What presented as possibly a really boring drive turned out to be just the opposite. Citroen's new C3 is a competitor in the Euro tiddler class against the likes of Peugeot 208, Renault Clio, VW Polo, Skoda Fabia and some might suggest the awful Fiat Punto. While the C3 test car can cop a bit of flak for its ancient four speed auto, the rest of the fresh-faced frog is pretty impressive.
PRICE / FEATURES
Our drive car was the top of the range C3 Exclusive 1.6 auto that goes for $25,990. The C3 itself has plenty to recommend it not the least being standard kit that includes an excellent RD4 audio with infotainment connection box, Bluetooth phone and audio, auto wipers and lights, climate control air, satnav, park sensors, cruise, reverse camera and folding rear view mirrors. It's had a mid-model refresh and now boasts styling cues from the striking Citroen C4 complete with neat 17-inch alloys and chrome body hardware giving a classy look.
It's a five door, five seat hatch with a surprise. Open the door, get in, grab the handle above your head and pull back. It opens the top half of a huge front windscreen called a Zenith windscreen that goes back over the heads of front passengers to create the illusion of immense space inside the cabin as well as the feeling of being in a fish bowl. Serving no useful purpose whatsoever, the Zenith windscreen is a defining and different feature in a car striving for a point of difference against some stiff competition. The screen does it in terms of 'wow' factor.
The 1.6-litre engine is a twin cam naturally aspirated unit with 88kW/160Nm adequate rather than impressive. It drives the front wheels through a four speed slush-box that can be annoying as it hunts between ratios to keep the car on the boil. And the gaps between ratios are too big. It wouldn't be optimum for fuel economy either (95RON min) but the C3 can clock 6.6-litres/100km.
A three cylinder 1.2 litre version of the C3 selling for $19,990 can dip as low as 4.5. The test car's donk passes EU5 emissions runs smoothly and relatively quietly when cruising or until it flicks down a cog or two.
ON THE ROAD
It's a small car but there's plenty of room inside thanks to clever design that also delivers numerous storage options dotted through the cabin. The interior is stylish and functional with a soft feel dash, centre of dash info pod and attractive, easy to read instruments and switches with perhaps too many satellite stalks around the wheel. The aroma diffuser on the dash may have some appeal to the malodourous.
We were totally not expecting the C3's dynamics that initially suggest soft and mushy but point it at a set of curves and its quite a handy device displaying an absolute minimum of body roll no matter what speed you are travelling. Ride is by strut front and torsion beam suspension with disc brakes all round. Citroen has nailed the compromise between ride and handling here with the C3 being at once comfortable but quite sporty when pushed.
Mind you, the engine and transmission keep things in check because 88kW and a four speed auto won't take you very far down the 'sporty' track. But it's fun. The boot is a decent size easily expandable and on test, the car was clicking over the claimed 6.6-litres/100km.
Like the looks, the features, the feel, the 'surprise' and the price. It's just that darned auto that cruels it.
Citroen C3 Exclusive
Price: from $25,990
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder, 88kW/160Nm
Transmission: 4-speed auto, FWD
Thirst: 7.0L/100Km, 160g/km CO2