Citroen C3 - Engines, performance and drive
The C3 is more comfortable than thrilling, although higher-powered petrol engines are pretty strong
Citroen has made great play out of the fact that the C3 is not focused on handling agility or out-and-out performance. As part of the brand’s ‘Advanced Comfort’ mantra, the C3 is trying to be an accomplished, refined companion that gets you from A to B with little fuss and no nasty interruptions from pock-marked road surfaces.
In the most part, it succeeds. In the majority of conditions the C3’s suspension has enough compliance to soak up undulations and bumps and, while the trade-off for this is some body roll in corners, it never really becomes tiresome. The package can’t quite shake off its relatively elderly underpinnings, though; occasionally you’ll notice that sharp imperfections – particularly bad potholes or expansion joints, mainly – will thump through to the cabin.
Nor, it must be said, is there any real involvement to enjoy here. The steering is typically light and there’s a bit too much play around the straight ahead, so at no point do you get a really good line of communication through from the front wheels. The likes of the Ford Fiesta and even the Skoda Fabia are on a different level when it comes to feedback.
The three-cylinder petrol engines, badged PureTech 83 and PureTech 110, are decent enough, with the PureTech 110 offering relatively potent performance. But while they are quiet and smooth enough when they’re cruising along, they can’t escape a bit of three-cylinder thrum when they’re being revved hard.
Car group tests
- Dacia Sandero vs Citroen C3: 2023 twin test review
- Citroen C3 vs Suzuki Swift: 2021 group test review
- Hyundai i20 vs Citroen C3 vs Nissan Micra
- Nissan Micra vs Volkswagen Polo vs Citroen C3
Used car tests
At its heart, the standard five and six-speed manual gearboxes themselves are slick enough, but they're not helped by a typical Peugeot-Citroen linkage: an extremely long throw and a gear stick that has lots of play in it. At least the automatic option is an improvement; instead of the previous C3’s dreadful automated manual, there’s a reasonably smart and quick-shifting six-speed torque converter EAT6 automatic.
0-62mph acceleration and top speed
Citroen has kept things pretty simple with the C3’s engine line-up: there are basically just two motors, one petrol and one diesel, with the petrol offered in two states of tune. All three engine options are fitted with a stop-start system, denoted by the S&S badge each one carries.
The core petrol engine is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit. There’s a 82bhp/118Nm version badged PureTech 83 that'll allow you to do the 0-62mph sprint in 12.5 seconds, while the PureTech 110 is a turbocharged unit producing 109bhp and 205Nm of torque; enough for 0-62mph in around 10 seconds.
Sales of diesel superminis are pretty poor these days, but Citroen does have a 1.6-litre motor in the range. The more modest 74bhp version is no longer offered, so you're left with the 99bhp version, which has plenty of low-end oomph, courtesy of a 250Nm torque figure. This motor is reasonably refined and swift, with 0-62mph taking just over 10 seconds, although it gets raucous at high revs.
One of the petrol engines would be our choice. The 109bhp unit is a more accomplished performer, for sure, happy with being asked to maintain swift progress in most situations. However, the 82bhp motor does have enough pep for most situations; just be prepared to sacrifice a little refinement to get there, because you’ll encounter a three-cylinder thrum as you work it hard.
In this review
- 1Citroen C3 reviewIf you’re looking for a supermini that prioritises comfort and efficiency, then the Citroen C3 is the one to have
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingThe C3 is more comfortable than thrilling, although higher-powered petrol engines are pretty strong
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThree-cylinder petrols offer frugal fuel economy, while BlueHDi diesel achieves an impressively low CO2 figure
- 4Interior, design and technologySome neat practical touches and a funky design make the C3’s cabin stand out from the class average
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceDecent boot for a modern supermini, but few other tricks to make the Citroen C3 stand out from the rest of the class
- 6Reliability and SafetyProven engines and well-known chassis parts should bring solid reliability, while there's decent levels of safety kit, too