Citroen C3 1.1 L

There's a 'C' of new models joining Citroen's supermini line-up in the coming months - and they're all promising to go big on space, style and value.

Judged on character and capability alone, the C3 is an impressive car. It's comfortable, refined and easy to drive, but against cheaper and bigger-engined rivals, we can't help feeling the Citroen's price lets it down.

There's a 'C' of new models joining Citroen's supermini line-up in the coming months - and they're all promising to go big on space, style and value.

First to hit showrooms is the all-new 1.1-litre C3, which combines the good looks of Citroen's city car with the firm's smallest and most efficient petrol engine. Priced from £8,495, the 60bhp newcomer targets rivals such as the £7,935 Skoda Fabia 1.4 and £7,995 SEAT Ibiza 1.2 in a battle to tempt Britain's cash-conscious drivers.

The C3 strikes an impressive pose at first sight. Although only available in basic L specification, the car's styling is very neat. Plastic wheel trims do a good job of looking like alloys, and the colour-coded bodywork is positively classy. Inside, comfortable front seats and heavy-duty plastics ensure the C3 is robust. We also felt that the build quality - criticised at the car's launch - was much improved. Close inspection revealed a couple of gremlins, though: a paint run on the rear bumper and a windscreen that slightly distorted the view of the road ahead.

We were more impressed by the refined engine, which is quiet at idle, yet eager to rev. Combined fuel economy figures of 47mpg are an added bonus, and on the move the 1.1-litre four-cylinder unit feels lively. That said, performance statistics show the car is unlikely to be a contender in the traffic light grand prix. The 0-60mph sprint takes 15.9 seconds, while top speed is 98mph. Town drivers will find that, despite being power-assisted, the steering can feel weighty at low speeds. However, the turning circle is tight and the system is precise enough to give you the confidence you need to negotiate tight gaps in heavy traffic.

The ride is perhaps the best feature. Typically, Citroen has opted for a supple set-up that absorbs bumps with ease. It offers a neutral handling balance and, even if you corner hard, it's difficult to make the C3 misbehave. To save costs, the brakes do not feature ABS, and we found it easy to lock a wheel in a simulated emergency on the test track. Yet under normal conditions they perform better.

Despite the appeal of the supermini, success is not guaranteed. We'll wait to 'C' how it fares against its rivals.

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