2017 Citroen C3 review – first drive
Paul Horrell’s first drive 2017 Citroen C3 review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The C3 is a mainstream supermini with mostly the same engines and underpinnings as the Peugeot 208.
WARRANTY 6 YEARS 100,000KM (EUROPE)
SAFETY NOT YET TESTED
ENGINE 1.2L TURBOCHARGED PETROL 3 CYLINDER
POWER/TORQUE 81KW AT 5500RPM, 205NM AT 1500RPM
TRANSMISSION 5-SPEED MANUAL, FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE
DIMENSIONS 3996MM (L); 1829/2007MM (W, MIRRORS IN/OUT); 1474MM (H)
TURNING CIRCLE 10.9M
KERB WEIGHT 1050KG
FUEL TANK 45L
FUEL CONSUMPTION 4.6L/100KM COMBINED CYCLE
SPARE SPACE SAVER
TOWING N/A KG
THINK OF CITROEN C3 as a Cactus without the prickles. Many of its design hints come from the C4 Cactus, but it’s got more compromises to keep it mainstream. Where the Cactus goes to extremes to save weight and cost (no split seat, simple digital instruments, hinged instead of winding rear windows) the C3 is more ‘normal’.
There’s a bit of lightweight crossover to the styling, with the availability of plastic protection around the wheel-arches and bumpers, as well as those airbumps. The exterior, like the cabin, is customisable. The programme includes contrast colours for the roof and various lipstick-like highlights such as around the fog lamps.
What’s the interior like and how practical is it?
Citroen is pinning its brand on the idea of well-being: a calm sort of comfort, free of distractions and over-complications. There’s little that’s revolutionary in the C3, to be sure, but it’s an easy car to like. Unless that is you want lots of techno gadgetry or racy aggression, because those things aren’t what Citroen sees as its job these days.
The seats look like domestic furniture, with relatively flat and generously wide cushions. They use new multi-layer foams. Though they sigh softly like old-school French car-seats when you first sit in them, they do support you well. Definitely better than the Cactus chairs, which give some people backache after a time.
Interior space is about average for a 4-metre supermini, and there’s adequate headroom. Those in the front have a good environment but the rear is cramped for tall adults. But the glass area is big so it feels airy. You can have a panoramic glass roof too.
The dash panel is styled in straight horizontal lines to give an impression of width and space – no need for a falsely sporty ‘cockpit’ in Citroen’s relaxed mission. The door pulls look like the handles on luggage. Other plastics are mainly fairly hard-surfaces, but have some interesting dimples and textures.
Various option packs let you introduce red/grey or brown themes into the cloth trims, including matching soft panels across the dash itself. They lift the ambience into something pretty classy for a baby car.
Out back you have a 300-litre boot, which is barely class average. But handy cabin storage makes up for it. The glovebox is claimed to be the biggest in this segment, and the centre console has a tray with a grippy surface to hold your phone. In a moment of quiet genius, the designers decided to spray the inside of the door bins in light grey paint. This draws in light and makes it easy to see what’s lurking at the bottom.
The main dials are clear, and the touch-screen is set fairly low but still easy to reach, though it could do with a place to steady the heel of your hand while you jab at it with your finger. Still, that screen is responsive, and it appears on mid and upper versions. It uses phone mirroring to display the maps, contacts and music in your Apple or Android device.
There’s also a factory navigation with pinch-to-zoom and some simple connected apps. Mostly the infotainment system is simple and intuitive to use, so it accords with the Citroen mantra of fitting technology that’s useable rather than bafflingly over-complex.
The final connected feature is a forward-facing camera by the rear mirror, with GPS, linked to your phone. You can hit a button to record its views as happy snaps and share socially. It also functions as an evidence gatherer in an accident, automatically recording the periods immediately before and after.
What’s it like on the road?
I drove the version with the French Group’s 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo engine, here rated at 81kW and 205Nm, which is more than adequate given this is a lightweight car. It’s an engine I’ve always enjoyed for its mid-range torque and happy sound. It’s enjoyable to work it hard, taking it to the 6000rpm limit. That said, it’s one of those downsized engines that, if you do work it hard in European conditions, uses quite a bit more fuel than its official ratings. In speed-limited Australia though I wouldn’t expect that to be much of an issue.
The five-speed manual gearbox has a long and wobbly shift action. Still, if you use the engine’s ample torque, you can often just shove it in a high gear and leave it there.
The suspension is supple over bumps at all speeds. To aid comfort it’s not very firmly damped, so bobs up and down a bit, but doesn’t get out of control. The suspension and tyres are fairly quiet, lending things an air of refinement small Peugeots and Citroens have lacked before.
Through corners, the soft suspension rolls a bit. Because it’s such a light car it still feels agile and happy to turn, but not exactly playful at the limit of grip. The steering is light, so you have to get used to guiding it with a gentle hand, but that’s OK because it’s not too high-geared. At highway speed it self-centres well, so it’s an easy car to keep in lane.
The brakes are strong enough, and progressive with no snatch at urban speeds.
What about the safety features?
As often happens when we test cars right at their first launch (or even before), we have to report there are no official crash tests yet. So we can’t say what protection the C3’s structure gives you. But Citroen says it should be stronger than previous cars on that platform because of a new crossmember under the seats.
Electronic warning and assistance systems are above average, though not class-leading, for a supermini.
The built-in navigation, if specified, is connected to Citroen’s servers so can – at least in Europe – warn of hazards. Not just fixed ones such as school zones and accident blackspots, but for example weather-related dangers too.
Speed limiter, cruise control and speed-limit sign recognition are all standard. Lane departure warning is available. So is blind-spot alert. A reversing camera helps you avoid hitting something or more critically someone when going backward – you might think you’ve looked through the rear glass, but what about the nightmare of a child below your sight-line? A camera could save them.
A notable omission is collision warning if the car ahead suddenly stops, or autonomous low-speed emergency braking.
All photos by James Lipman / jameslipman.com