2018 Citroen C3 Aircross Review
Paul Horrell’s first drive 2018 Citroen Aircross Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
IN A NUTSHELL Citroen enters the busy mini-crossover segment. It majors on cabin space and versatility, and individual style.
2018 CITROEN C3 AIRCROSS (European spec)
Price $na Warranty 3 years/100,000km Engine (tested) 1.2l turbo 3cyl Power 81kW at 5500rpm Torque 205Nm at 1500rpm Transmission 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto Drive front-wheel drive Body 4155mm (l); 1824mm (w exc mirrors); 1976mm (w inc mirrors); 1637mm (h) Turning circle 10.8m Towing weight 840kg (braked), 600kg (unbraked) Kerb weight 1169kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 45 litres Spare Space saver Thirst 5.0 l/100km combined cycle Fuel petrol
CITROEN USED TO have a little MPV in Europe called the C3 Picasso. But MPVs are on a sales slide, while crossovers are the coming thing all over the world. To build its global presence, the firm is launching this little C3 Aircross now in Europe, to be joined a year later by the bigger C5 Aircross (in fact China has the C5 Aircross already).
We don’t have an exact date for Oz on-sale, but both sizes of Aircross appear on the firm’s local website so they seem to be trying to stir up interest for a launch here. The C3 hatch will likely need to prove itself; with new importer, Inchacape, of Subaru fame now holding the reigns in Australia there’s a good chance we’ll see the compact crossover Down Under.
The C3 Aircross has the basic platform of the C3 supermini, but has the longer wheelbase of the C4 Cactus. That helps interior space as well as stability on the move. Inside, Citroen has successfully carried over most of the space and versatility of the old C3 Picasso MPV, while morphing it onto an exterior silhouette closer to a crossover.
Is it a crossover? Well the ground clearance is reasonably generous, approach and departure angles not bad, and the soft suspension gives good traction. But there’s no 4WD option and towing weights are pretty low.
Likely the biggest-selling engine is a little three-cylinder 1.2, given surprising pluck by a turbo. It has an auto transmission option. We also tested the 1.6 diesel, which offers similar performance and better economy for a higher price.
What’s the interior of the C3 Aircross like?
The exterior look is carried on to the cabin. It’s a style that was set with the C4 Cactus and has been refined in the C3 supermini. The instruments are better than in the Cactus and the control screen more quick-witted–, to the point where it’s pretty good for a small car. By using cloth on the doors and dash, Citroen diverts attention from the cheapish hard surfaces of most of the other big dash and door-trim parts.
The seats look and feel more like comfy domestic furniture than racy automotive stuff. And in a soft-driving Citroen, that’s perfectly OK. All this ‘sports crossover’ stuff from the likes of the (much more expensive) Mini Countryman doesn’t really sit well with the needs of a family car does it?
Five different interior ‘ambiences’ are available. Base is an ordinary grey trim, but then you can pay a little extra and get a sandy-coloured relaxing tone, or some modern grey tweed with red accents, or half-leather in black or tan. Those colourways co-ordinate with inserts for the dash and door panels, so it all looks integrated.
Rear-seat space is very impressive for a car this length, and that leaves a deep boot of 410 litres, with a double-position floor so you can raise that floor and divide the space with a secret compartment underneath. Sliding the rear seats forward kinda kills the legroom but it’s OK for little kids, and adds another 110 litres to the boot.
The sliding seat is an option on most trim levels, but with it comes a fold-flat front passenger seat so a surfboard fits lengthwise. If you want to carry long stuff and five people, you’ll be strapping it to the standard-fit roof rails.
Otherwise, cabin storage is a bit limited. the centre console doesn’t have an armrest bid and cupholders are scarce. There’s a shelf in front of the passenger wich a good rubber tray at the bottom to stop stuff slithering off. If you get the top Tech pack, there’s a wireless Qi charging plate ahead of the gearlever, and that also brings a head-up display.
The central touchscreen is present on all but the bare-base version. In other trim levels, it comes with phone mirroring – Android Auto and Apple Carplay – and those apps provide your traffic-enabled navigation and your streaming or onboard music. So it’s hard to see much value in Citroen’s factory navigation, which in Europe comes as standard with the top trim level.
The screen itself is pretty responsive and has good resolution for a small-car device. But it suffers a perpetual bugbear for new Citroens – you have to delve into the screen for climate adjustments. There are no hardware switches for fan, heat or air direction settings, beyond a simple ‘demist’ button.
What’s the C3 Aircross like on the road?
As its looks and its purpose imply it would, the Aircross has a soft gait down the road, with no attempt at sportiness but a good helping of comfort and refinement.
The little engine is decently game, propelling an unloaded Aircross to 100km/h in about 11 seconds. Because of the turbo, it doesn’t demand big revs – you can stick it in a high gear and let it get on with the job. It’s also quiet, though when you do hear it the sound is a chattery three-cylinder gurgle rather than the familiar four-cylinder drone. A four-cylinder drone like the diesel produces. But for a small-car diesel it’s pretty refined and does the job heartily.
The manual gearbox is no better than OK, partly because of the inconsistent movement of the lever according to which change you’ve asked for, and partly because the clutch pedal angle is a little awkward. Many will go for the autobox, which brings smooth progress through cities although it can be a trifle indecisive if you drive hard on winding country roads. Again though, that’s not a likely scenario for a family bus.
Despite the extra height over a C3 hatch, the Aircross’s body roll is better contained, and so it’s one of the easiest small crossovers to steer neatly through a series of bends. Go too fast and understeer takes over, but it’s all very manageable. Just lift the throttle to come back on course. And the steering is too light to engage your sporting side. It’s still more agile than big 4x4s, but even so you’d be better off relaxing and enjoying the scenery.
The best bit is the ride comfort, which soaks up most urban and rural bumps with a suppleness that’s close to the top of the class. Generally, there’s little tyre noise either, so the thing slips along in surprising comfort for a small car.
Off the road, it benefits from 175mm of ground clearance, supple suspension which aids traction, and it also has its main mass over the driving wheels. But there’s no AWD option. As a substitute, ‘grip control’ adds a set of traction-control parameters, which you select by a rotary knob, adapted to various terrains. This this pack also features hill descent control, and – most significant probably – all-season tyres.
What safety features does the C3 Aircross offer?
There’s no crash test data yet. The airbags are class-standard in number. That’s six in all: front and side bags for those in front, and curtain bags that run from front to rear. There are two rear Isofix mounts on the outboard seats.
Standard fit is lane departure warning, and speed limit warning, cruise control and speed limiter. But front autonomous emergency braking is confined to the options list. Blind spot warning is also an option, and only available on the top trim in Europe, as part of a pack with surround-view parking cameras. There’s no option at all of radar cruise control, or any headlamps brighter than halogen, or lane keeping assist.