Full pricing and specs are yet to be revealed, but you can expect drive-away pricing of between $30,000 and $35,000, meaning it will be taking on the mid- to high-spec petrol versions of the SUVs I just mentioned. But because of the way this car is packaged, you’ll be getting a lot of metal for your money.
The C3's sensible design makes use to maximize available space.
If you think the Mazda CX-3 is how a small SUV should look, then this will likely be a bit too boxy for you.
While it looks pretty big, it’s actually one of the most compact examples in the segment in terms of body length.
Standard, our cars will roll on 17-inch alloy wheels, plus there’ll be a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor. Australian-delivered cars will all come with the ‘bitone’ roof (contrasting colour turret), plus a white accent pack. Other styling packs are expected to be offered, too - you just might have to endure a bit of wait time, as the local shipment stock is expected to be less ‘quirky’ than we’ve seen before from Citroen.
A panoramic sunroof may be offered in Aus-spec cars.
The C3's multimedia features are extensive.
There are no electric seats, but seat heating and leather may be offered as an optional pack.
There are no electric seats, but seat heating and leather may be offered as an optional pack. A panoramic sunroof may also be offered.
And there’s a bunch of included safety gear on offer, as well. Check out the safety section below for a breakdown.
I’m going to put this out there; the styling won’t be to all tastes. If you think the Mazda CX-3 is how a small SUV should look, then this will likely be a bit too boxy for you. But it’s a sensible design to maximise space.
Yes, while it looks pretty big, it’s actually one of the most compact examples in the segment in terms of body length. At just 4154mm long, it’s shorter than most small hatchbacks. It measures 1756mm wide and 1637mm high, the latter being what gives it so much visual size. Ground clearance is 170mm.
It carries Citroen’s twin-lamp front layout with LED daytime running lights and (yuck) halogen headlamps below, plus there’s plenty of chunky-looking cladding and big, robust-looking alloys.
The C3 carries Citroen’s twin-lamp front layout with LED daytime running lights and (yuck) halogen headlamps below.
For what it’s worth, I think it’s really charming to look at.
The cheerful coloured elements on the body include headlight rings, mirror caps, roof rails and what I’ve termed 'virtual venetians' - those stickers on the rear windows, which, interestingly, are made of perspex to save weight.
And Citroen has asked customers to help choose the colour palette that will be offered in Australia, running a poll to get the top five preferences. The options were blue with white roof and highlights (73 per cent of first-choice votes), red with black roof and silver highlights (69 per cent placed that combo second), while the third most popular was white with a black roof and orange accents. Fourth was black with a sand-coloured roof and silver accents, and fifth was that sand body colour and black roof with orange accents.
For what it’s worth, I think it’s really charming to look at in pretty much all of those combos. But perhaps more importantly, it’s pretty charming inside, too.
Citroen says this small SUV is “the most spacious and modular SUV in the compact segment”, which reads to me like “we’ve got the Honda HR-V covered”.
And it is definitely a worthy challenger to its Japanese rival, with a clever cabin design that is focused on comfort and practicality in almost equal measure.
The boot capacity, for instance, is 410 litres with the back seats up, and extends to 1289L with the rear seats folded down. Plus those seats slide fore and aft for better space in the cargo zone, and the front passenger seat folds down completely flat so you can load through items up to 2.40 metres in length. Ikea, here we come!
The Citroen C3 features a clever cabin design that's focused on comfort and practicality in almost equal measure.
The downside of that clever passenger seat is that it doesn’t include height adjustment, and that means taller occupants will feel as though their heads are brushing the ceiling - especially when the car is fitted with the full glass panoramic sunroof. I struggled a bit, and I’m only 182cm. My oddly tall (and also just odd) colleague Richard Berry (194cm) would be craning his neck to fit.
The headroom in the back of our test car was also lacking somewhat due to the roof. If I were choosing a C3 Aircross, I wouldn’t be optioning the sunroof.
If your car is fitted with wireless phone charging, you won’t get any cup holders...
But in most every other way, the back seat is pretty handy in its size. With the driver’s seat set in my position, I had enough knee and toe space, and shoulder-room was decent, too. Three adults across would be a squish, but there are baby seat attachments if you have little ones. The ceiling-mounted middle seatbelt might not be to all preferences, and while there’s no flip down armrest per se, the middle part of the back seat folds down completely to offer a couple of cup holders.
On the cupholder count, Citroen is unfortunately a bit French when it comes to this criterion. Up front, if your car is fitted with the wireless phone charging tech available, you won’t get any cup holders. There are bottle holsters in the front and rear doors, though.
And while the design of the cockpit area up front is pretty neat, there are some ergonomic quibbles, like the cruise control stalk off the edge of the steering column, or the fact the media screen is your only way to control the air-conditioning.
The boot capacity offers 410 litres with the back seats up and 1289L with them down.
The fan speed, temperature and directional controls are all in a menu on the screen, which is really annoying if you just want to make a quick change but you’re also following the sat nav or paired to CarPlay. Believe me, I lived with a Peugeot 308 for a few months and it had the same system, and there is an adjustment period.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The engine powering the Citroen C3 Aircross is no horsepower hero, but it certainly has the specs to get this lightweight crossover model moving pretty well.
The 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine is good for 81kW of power (at 5500rpm) and 205Nm of torque (at just 1500rpm). The key figure there is the torque. It has a fair bit of pulling power down low for a little SUV, and it only weighs 1203kg (kerb weight) - a lot less than some rivals.
Admittedly, the Peugeot gets that brand’s lovely i-Cockpit layout with a much smaller steering wheel and a more high-tech instrument cluster, but the Citroen’s driver station is still quite a nice place to be. The vision from the pilot’s seat is very good, too, with the reach/rake steering and height adjustable seat allowing people of all shapes and sizes the chance to find a good spot.
The chassis is tuned to maximise ride suppleness over stiffness in corners.
The steering is an electric system, which offers a good directness in its response at higher speeds, but can be just a touch slow at lower speeds. From memory, the Peugeot’s steering felt a little more rapid at slow pace, probably due to its go-kart-like steering wheel. The good thing is that, for a compact front-wheel-drive SUV, it feels very much at home in the city, and doesn’t fare too badly on the highway, either.
The engine is responsive (if raspy) and will get up to speed reasonably briskly.
But there are a few things that could be better at 110km/h or more. There’s a lot of tyre noise and some wind noise in the cabin, which doesn’t offer the most hushed highway drive. And at urban speeds, the refinement of the three-cylinder engine certainly can’t match some four-cylinder rivals, with a thrummy nature when you’re stopping and starting. The engine’s stop-start system puts an end to the unwanted seat massage at idle, though.
Thankfully, though, that engine is responsive (if raspy) and will actually get up to speed reasonably briskly, even with three adults on board. I love three-cylinder engines - I think they offer a truly unique character - but they aren’t to all tastes, so make sure you include some representative route planning if you decide to take one for a test drive.
Sadly, the maintenance - due every 12 months/15,000km - is expected to be a little pricey. The Peugeot 2008 - the same car upon which the C3 Aircross is based - costs about $450 per service, which is about 30 per cent more than, say, a Mazda CX-3 or Honda HR-V.
If you like your small SUVs to have character and charm, and also a strong dose of comfort and convenience, the Citroen C3 Aircross crams a lot into a little package.
Its final pricing and specifications may help win some buyers over, but the brand’s marketing really needs to be amped up in order to dictate if this (dare I say it) quirky small SUV will be a success or not in our market.
Is the Citroen C3 Aircross' styling your cup of, um, croissants? Tell us in the comments below.