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In-depth reviews

Citroen C3 - Engines, performance and drive

The C3 is more comfortable than thrilling, although higher-powered petrol engine is pretty strong

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

3.8 out of 5

Price
£13,975 to £22,190
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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.

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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 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.

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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.

Citroen has now discontinued its C3 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel model. If you do track down a used model, the 99bhp version has plenty of low-end oomph courtesy of a 250Nm torque figure. It's 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.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.2 PureTech You 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £12,975

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.2 PureTech You 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £12,975

Fastest

  • Name
    1.2 PureTech 110 Shine 5dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £16,645
News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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