Honda HR-V 2019 review
If you are looking at a Honda HR-V, there's a good chance you aren't looking at a Mazda CX-3. You're a different type of small SUV shopper, one that values practicality more than exterior styling.
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Citroen has embarked on yet another relaunch in Australia, led by its arrival into one of the hottest new car segments: small SUVs.
Aimed at competitors such as the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3 and Hyundai Kona is the C3 Aircross, which takes some of what we know about the brand, like funky styling, and combines it with actual practicality to produce one of the more well-rounded small SUVs on the market.
It’s been available in Europe for a few years and is based on PSA’s 'PF1' platform that also underpins the Peugeot 2008, and in Australia is available with a single model grade/engine choice for now.
|Citroen C3 2020: Aircross Shine 1.2 P/Tech 82|
|Engine Type||1.2L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
As part of its range restructuring, Citroen is only offering a single C3 Aircross model in Australia, for now. It’s priced from $32,990, plus on-road costs, which means you’re looking at around $37,000 once it leaves the showroom.
Standard equipment is reasonable, with city speed AEB, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, auto high beam, speed sign recognition, driver attention alert, front and rear parking sensors with a reversing camera and memory-based surround view camera, a 7.0-inch multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, inbuilt satellite navigation, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, LED daytime running lights, climate control, and cruise control with speed limiter are the big ticket items.
For equipment, the C3 Aircross lacks little. But the many available interior colour combinations, sliding and reclining rear seat and panoramic glass roof of the Euro-spec Aircross would be nice. LED headlights, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and rear automatic braking are not available at all, but crucially are available on rivals.
Comparing the C3 Aircross to the $33,000 Hyundai Kona Elite AWD, while the Hyundai delivers more power and torque, the Citroen offers some unique standard equipment such as auto high beam and head-up display.
The C3 Aircross is also roomier and more practical than the Kona.
As with the smaller C3 and future C5 Aircross (due to launch here later in the year), no options will be available for the C3 Aircross aside from $590 colour choices (which also come with contrasting exterior detail shades). White with orange highlights is the only no-cost colour option.
For early adopters, Citroen is offering a C3 Aircross Launch Edition with a panoramic glass sunroof, a unique red and grey interior with a fabric dashboard and red exterior paint for the same $32,990 asking price as the regular model.
I quite like the way the C3 Aircross looks. While other small SUVs - looking at you Nissan Juke, Hyundai Kona and incoming Skoda Kamiq - feature the same split face arrangement, I think the Aircross’ works better thanks to the car’s overall dimensions and the way the daytime running lights blend into the grille and Citroen badge.
I also really like the colour ‘stripes’ on the rear three-quarter window, which give the car a slightly retro look - the colour varies depending on which exterior colour you choose.
It’s taller than a lot of competitors, which gives purpose to the styling, and there are endless ‘squircles’ for you to look at. If you owned one, you’d never tire of the styling because there are endless details to look at that change depending on your viewing angle.
Citroen offers only one colour combination that doesn’t cost extra - all others will relieve you of a further $590.
Yet, choosing a different colour also brings different coloured roof rails, mirror caps, rear quarter light, headlight surrounds and wheel centre caps.
Citroen encourages you to think of it as a colour concept. Choose the blue exterior, you get white details. Opt for white or sand and you'll cop orange bits and pieces. You get the picture.
Compared with the Honda HR-V, the C3 Aircross is 194mm shorter at 4154mm long, yet 34mm wider at 1756mm and 32mm taller at 1637mm. It weighs over 100kg less than the Honda at 1203kg.
Small SUVs are bought because they offer extra ride height and interior practicality compared with the small cars that they’re based on. Think of the Mazda CX-3 versus the Mazda2 on which it’s based and you’ll see what I mean.
Yet they’re still not the roomiest cars. You can do better for the asking price, and the same is true for the C3 Aircross.
Boot space is a good size for the segment at 410-litres - the Mazda CX-3 offers just 264L - and folding the seats down unlocks 1289L and allows items up to 2.4 metres long to be carried.
The boot itself features a false floor with a space saver spare wheel underneath, as well as a few shopping bag hooks. The parcel shelf can be stored behind the rear seat if taller items need to be carried.
Interior space is reasonable. In fact, headroom is fantastic for the segment with good legroom for my 183cm (six-foot) self sitting behind my driving position, though a Honda HR-V is still the practicality king for this segment with even more legroom and an airier feeling inside. There are four bottle holders in each of the C3 Aircross’ doors.
The ISOFIX points on the two outer rear seat positions are easily reachable for those installing child restraints/baby capsules.
Annoyingly, the Euro model’s sliding and reclining rear seat (with a middle armrest and cupholders) hasn’t made it to Australia because our draconian child seat design rules would render the car a four-seater.
The rear seat also does not feature air vents as well, so keep that in mind if that's important to you.
Moving to the front seat, the cabin is definitely more French than the rear - the standard-fit wireless phone charging pad in Australia means there are no front cupholders.
There is also no covered storage, an armrest is unfortunately absent in this market, and the one storage spot for a wallet, etc is removed when the handbrake is down.
The door bins are a reasonable size, though the typically-French tiny glove box (thanks to the fuse box not being converted properly from left-hand drive) still remains.
Citroen claims the C3 Aircross uses 6.6L/100km of minimum 95RON premium fuel, and on the car’s launch we manged 7.5L/100km after a day of hard punting over a mix of city and country roads.
The C3 Aircross is well equipped with active safety equipment. You get six airbags, low-speed AEB, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, auto high beam, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera that tries to replicate a surround view camera.
When it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2017, the C3 Aircross received a maximum five-star safety rating. However, thanks to new rules, its lack of cyclist detecting-AEB means it will get a four-star rating locally.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Citroen doesn’t have the best reliability reputation, though its new products seem to be better than in decades past.
Warranty cover is five-years/unlimited km, including five years of roadside assistance, which used to stand ahead of the crowd, but the majority of mainstream brands have now matched it.
Servicing is scheduled annually or every 15,000km, whichever comes first. Capped price servicing is available for C3 Aircross owners and costs $2727.39 over a five-year/75,000km period.
That equates to a $545.47 average cost for each service, which is high for the segment. It is better value when you consider that a Mazda CX-3 costs $2623 serviced to the same distance with its shorter 10,000km intervals the culprit. By comparison, a Toyota C-HR costs $925 over the same period.
The C3 Aircross is refreshingly different in the small SUV segment, which is full of firm-riding cars for no real benefit. Because of the brand’s renewed focus on comfort, the C3 Aircross rides a lot softer than many competitors and it’s this ride quality that gives it a unique selling point in the segment.
However, don’t think its softness means poor body control. Its ride is soft but the car is well disciplined. This means it doesn’t handle as well as a CX-3 and its body roll is more obvious. But it’s a small SUV, who cares?
I’m a fan of the drivetrain as well. While 81kW isn’t huge power in the segment, its the 205Nm peak torque figure that should be looked at because it delivers excellent driveability.
Especially compared to the Honda HR-V and its ancient 1.8-litre four and dreadful CVT auto combination, the C3 Aircross is torquey, refined and a pleasure to drive.
We did notice that at higher speeds the engine tends to run out of puff and it can feel slow overtaking, but as a purely around-town proposition (as many small SUVs are) the C3 Aircross suffers no large faults.
The Aircross’ higher-speed ride is also excellent, and lack of grunt aside, is mature at highway speeds.
The C3 Aircross doesn’t feature sister brand Peugeot’s 'i-Cockpit' digital dials, but the cabin is still quite modern.
The standard head-up display is more aesthetically pleasing than the dated digital speedo in the instrument binnacle, which really needs to be updated.
All-round vision is excellent, with large windows and there's a good range of adjustment in the reach/rake steering wheel and driver’s seat (though it would be nice to have electric adjustment at this price level).
The Citroen C3 Aircross is definitely one of the better options in the small SUV segment. It’s not without its faults - its ownership costs are too high, it’s not brilliant value-for-money, and more grunt would be appreciated. But it is a charming little car that rights a lot of recent Citroen wrongs.
It’s more practical than many competitors, and like many past Citroen models, offers a charm not found in its competitors. If you’re in the market for a small SUV and the C3 Aircross’ styling and pricing suits you, you’d be crazy to not check it out.
CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
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|Engine & trans||7|