2018 Citroen C3 Review
Dan DeGasperi’s 2018 Citroen C3 Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The Citroen C3 arrives in Australia in one-spec only. It’s good to drive but is missing key safety gear and the interior feels cheap.
2018 Citroen C3
Price $23,490+ORC Warranty five-years, unlimited km Safety 4-star NCAP Engine 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol Power 81kW at 5500rpm Torque 205Nm at 1500rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Drive front-wheel drive Dimensions 3996mm (L) 1749mm (W) 1474mm (H) 2540mm (WB) Seats four Boot Space 300 litres Weight 1090kg Towing NA Fuel Tank 45 litres Thirst 4.9/100km claimed combined
CITROEN – and its sibling, Peugeot – has had a tough trot in Australia over the past decade, juggled between three importers and with the last one promising a renewal of each brand without success. Those last few Citroen and Peugeot buyers were left with poor resale value while warranty coverage ducked from three, to six, now back to five years. What a mess.
Now we have another pledge to rebuild, under the guidance of Subaru-importer Inchcape, and for Citroen it starts with this new-generation C3 light hatchback.
What is the Citroen C3?
Citroen has delivered only a single, decently specified five-door model priced from $23,490 plus on-road costs (+ORC) or $26,990 driveaway (until March 31). It is meant to snuggle between the Mazda2 and Volkswagen Polo (most popular and newest competitor respectively) and the Audi A1 and Mini Cooper as a ‘step above’ the mainstream.
Standard are 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control, automatic on/off headlights and wipers, lane-departure warning, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear parking sensors, single-zone climate control air-conditioning, 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and reversing camera.
The price of entry is high, but options are cheap. Metallic paint is $590 extra, but you can choose silver or black alloy wheels, and either a white, black or coloured roof all for nix. Mustard faux-leather cabin inserts – dubbed Hype Colorado – add $400, or a red interior asks just $150 extra, while a panoramic fixed glass roof is a $600 option.
That same price is applied to ConnectedCam, a high-definition 2-megapixel dash-cam with 16Gb memory mounted near the rear-view mirror, which records photo or video of your trip – or of an accident, to then show insurance. Another unique feature is speed-sign recognition, which as standard can detect speed signs and then display the zone limit on the trip computer display. However, beyond this, the C3 lacks autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a blind-spot monitor, as well as other interior features expected at this pricetag.
What’s the Interior Like?
It is immediately obvious that, in Europe, the C3 starts as a cheap model. There are shiny, hard dashboard plastics everywhere, and only a monochromatic trip computer display. Hit the navigation button on the intuitive and high-resolution touchscreen, and a note appears to tell you that it isn’t available. Nor is a digital radio. Without those, or even keyless auto-entry or push-button start, AEB or blind-spot, this Citroen feels sorely lacking for the price.
A Mazda2 Maxx automatic at $19,690+ORC – currently $20,990 driveaway – includes digital radio and AEB, while the Genki auto at $22,690+ORC – currently $23,990 driveaway – gets LED headlights, keyless auto-entry, power-fold door mirrors, nav (although no CarPlay), a head-up display, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert over the C3.
Volkswagen also launched a new Polo this week, with the 85TSI Launch Edition auto priced at $22,990+ORC, or currently $23,990 driveaway. Not only does it have wireless phone charging and AEB standard, but add $1400 for a Driver Assistance Package and a buyer scores adaptive cruise control, blind-spot, auto park assistance and power-fold door mirrors – none available here – all for $25,390 driveaway.
Pricing aside, the Citroen feels like a competitive light hatch inside. The wide seats are the cushiest and comfiest in the segment, while little design details such as leather luggage-inspired door pull straps do lift the tone. There’s good visibility, the steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach, and there’s auto up/down for all power windows – though vanity mirror lights are missing. It’s packaged only decently, with average rear legroom and no overhead grab handles, but the 300-litre boot is large (although new Polo ousts it with 351L) and the backrest split-folds. Add the Hype Colorado option and the trim does a superb impression of soft, real leather, which is applied to the dashboard inserts as well. Price back into the equation, though, and the feel inside certainly says $21,990 driveaway, at most.
What’s it like to drive?
Citroen’s 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol certainly eclipses the Mazda2’s 1.5-litre non-turbo engine and challenges the Polo’s 1.0-litre turbo. Its 81kW power output is standard for the class, but the 205Nm of torque is 5Nm ahead of the Volkswagen and 64Nm above the Mazda. That torque is produced at just 1500rpm and, tied to a six-speed automatic in a five-door hatch weighing 1090kg, this is an effortless and willing partnership.
The C3 is wonderfully smooth and quiet to drive. The engine ticks away in the background, the suspension is loping yet controlled, and road noise is incredibly hushed for a light car. It suddenly makes a Mazda2 feel noisy, thrashy and needlessly aggressive.
Yet stoke the throttle pedal and this French hatch delivers real zest and verve, matched by a fluent auto. The steering is in keeping with the light ‘n’ easy theme, but it’s also sharp, and the chassis feels light on its tyres and willing to quickly change direction. Claimed combined-cycle fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100 kilometres is the cake’s icing, although it does need premium unleaded (95RON) unlike the Mazda2 (which gets an identical claim, too).
Other complaints? Sometimes the 17-inch rims can jar, and while the engine makes a great growl when pressed, it could have additional sound deadening. But again, the biggest criticism of all is the price – for $26,990 driveaway, it feels well out of depth.
What about ownership?
A five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty will help quell concerns about French reliability, especially given that Mazda and Volkswagen offer three-year, unlimited-kay cover.
Servicing is competitive, too. Excellent annual or 15,000km check-ups also include capped-price services that for the first five ask $375/$484/$639/$489/$380 respectively, for a $2367 total. The same for a Polo ask $307/$549/$357/$834/$357, for a $2404 total.
What about safety features?
Dual front, side and curtain airbag coverage, plus ABS and electronic stability control (ESC) are par for the light car course. Lane-departure warning is a worthy inclusion only shared with the Suzuki Swift in the class, but the lack of AEB and blind-spot monitoring are greater concerns.
It means the C3 scored a 4-star Euro NCAP safety rating, despite being structurally sound. Citroen says, however, it is working hard to add AEB to the standard equipment list, along with navigation – but at what cost?
So, what do we think?
If you shield your eyes from the pricetag, the new-gen C3 is a wonderfully competitive and flavoursome light hatchback. It prioritises refinement and comfort over sportiness, and that’s completely fine. Likewise, its indiviudalisation options are both cheap and funky, and certain features for the class do give it a unique selling point (USP), and then there’s the air bumps which will keep the doors safe from car park dings.
For $26,990 driveaway, however, it should at least have AEB, blind-spot, nav, and digital radio standard, although the warranty is a highlight. Whether seated inside or driving, this Citroen feels like a cheap and nippy light hatch travelling well above its station.