Citroen C3

4 Apr, 2006 6:40pm Richard Dredge

It's great value new, but does Citroen's C3 five-door supermini make sense second-hand, too?

There's no doubt Citroen's pretty C3 was a breath of fresh air when it arrived in 2002. Inspired by the 2CV, the five-door super-mini was well equipped and, thanks to the firm's heavy cash incentives, affordable, too.

As a result, used examples represent great value - but with so many engine and equipment combinations to choose between, which hatch is the best?

Low running costs add to the appeal, yet some C3s aren't as good to drive as rivals. Patchy build and flimsy trim are other common complaints, so while the C3 is a lot of car for your money, it's vital you take your time to find a good one.

Checklist

  • Fragile trim: even on new examples, the interior trim is flimsy and causes plenty of squeaks, creaks and rattles. The older the car, the worse this is likely to be - so check nothing is missing on any potential buy, and ensure everything works as it should.
  • Engine woes: fuel-injection pump failure can affect 16-valve powerplants. Before you buy, ensure the engine runs evenly and go through the service history and receipts to see if the work has been carried out already.
  • Air-con: generous levels of standard equipment mean many C3s will have air-conditioning included. Yet while this is a must for summer, the units can leak. Check the footwells for signs of fluid and run the system to make sure it actually cools the air.
  • Electrics: gremlins are a common source of problems on the little Citroen, so check items such as the remote central locking, power windows and stereo are all operating properly. Don't leave any buttons unpressed inside!
  • Rust: paint coverage can be patchy - especially on the roof - so ensure there's no sign of rust anywhere. Take a torch and check underneath as best you can, too. Thin body panels - particularly the doors - are also susceptible to parking dings.

Prices

You can bag a low-mileage one-owner 1.4-litre petrol C3 on an 03-plate for £4,000. An equiv-alent HDi will cost an additional £500, while a 54-reg petrol or diesel will set you back about £7,000.

The first Pluriels are now less than £6,000, and SensoDrive automatic cars don't fetch a big premium as there are lots about. If you want a 1.4 HDi, you'll have to pay for it; rock-bottom is currently £7,200 from a main dealer.

What to look for

Auto fans should try the SensoDrive before they buy. Its clutchless shift gives a sporty edge, yet changes can be slow. The quirky Pluriel provides a full-length sunroof/drop-top arrangement, but make sure the fiddly set-up is undamaged. Pick of the range is the standard C3 1.4 HDi, with its torquey, frugal diesel. While the Stop & Start works well, cutting power when you come to a standstill in traffic, then firing as you release the brake, it's not as economical as the oil-burner.

Recalls

Sep 2002: Front suspension ball joint concerns on pre-Aug 2002 models.
Dec 2002: Passenger airbag may not fully deploy on Jul 2002 examples.
Jan 2003: Water ingress can cause ABS control unit failure on Sep-Nov 2002 cars.
Mar 2004: Roof bars prone to slip on models built before Jan 2004.
Feb 2005: Sunroof securing nuts may fail on cars built in Oct 2004.
Oct 2005: Suspension spring concerns on pre-Nov 2003 examples.
Dec 2005: Possible loss of braking efficiency. Affects Sept-Nov 2005 cars.

Owner comments

Amy Dews from Malvern, Worcs, has owned her 53-reg C3 1.4 for two years. "The car looks great and I like driving it, but it's not as solid as my old Ford Fiesta," she said. "I've had a few minor glitches with the Citroen - yet I'd still buy another, as they're so affordable."

Verdict

With cheap insurance, economical engines and low purchase prices, the C3 makes a huge amount of sense for second-hand buyers on a tight budget. A generous equipment tally can also make the Citroen's class rivals appear miserly - you get six airbags and anti-lock brakes as standard. There's plentiful supply on the used market, and the big dealer network means finding a suitable car shouldn't pose too many problems. We like the low running costs, spacious and airy cabin, curvy retro looks, equipment and dealer support. We don't like the shoddy interior, small boot, poor reliability record in Driver Power surveys and average petrol engine range

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