The C3 is undeniably distinctive in its styling, but underneath it’s utterly conventional
Powertrain and performance: 1.6-litre petrol four, 88kW/160Nm, 4-speed automatic, front-drive, Combined economy 6.6 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 10.9 seconds.
Vital statistics: 3941mm long, 1538mm high, luggage capacity 300 litres, fuel tank 50 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels.
We like: High style, cabin quality, decent chassis.
We don’t like: Mediocre powertrain, dated model compared with competition.
How it rates: 6/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?
Things are not easy for Citroen in New Zealand: it’s been a niche brand for many years, continuing to woo its devotees with idiosyncratic styling but failing to make an impression against mainstream rivals in terms of powertrain technology and value for money.
But Citroen has a new distributor now, Sime Darby Automobiles (which also handles Peugeot), which is determined to put the vehicles on more Kiwi shopping lists.
Enter the C3 supermini: it’s a familiar model, but has been relaunched in facelift form with the focus on value for money. The range opens at just $23,490 for the Seduction 1.2-litre manual, but our test car is the flagship Exclusive model with a 1.6-litre powerplant and automatic transmission.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
The C3 is undeniably distinctive in its styling, but underneath it’s utterly conventional. The entry 1.2-litre three-cylinder is actually the special engine in the range; the 1.6-litre fitted to the top one we’re driving is pretty average by class standards. It delivers low-down where it’s most needed for city driving, but you’d be hard pressed to call the car’s performance brisk or entertaining.
The disappointment is not all down to the engine. The automatic transmission is only a four-speeder, which does not cut it against rivals’ five, six and seven-speed units. There are issues beyond the number of ratios, too: the French are only slowly getting to grips with automatic gearboxes and the shift protocols for the C3’s transmission are erratic at times, thumping between first and second at times and hanging onto ratios far too long when you apply the throttle with even slight enthusiasm.
The chassis is much better: there’s a great little car underneath, which steers well and can handle difficult corners at speed far above the urban driving that will be its natural habitat.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?
The C3 really makes an impression in the cabin. It’s a small car with a high, arched roof and quite dramatic interior styling.
Even more so in the Exclusive, which has Citroen’s so-called Zenith roof which extends the windscreen over above the driver and front passenger. There’s a large shade that you can pull down to make the cabin less transparent, but when you’re in the mood (night is especially good) you get a dramatic view overhead.
There’s nothing outwardly outrageous about the dashboard but it does look and feel pretty special for a sub-$30k supermini. The plastics are soft and there are glossy black inserts to give it a premium ambience.
The C3 Exclusive’s headline piece of equipment is the standard satellite navigation system, which runs through a good-looking colour screen.
The airy cabin makes life more bearable for those in the back, although you can’t get past the fact that the C3 is a tiny supermini that’s too small to serve as a family vehicle.
SHOULD I BUY ONE?
The C3 Exclusive is a hard one to recommend because the rest of the class is so strong: there are so many other options, from the Ford Fiesta Sport with its high-tech EcoBoost powertrain to the Volkswagen Polo, which is still the last word in quality and image.
The C3 Exclusive is disappointing in terms of performance but still feels like a pretty special experience when you’re sitting inside.
EQUIPMENT CHECKLISTAir conditioning: ClimateAudio: CD, iPod compatibleAutomatic lights/wipers: Yes/yesBlind spot warning: NoBluetooth: YesCruise control: YesDriver footrest: YesHead-up display: NoHeated/ventilated seats: NoKeyless entry/start: NoLane guidance: NoLeather upholstery: NoParking radar: Rear with cameraPower boot or tailgate: No Power seat adjustment/memory: NoRear ventilation outlets: NoRemote audio controls: YesSatellite navigation: YesSeat height adjustment: YesSelf-parking technology: NoSplit/folding rear seats: 60/40Steering reach adjustment: YesStop-start: NoTrip computer: Yes Find a Citroen C3 Exclusive HERE