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Citroen C3 2010 Review

Small, chic and very French…the Citroen C3 has been an absentee from the small car market in Australia, but will make a valiant return next year.

Some small numbers are in the country now but supply will free up early next year and Citroen aims to more than quadruple the little hatchback's 2010 performance and sell 500 next year, alongside the sportier DS3 range that carries a target of 420 units.

VALUE

The new C3 range kicks off with a price-point VT five-speed manual-only model with a 1.4-litre engine, which will go on sale wearing a $19,990 pricetag.

The features list includes 15in steel wheels, front disc and rear drum brakes, anti-lock and stability control systems, dual front and front side airbags, remtoe central locking, reach and rake adjustable steering, front power windows, air conditioning, six-speaker CD sound system and a trip computer among the features.

The mid-range VTR+ will be priced from $23,490 for the 1.6-litre petrol four-speed automatic or $23,990 for the 1.6-litre turbodiesel five-speed manual, with the features list bolstered by curtain airbags, front fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and cruise control with speed limiter.

The range-topping Exclusive is available with the same drivetrain options - in petrol/auto from $25,990 or the turbodiesel/manual model from $26,490, upping the equipment list to include climate control, power windows front and rear, Bluetooth and USB audio and phone link, folding and heated door mirrors and 16in wheels, although alloy wheels of the same size are an option.

DESIGN

The new-look C3 shares some styling cues of the outgoing car while presenting the funky new face of the breed.  The dominant feature on the Excusive cars at the launch is the front windscreen, which takes the Picasso's roof-invading glasswork to new heights.  Citroen says it is the largest windscreen ever put on a small car - 35 per cent larger than a normal windscreen.

The larger C3, which measures 3940mm long, 1730mm wide and 1520mm tall and weighs about 30kg more than the outgoing car, will go up against the Peugeot 207 and the VW Polo, as well as Ford's Fiesta.

TECHNOLOGY

The range will be offered with two petrol power-plants and one turbodiesel (shared with BMW and Peugeot) - the 1.6-litre 16-valve turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine producing 66kW and 215Nm while claiming a combined fuel use figure of 4.3 litres per 100km will be teamed with a five-speed manual for the Exclusive model.

The two petrol engines on offer will be the VT's 54kW/118Nm 1.4-litre 16-valve petrol engine, teamed only with a five speed manual.

The VTR will get the turbodiesel or the other shared PSA/BMW powerplant, the 1.6-litre turbocharged 16-valve engine producing 88kW and 160Nm.

SAFETY

The new C3 safety features list will include stability control, anti-lock brakes, with emergency brake assist (with automatic hazard light activation under heavy braking) and electronic brakeforce distribution and up to six airbags - only the base VT misses out on side curtain airbags.

The C3 has five lap-sash seatbelts, with the front pair fitted with pre-tensioners and load-limiters.

DRIVE

If the DS3 is upstart sporty hatch then the C3 is definitely the metrosexual city car and the two are not likely to cannibalise sales from their sibling.  The C3 betrays its city-car origins in the first few seconds of driving, with one-finger light steering at parking speeds.

It's not a bad thing, but the weighting doesn't get too much heavier, or offer as much feedback as the DS3 - which around town is superfluous.  The only model on offer is the 1.6 Exclusive petrol four-speed - yers, four-speed - automatic, which is smooth enough in shift-shock terms but the steps between ratios are on the wide side.

Sports mode was a must-have for the automatic and was rarely off.  The 1.6-litre turbo four works hard to shift the new C3 and does a serviceable job in most situations - somewhat flexible but no firecracker.

The extra insulation of the new model has removed a lot of road and wind noise from the little five-door hatchback, but the Michelin tyres didn't care for the coarse chip bitumen and were over-inflated, which probably didn't help the ride.

A supple suspension has been the calling card of Citroen's in the past, but the new C3 feels as though it's come up a little short - we'll wait until we get one on local roads and the correct tyre pressure before we pass final judgement.

Interior space for a small car is good, as is the 300 litres of bootspace and the forward vision, at least in the launch drive car that had the Zenith high-rise windscreen.  It is an excellent way to improve the feeling of space in a small car and a bonus for taking in the full scope of the city skyline.

Citroen says there's insulation against light and heat but we'll see how it - and the European air conditioning - stands up to the Australian summer sun.

Rearward vision is less impressive, with the two rear-most pillars making reversing an interesting scenario, rear parking sensors are a $500 option on all bar the base model and would be a worthwhile extra.

VERDICT

The C3 brings more French flair to the small car ranks and offers stylish A to B transport and some nice touches. The fashionistas will lap it up.

CITROEN C3

Price: from $19,990
Engine: 1.4 and 1.6-litre turbo petrol and 1.6-litre turbo diesel.
Transmission: five-speed manual, four-speed auto, front-wheel drive.
Fuel consumption: 4.3-7 litres/100km, tank 50 litres (diesel 48 litres).

Pricing guides

$5,070
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$3,100
Highest Price
$7,040

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Pluriel 1.6L, PULP, 5 SP SEQ $4,100 – 6,600 2010 Citroen C3 2010 Pluriel Pricing and Specs
Exclusive 1.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $3,100 – 5,280 2010 Citroen C3 2010 Exclusive Pricing and Specs
VT 1.4L, PULP, 5 SP MAN $3,100 – 5,280 2010 Citroen C3 2010 VT Pricing and Specs
VTR+ 1.6L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $3,800 – 6,160 2010 Citroen C3 2010 VTR+ Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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