In-depth reviews

Citroen C3 review - Engines, performance and drive

More comfortable than thrilling, and 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.

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Nor, it must be said, is there any real involvement to enjoy here. True to the brief, the steering is accurate and reasonably linear – but there’s a bit too much play around the straight ahead and 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.

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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.

At its heart, the standard five and six-speed transmissions 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.


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. 

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The core petrol engine is a 1.2-litre three-cylinder unit. There’s an 81bhp/118Nm version (badged PureTech 83) and at the top of the range, a turbocharged unit producing 109bhp, but more importantly, 205Nm of torque.  

The 81bhp version is the only petrol engine available across all trim levels; while the turbocharged motor can only be ordered with Flair Plus models.

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 254Nm torque figure. This motor is reasonably refined and swift, 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 81bhp 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.


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