31.10.2018Citroen C3 Aircross PureTech 110 review
Citroen's C3 Aircross gives the French firm a model in the compact crossover market . . . but in its own inimitable style. Citroen has recently been embracing its heritage of doing things a little differently; focusing on comfort and clever design over sharp aesthetics and driving dynamics. The C3 Aircross seems to offer more of this approach to engineering, which is no bad thing, so NGC has driven one to try it out.
Review by Chris Lilly
Citroen has fitted this version of the C3 Aircross with its 1.2 litre three-cylinder PureTech petrol unit, producing 110hp in this state of tune. There are other options available too, including a more powerful version of the same engine with 130hp, a lower powered version, and a couple of diesels. This middle of the range petrol is likely to prove a popular pick for many buyers, with a good balance between performance and efficiency. The power output, combined with 205 Nm of torque, allow for a 0-62mph time of a relatively sluggish 11.3 seconds, though thankfully it feels quicker than that in the real world. The compact three-pot unit revs eagerly and is well suited to nipping around places. It's never going to be the most comfortable engine for sitting at higher speeds, but the C3 Aircross performs perfectly respectably on the motorway, and the engine settles down well at pace for a fairly refined drive. Work the gearstick though and it's easy to keep the engine on song and pulling eagerly. The six-speed manual offers a good action, though not the most precise. However, it's easily up to the task to get the most out of the engine.
There are sharp handling, sporty crossovers in this market, and if you're after one such model, you'd best head off now. The Citroen C3 Aircross is unashamedly set up for comfort, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, Citroen is on a roll with its push for plush suspension rather than a rock hard ride, and the C3 Aircross sits nicely in the range in this regard. It's not a wallowy old Hector by any means, but there is more lean in corners than with many a rival model. The flip side of this is that buyers will get a car that is more comfortable on a day to day basis, and one that prevents all but the worst road imperfections from being transmitted through to the cabin. There is enough about the steering and handling to push on when needed. The steering is precise, but light and without much feedback through the wheel. It's a good system to deal with day-to-day chores though, and easy to use in town and tight car parks. The Citroen performs well on the motorway too, with the C3 Aircross offering a hint of waft from its springs. It's not going to compete with a well sorted saloon in terms of motorway comfort clearly, but it's better than a good many of its stiffer rivals.
Few will describe the C3 Aircross as a looker, but it's a good design, and one that doesn't prioritise form over function. There are a number of design elements that keep it in line with other models in the Citroen range, such as the narrow headlights and squircle themes, plus the black plastic trim around the lower surfaces of the car for the full crossover effect. Overall, it's a model I like the look of. The square-ish design means there is a good amount of interior space, allowing this compact crossover reasonably be considered as a family car. Where many crossovers take a normal supermini, jack the ride height up, but offer little to no extra space, the C3 Aircross is longer than the C3 on which it's based. As such, there is a good level of boot space, which is flexible with a false floor. Users can choose between maximum load space or a flat floor for easier access. The cabin sees a reasonable amount of space for a couple of adults in the rear. Leg room is not excellent, but good for this class, with head room following the same theme. Put a couple of kids seats in the rear, and there are no issues at all.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Citroen has applied its 'Advanced Comfort' policy to the C3 Aircross, part of which translates to some very squidgy seats. They are wider than those normally found in crossovers, with smaller side bolsters, which gives less lateral support when cornering. Since we've already ascertained that drivers aren't likely to be flinging the C3 Aircross into corners often, this is of no concern, and means occupants get a pew that is more like a sofa than a car seat. There's enough support within to prevent aches and pains over long distances, and it's another example of Citroen's different approach to the crossover sector. The interior design mirrors that of the exterior, and it's build from materials that sit in the middle of the range in terms of quality. There are a few soft touch surfaces up high, and the touchscreen system is matte, but lower down, the plastic gets harder and less premium. It's about par for the sector, and the dashboard looks good, thanks to a minimalist design. Most of the car's functions are accessed via the touchscreen system, which helps tidy the centre console up. Unfortunately, it's not the best system around, and a little laggy to operate sometimes. The rest of the switchgear feels well put together, and there are some handy controls on the steering wheel - which looks and feels great.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The engine tested provides a balance between power and economy, with an official WLTP fuel economy score of 45.0 MPG and CO2 emissions of 118 g/km. In real-world conditions, the trip computer displayed an average of 41.1 MPG by the end of my time with it, which is pretty good. That saw a range of roads covered, from motorways to small town streets, and should be a good reflection as to what is reasonably achievable for buyers. Drivers regularly completing long distances will be better served by one of Citroen's diesels, but most will be best off picking the PureTech petrol engine, and the mid-range 110 is a real sweet spot. To tax, the C3 Aircross will cost £150 for the first year, included in the car's OTR, and then the Standard Rate of £145 a year thereafter.
Citroen's engines used in the C3 Aircross come from the latest range of units available in the PSA Group - which includes Peugeot, DS, and Vauxhall. The 1.2 litre PureTech powerplant is a multiple award winner, and a very efficient example of a petrol engine. It's a downsized, turbocharged engine, which enables the use of only three cylinders over the previous unit's four. Benefits include improved acceleration, reduced fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions, with low-friction materials used inside and lightweight components. Engine stop/start is fitted too. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 38.
Picking a trim for the C3 Aircross is pretty simple - there are two to choose from: Feel and Flair. Feel includes 16-inch alloys, leather steering wheel, cornering front fog lights, 7-inch colour touchscreen with DAB, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. Also fitted is cruise control and air conditioning. Flair trim adds 17-inch alloys, a colour pack with a choice of four colours, Citroen Connect Box Emergency & Assistance System, automatic wipers, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and start, automatic air conditioning, and TomTom live sat-nav. Options available include Grip Control with Hill Descent Assist for improved traction off-road, a panoramic glass opening sunroof, and a pick of five interior ambiences, which package together different material and colour combinations.
Citroen's C3 Aircross might do things differently, but it's all the better for it. Buyers should certainly consider it when looking at a compact crossover model, with the Citroen's efficiency, practicality, and comfort combining to create a convincing package.
Model tested: Citroen C3 Aircross PureTech 110 Flair
Body-style: Compact crossover
Engine / CO2: 1.2 litre petrol / 118 g/km
Trim grades: Feel and Flair
On-road price: From £16,840. Price as tested: £20,230.
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars