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Citroen C3 2019 review

EXPERT RATING
7.5

Really small cars aren't what they used to be, and there are a number of reasons for that. The first is that, compared to five years ago, nobody buys them. The world of small hatchbacks is a shadow of its former self, mostly because there's so much money sloshing around in Australia that we buy a class up and often an SUV rather hatch.

As usual, Citroen is taking the path less travelled. There's no getting away from the fact that the C3 hatch has always been an a brave choice - there are still a few of the original, arch-roofed version kicking around, a car I was very fond of, despite it not being very good.

For 2019 Citroen has addressed a couple of glaring issues with the C3, namely a lack of safety gear that contributed to a four-star ANCAP safety rating and a couple of little dramas that marred an otherwise impressive package.

Citroen C3 2019: SHINE 1.2 PURE TECH 82
Safety rating
Engine Type1.2L turbo
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency4.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$26,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?  9/10

Little has changed in the looks department, and that's a good thing. While the C3 isn't to everybody's taste, it's certainly a Citroen. The car has drawn heavily from the bold-as-brass Cactus, which I genuinely think is one of the greatest pieces of automotive design, certainly for a mass-produced car. Funky and, as it turns out, quite influential - have a look at the Kona and Santa Fe. The only real differences are colour-coded door handles with chrome strips.

Little has changed in the looks department, and that's a good thing. Little has changed in the looks department, and that's a good thing.

All present and correct are the rubber Airbumps down the lower portion of the doors, the stacked headlight and DRL arrangement that is the "wrong" way around. It's chunky and very much aimed at the compact SUV crowd.

The cabin is basically the same and still terrific. Again, lots of Cactus in here, which includes the two of the best front seats in the business. The dash design is a cool departure from the rest of the planet, with lots of round-edged rectangles and a consistency of design across the Cactus and other Citroens. The materials are mostly pretty good, but the central console is a bit awkward-looking and sparse.

How practical is the space inside?  7/10

The weird French approach to cupholders lingers with the C3. Perhaps to match the name, there are three - two in the front and one in the back at the rear of the centre console. Each door will hold a mid-size bottle for a total of four.

  • Headroom is very good front and rear. Headroom is very good front and rear.
  • Rear-seat room is acceptable, with good knee room for adults up to 180cm. Rear-seat room is acceptable, with good knee room for adults up to 180cm.
  • The boot isn't bad for a car this size, starting at 300 litres. The boot isn't bad for a car this size, starting at 300 litres.
  • You get 922 litres with the seats folded down. You get 922 litres with the seats folded down.

Rear-seat room is acceptable, with good knee room for adults up to 180cm. I toured around in the back and was perfectly happy behind my lanky son's front-seat lounging position. Headroom is very good front and rear as it's quite upright.

The boot isn't bad for a car this size, starting at 300 litres with the seats in place and 922 litres with the seats folded down. There is quite a step in the floor with the seats down. The floor is also not level with the loading lip, but it does liberate a few litres, so it's not a huge deal.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  6/10

Prospective C3 buyers will have to endure a solid price rise on the old car, which landed just over a year ago at $23,480 before on-roads. The 2019 car lists at $26,990 but does come with an overall uplift in spec.

The 2019 car lists at $26,990. The 2019 car lists at $26,990.

As you did previously, you get cloth trim, reversing camera, auto headlights and wipers, leather steering wheel, trip computer, climate control, rear parking sensors, cruise control, power windows all around, speed-limit recognition and a space-saver spare.

The 2019 car drops the wheel-size an inch to 16-inches but adds AEB, blind-spot monitoring, keyless entry and start, sat nav and DAB.

The 2019 car drops the wheel-size an inch to 16-inches. The 2019 car drops the wheel-size an inch to 16-inches.

The 7.0-inch touchscreen carries over unchanged and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These are welcome additions, although the basic software is okay on its own. Like other Citroens and sister Peugeots, the screen hosts much of the car's functionality, which makes sorting out the air-con a bit of a memory game.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?  8/10

Citroen's excellent 1.2-litre turbo three-cylinder remains under the bonnet, serving up 81kW and 205Nm. A six-speed automatic sends power to the front wheels. Weighing just 1090kg, it'll rech 100km/h in 10.9 seconds.

Citroen's excellent 1.2-litre turbo three-cylinder remains under the bonnet. Citroen's excellent 1.2-litre turbo three-cylinder remains under the bonnet.

How much fuel does it consume?  7/10

Citroen claims a combined cycle figure of 4.9L/100km, aided by stop start when you're in town. My week with the plucky Parisienne returned an indicated 6.1L/100km, but I was having fun.

What's it like to drive?  8/10

Three things work together to make the C3 (see what I did there?) an excellent small car

The C3 is no corner-hugging handler. The C3 is no corner-hugging handler.

The first is the brilliant 1.2-litre turbo triple cylinder. This is such a terrific engine. It's not the quietest or the smoothest, but once you've got things spinning, it's torquey and keeps you rolling very nicely indeed.

In my previous outings in the C3, I've noticed a propensity for the transmission to engage a little too enthusiastically, particularly after waking from stop-start. It now seems to have had a little calibration update that has smoothed things out remarkably. It honestly doesn't feel as slow as its 0-100km/h figure suggests.

Secondly, it's incredibly comfortable for a small car. Even at launch, riding on 17-inch wheels I was impressed, but now on 16-inch wheels with higher-profile tyres, it's even more relaxed. The C3 is no corner-hugging handler, with a bit of body roll and a comfort-biased spring and damper setting, but it's not an understeering duffer, either. Only sharp tranverse bumps upset the rear (nasty rubber shopping centre speed bumps, I'm looking at you) and most of time it feels like a much larger and generously-sprung car.

These two form the basis of a package that seems equally at home in the city and out on the freeway. It's quite something.

Third, it neatly straddles the line between compact SUV and small hatch. Accepted wisdom would suggest sticking to one lane, but the successful blurring of the lines means that you get much of the visual and practical elements of that class while also not paying for, say, the C3 Aircross, which is an out-and-out compact SUV. It's a weird marketing play, but the "What's that?" chats in the shopping centre car parks weren't of the heated kind.

Obviously, it's not perfect. It's reasonably sluggish once you're past about 60km/h and grip is at a premium. The cruise control still needs way too much attention to activate and the touchscreen has too many functions crammeed in, as well as being a bit slow. The lack of AM radio is fixed by the addition of DAB.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  8/10

The C3 ships with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, lane-departure warning, speed-sign recognition as standard. New for the 2019 model are forward AEB and blind-spot monitoring.

There are also three top-tether restraints along with two ISOFIX points in the rear.

ANCAP awarded just four stars to the C3 in November 2017 and at the car's launch, the company expressed its frustation at the low score, which it believed was a result of the lack of AEB.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?  7/10

Citroen provides a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty as well as five years of roadside assist. Your dealer expects a visit every 12 months or 15,000km.

Service pricing is capped as part of Citroen's Confidence program. You'll be confident of paying a fair bit, though. Servicing starts at $381 for the first service, climbing to $621 for the third and moving around until the fifth year.

Pricing Guides

$28,240
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$23,490
Highest Price
$32,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
AIRCROSS SHINE 1.2 P/TECH 82 1.2L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $32,990 2019 Citroen C3 2019 AIRCROSS SHINE 1.2 P/TECH 82 Pricing and Specs
SHINE 1.2 PURE TECH 82 1.2L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $23,490 2019 Citroen C3 2019 SHINE 1.2 PURE TECH 82 Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Price and features6
Design9
Practicality7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership7
Driving8

“As you've probably gathered, the C3 is a fun little car with a proper personality. Obviously it's not cheap - Japanese, German and Korean competition are all cheaper - but none of them are as individual as the C3.”

Would you consider a C3 now that it's got better safety gear? Or is that whacky exterior too much for you?

Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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