Citroen C3 VTi

29 Dec, 2012 10:15am Damion Smy

Our verdict on the new three-cylinder Citroen C3, which promises to return more than 60mpg


The new three-cylinder needs to be worked hard, but that’s hardly a chore when it’s so fun to rev and sounds so sweet. And there’s the same supple suspension and surprising refinement we expect from the C3. It’s still doesn’t match certain rivals, but this new engine does add to the appeal.

Citroen is following the trend set by Ford’s 1.0-litre EcoBoost and Renault’s 0.9 TCe engines with two new three-cylinders of its own. The Peugeot 208 already has them, but we travelled to Citroen’s Paris HQ to test the new units in the first of its cars to receive them – the C3.

The 67bhp 1.0-litre VTi and 81bhp 1.2 VTi will join the range in January. We drove the latter, which replaces the C3’s 1.4-litre four-cylinder in the line-up. The 1.0 supersedes the existing 1.1.

The two non-turbos are loaded with technology such as direct fuel injection, plus an aluminium block and cylinder head. All are designed to reduce weight (by around 25kg) and running costs. So how efficient is the 1.2?

It delivers 61.4mpg and emits 107g/km of CO2 (a 14.4mpg and 32g/km improvement over the outgoing 1.4), while the 1.0-litre achieves 65.7mpg and 99g/km of CO2 (17.8mpg and 138g/km better than the old 1.1).

Citroen’s engineers claim that a stop-start system would squeeze the 1.2-litre model under the 100g/km barrier, too, but the newcomer does without this tech – for now, at least.

The 1.2 is offered only on the VTR+ with a five-speed manual transmission. Start it up, and there’s a thrum that’s now becoming familiar thanks to the growing number of three-cylinder engines on the market.

Flex your right foot and the motor revs quickly with a throaty exhaust note and a gentle roar under full throttle.

One area that’s improved significantly is in-gear acceleration. For such a small engine it responds enthusiastically, despite its modest 118Nm of torque.

In reality, it feels no quicker than the four-cylinder it replaces, but the way it revs cleanly – and sounds great while it’s doing so – means you’ll have much more fun. Refinement has always been a C3 plus point, and the engine seemed near-silent while cruising at 70mph.

Around town, a few further changes to the C3 come into focus: the suspension is slightly firmer in order to sharpen up the handling, but even so the Citroen still can’t match rivals such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo through corners, where it rolls around on its axles. The ride is good, though, so despite its small engine this C3 makes good sense on long trips.

Disqus - noscript

Oh dear! More "thrum".

We're living in an exciting age of technological breakthroughs. Just three years ago it was hard to find a diesel offering emission under 100g/km in a supermini. Today an increasing number of companies are offering petrols that achieve this. Impressive stuff.

But, in the real world, the quoted "economies" are not there and thus the CO2 figures aren't either. A "rule cheat" in effect. With a diesel it is possible to get much nearer to official consumption figures.

Goes without saying that diesel trumps petrol when it comes to delivering better mpg but does that alone make it a better ownership proposition?

No. Not for everyone at least. To begin with modern diesels are on average £1500 dearer than petrols and will get dearer if in future they put the stress on cutting NOx emissions. The fuel and maintenance costs are higher too.

Aesthetics and environment concerns aside, for the average motorist who does 12k miles a year petrol works out a great deal better. Diesel power comes into its own if you're doing 30k or more motorway miles a year.

Key specs

  • Price: £13,600
  • Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl petrol
  • Power: 82bhp
  • Transmission: Five-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph/Top speed: 12.3 sec/108mph
  • Economy/CO2: 61.4mpg/107g/km
  • Equipment: Alloys, curtain airbags, Alcantara trim, ABS with EBD
  • On sale: January