Citroen C3

With its funky looks and innovative roof arrangement, Citroen's Pluriel is already an oddball choice for the small car buyer. Now there's an extra twist, as the little convertible is available with a diesel engine - and we are the first magazine in the world to drive it.

It's no wonder that Citroen chose to put a diesel engine into the Pluriel. This has enhanced its character without hurting refinement, and offers big improvements in fuel economy and running costs over its petrol counterparts. The HDi is our favourite model in the range, but we still have reservations about the complex roof system.

With its funky looks and innovative roof arrangement, Citroen's Pluriel is already an oddball choice for the small car buyer. Now there's an extra twist, as the little convertible is available with a diesel engine - and we are the first magazine in the world to drive it.

The unit in question is Citroen's 1.4 HDi common-rail diesel, also fitted to the C2 and C3. With 70bhp on offer and 149Nm of torque available at 1,750rpm, it pulls the Pluriel along nicely. The pace is never rapid, but you'd never really want it to be in this car.

The whole driving experience seems to be designed for leisurely cruising rather than sports car fun, and to that end this oil-burner serves the purpose well. Since it has been designed for economy rather than thrills, the common- rail unit is not an engine that likes to be revved hard, so you change up early and waft around on the ample torque.

The option of the SensoDrive paddle-change semi-auto gearbox is not available, just a five-speed manual that has well judged ratios and a smooth and precise action which means changing gears is never a chore. And with fuel consumption on the combined cycle coming in at a penny-pinching 63mpg, it's unlikely that filling the Pluriel with diesel will ever become a bind either.

Keen drivers would be better off looking at a hot hatch though, because the Pluriel's soft ride and handling, along with lifeless, variable-rate power-steering mean the chassis isn't built with cornering in mind. But it seems to matter less in this diesel version than other models, as the low-down pulling power of the HDi engine encourages a more relaxed pace. And in terms of refinement, the new engine is no noisier than any of the petrol versions - regardless of which of the four possible roof arrangements is used.

The HDi Pluriel comes with a reasonable level of standard kit too, having electric windows, a trip computer and CD player. At £12,795 it fits midway in the range between the existing £12,095 entry-level petrol 1.4-litre and the 100bhp 1.6-litre 16-valve at £13,695. A diesel engine in a cabrio supermini? Only Citroen could make it quirk...

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