New Citroen C3 Aircross Rip Curl 2023 review

The Rip Curl is the new C3 Aircross range-topper, but this comfortable SUV makes more sense at the lower end of the price range

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Verdict

We still rate the C3 Aircross highly among the compact SUV competition because it offers plenty of space, decent comfort and good value. But while this Rip Curl model is very well equipped, we reckon the Aircross is at its best at the cheapest end of its range.

There’s a new range-topper to the Citroen C3 Aircross lineup, and it’s called the Rip Curl. It’s not the first time that the Australian surfing brand has stuck its name on a small-ish French five-door; as well as previous iterations of the Aircross and the first-gen C4 Cactus, the name also found its way onto a Mk3 Renault Clio model, too. 

While the link between any of those cars and carving Bondi barrels might seem like a bit of a stretch, it’s possibly the least tenuous here. As one of the most spacious compact SUVs around - and as this model comes with roof rails as standard - it shouldn’t be too hard to load some boards and surfing gear on top of and inside the C3 Aircross. It’s also available with Citroen’s Grip Control; a traction control system that can adjust to different surfaces including - conveniently - a sand mode.

In reality though, most buyers are going to be more interested in the Rip Curl because it’s essentially a C3 Aircross with all of the possible extras thrown at it. 

It gets a few select styling features to help it stand out from the rest of the range. Unique exterior details come in the form of anodised blue trim for the door mirror caps and skid plate inserts. There’s 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-season tyres - more handy on the UK’s wintry roads than on a summer beach - and there’s a choice of four exterior paint colours. 

Inside, the blue theme continues. The colour can be found on the soft touch area spanning the top of the dashboard, the leather-effect/cloth seats, the air vent surrounds and the dashboard. Rip Curl branding is also found on the floor mats.

 In terms of kit, the previous range-topper, the Shine Plus, is taken as a starting point. Beyond the generous standard kit of that model, which includes automatic air conditioning, satellite navigation with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, lane departure warning, cruise control, and traffic sign recognition, the Rip Curl adds a panoramic roof, an uprated hi-fi and a head-up display. On the options list are the aforementioned Grip Control system (£300), wireless smartphone charging (£150) and a top rear-vision parking camera (£180).

Under the bonnet, there's a choice of one diesel and two petrol options. The range starts with the PureTech 110: a 108bhp three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol with a six-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel has the same power and a six-speed manual, but its peak torque of 250Nm is 45Nm more.

The range is topped by the model we’ve driven: a 129bhp version of that 1.2 petrol, the PureTech 130, combined with an eight speed automatic gearbox. Out on the road, it delivers decent performance; mash the pedal to the floor for 9.2 seconds from a standstill and you’ll hit 62mph, while in any circumstance the relatively modest weight and linear power delivery means that it moves along well enough. 

A near-complete lack of engine braking, a sluggish auto gearbox and a clunky stop/start system - the latter making crawling through heavy traffic jams a frustrating process - all take the edge off the powertrain, though. The old-school wiggly gear selector is a little fiddly to use too; there’s a diagram to show you the position of each ratio, but it, like the Sport button, is buried at the back of the centre console cubby. 

Just like the rest of the C3 Aircross range, comfort rather than sportiness is the priority. And that’s fine by us - if it’s not for you, then the Ford Puma covers that angle off anyway. Here, the relaxing nature starts with the soft and supportive seats, but it’s also backed up by a forgiving ride which manages to soak up plenty of bumps that, if you were in that Puma, would jostle you around. 

The addition of those all-season tyres takes the edge off the already modest grip levels, and makes the steering feel a little more vague than usual, so it’s best if you don’t make waves. 

The key selling point of the C3 Aircross remains its practicality. Both knee and head room are excellent, and there’s a sliding rear seat bench, so you can either let tall adults stretch out in the back, or expand the already generous 420-litre boot if you need the extra space. 

Citroen currently offers a £1,500 discount across the C3 Aircross range, meaning that the Rip Curl starts from £22,985 - £1,000 more than the equivalent Shine Plus. The diesel comes to £24,175, while this petrol auto model is priced at £24,565. Place a £3,000 deposit on a three-year PCP agreement with a 10,000-mile annual limit, and the PureTech 130 comes to £385 per month.

Model:

Citroen C3 Aircross Rip Curl

Price:£24,565
Engine:

1.2-litre, 3cyl petrol turbo

Power/torque:129bhp/230Nm
Transmission:

Eight-speed auto, front-wheel drive

0-62mph:9.2 seconds
Top speed:121 mph
Economy/CO2:

43.5mpg/147g/km

On sale:Now

Now read our list of the best small SUVs...

Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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