29.10.2017Citroen C3 1.2 PureTech review
Citroen has a proud history of doing things differently from other manufacturers - an attitude to be applauded in my opinion. In recent years, the company has gone back to these alternative roots, and is making some excellent products. With distinctive styling and a focus on comfort rather than sportiness, Citroen's cars might be different, but they have the attributes to back up their alternative ethos. He we test the C3 supermini, Citroen's fighter in a highly competitive class.
Review by Chris Lilly
Powering the C3 on test was the PSA Group's compact three-cylinder 1.2 litre PureTech engine - in this guise producing 110hp. It's the most powerful engine available for the C3, and as such the quickest model on offer. That said, the C3 is no hot-hatch as the 0-62mph sprint is completed in 9.3 seconds, with a top speed of 117mph theoretically possible. Citroen's EAT6 automatic transmission is available, and it works well even with engines such as this, having tested it in other models previously. In the test car though was a conventional five-speed manual, which I tend to prefer in small cars. It offers a clean if long shift, to help drivers keep the engine in the best powerband, though again, don't expect any super fast gear changes - it's not how the C3 is set up. The 1.2 PureTech unit revs freely and there is a surprising amount of torque available from such a compact engine - 205 Nm to be precise. The turbocharging has been set-up to offer drivers plenty of grunt low down the rev-range, which makes life much easier when driving the C3 in its natural habitat. Although it works well enough on the motorway, as you would expect from a supermini, the Citroen is happier when nipping around town, or on country roads. It's eager nature belies its lack of real performance, and the C3 is an enjoyable car to drive. Able to be enjoyed at sensible and legal speeds, the Citroen is as happy to be thrown down a twisting road as it is threaded through a tight car park.
Should you barrel along a country road in the C3 as suggested above, it would be wise to make sure passengers that are prone to sea-sickness are left behind. The C3's suspension set-up is in the old school French style - soft. Travel at pace around bends in the Citroen and you will feel the C3 pitch and roll as though it were a tall off-roader, but that's the point of it. With it's suspension tailored to waft, the C3 is remarkably cossetting, to a degree that nothing in its sector can touch it in terms of comfiness. The best thing is that Citroen's engineers haven't let the C3 become a wallowy old barge despite the focus on comfort. It will grip well even in wet conditions, and the steering is precise even if it is very light. This last attribute helps around town when you can drive the Citroen with seemingly no effort whatsoever. Although the C3 isn't what you would call refined, its supple suspension is a welcome alternative to many of its rivals.
Personally, I think the C3 looks great. With its bigger-brother's - the C4 Catcus - Airbump details, Citroen is on a roll with its small car design at the moment. The car tested came in black which gave it a more sophisticated look than other colour options, but bolder paint colours look better on the C3. There is a red, a white with red detailing, and a French blue in particular that really help highlight the car's styling elements - and ther are plenty. It won't be to everyone's tastes, but the C3 certainly stands out. The design doesn't impact much on the car's interior practicality, but then there isn't a lot of rear space to intrude on anyway. Rear seats are plenty big enough for children, but adults of average height and build or above will not wish to make regular trips in the C3. The Citroen's rear doors are rather narrow too, but at least they open wide for easier access. Those in the front have no such issues with plenty of room considering the C3's pint-sized proportions. Head and leg room is plentiful even for tall occupants, and there are a few handy cubby holes to store stuff in too. Boot space is good but not class-leading. It's about what you would expect from a supermini and plenty practical enough for day-to-day use or the odd trip away.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
My main gripe with the C3 is the touchscreen infotainment system, through which almost all functions are controlled. It makes for a modern looking and cleanly-styled dashboard shich is no bad thing. However, the system itself is not fast or intuitive enough to use without concentrating on it, rather than driving. There aren't enough short cuts to simple systems such as the air conditioning for it to be helpful rather than a hindrance. That said, the graphics look good even if it thinks about every command before acting on it. That aside, the cabin is a one of the better interiors in the C3's class. The design reflects the good work done on the exterior, and touches such as a leather door handle strap are different from rivals, and are all the better for it. The 'squircle' design theme is abundant throughout, and the materials used to build everything feel good quality. It's not a premium product like a VW Polo, but the C3 certainly doesn't feel bargain basement.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Having covered more than 450 miles with the C3, I can safely say that running costs will be slight. Even this most powerful C3 is quoted at returning 61.4 MPG on the official cycle, with CO2 emissions of 103 g/km. The best economy figures come from the 75hp BlueHDi diesel, returning 80.7 MPG and 92 g/km CO3 officially. However, the 110hp PureTech tested is hardly thirsty, and at the end of my time with it, the Citroen's trip computer said I'd averaged 53.2 MPG. That's after a mixture of enthusiastic, normal, and frugal driving, testing the different attributes of the C3, so a figure of 55 MPG or more should easily be possible with day-to-day use.
Although not directly related to the C3, it's worth remembering that the PSA Group - of which Citroen is part - provides independently verified real-world efficiency figures, that the public can consult. It's something that should be applauded, and gives a very open account of what is achievable for drivers in normal scenarios, rather than what the car will do in a laboratory. Other than that, the PureTech engine has won multiple awards, in part thanks to its efficient technology used. It's 18% more economical than the four-cylinder petrol engine it replaced. Low friction components, improved air flow, and optimised combustion all help the engine produce good levels of power while still offering excellent economy figures. Systems such as auto stop/start help reduce CO2 too. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 35.
There's a good level of kit across the board. Entry level Touch trim includes cruise control, DAB radio with Bluetooth, lane departure warning, air conditioning, and electric front windows. It's very much a starting point though, and many buyers will move up to at least Feel. This adds features including the 7-inch touchscreen system with MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay, the option of Airbump body panels, electric and heated door mirrors, and 16-inch alloy wheels. Flair tested is the top trim level and ticks just about every box on the options list for you. Rear parking sensors and camera, Airbump panels, a host of safety systems, steering mounted controls, Gear Efficiency Indicator, were all included on the C3 driven.
The C3 has its flaws, but Citroen's supermini is a characterful small car with plenty of strengths to push those downsides into the background. It's a model in a crowded marketplace, but thanks to Citroen's different ethos, it manages to stand out from the crowd - and very few cars are able to do that. Comfortable, stylish, and efficient, the Citroen C3 is well worth considering if you are looking at buying a supermini.
Model tested: Citroen C3 1.2 PureTech 110 Flair
Engine / CO2: 1.2 litre turbo petrol / 103 g/km
Trim grades: Touch, Feel, Flair
On-road price: Range from £11,555. Price as tested £16,945.
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4 Stars