area, and a 1.19m load length. There’s also space under the floor to store the parcel shelf. Inside, there’s enough room for five adults, with plenty of head and legroom for rear passengers, and lots of useful cubby holes, too. However, the glovebox is very small as it’s compromised by a large fusebox.
Since the 2013 revisions, the Citroen C3 is more efficient than ever. The 67bhp 1.0-litre VTi PureTech replaces the old four-cylinder 1.1 VTi, and has an official fuel consumption figure of 65.7mpg, which is an improvement of 17.8mpg. The 1.2VTi PureTech produces 81bhp and manages 62.8mpg. The old 1.2 VTi engine is the least efficient option, but it still manages to return almost 48mpg and emits 136g/km of CO2. The eco-special diesel Airdream models are better still, though. The 1.4 eHDi Airdream gets a range of mechanical and aerodynamic tweaks to be able to return average mpg of 83.1 and CO2 emissions of just 87g/km. The 1.6 eHDi Airdream model also manages 74.3mpg and a road-tax-busting CO2 output of 99g/km. Pre-paid servicing deals help to further reduce costs.