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Citroen C3 HDi Diesel 2008 review

Plenty of escargot space: Citroen's new C3 diesel.

It has a small diesel engine, so you assume the performance will be snail-like as well.

Wrong on both counts when it comes to the nifty Citroen C3 HDi, $23,990 of diesel-propelled French chic on little alloy wheels.

This petite five-door hatchback's rounded body, evoking memories of Citroen's iconic 2CV, turns out to be practical as well as cute.

Large windows give the cabin an airy feel, and you find loads of space inside. There's headroom aplenty, and the boot is surprisingly generous for a car that's well under 4m long.

Though small, it feels sturdy, and there is a refreshing charm about the whole package.

So while the C3 obviously carries on Citroen's proud tradition of vive la difference, in this case there is substance to go with the quirky style.

So often, “quirky” is a polite way of saying that something is awkward to use, but here it is endearing, with apparently no drawbacks.

Well, almost none: I never did grow to like the seats. They look OK, but give the impression you're perched on top. Perhaps this is Citroen's way of making you drive cautiously, lest you fall off your perch. Care is advisable, because the major notable absentee from the C3's lengthy equipment list is a stability control system. Sorry, but that's reserved for its larger C4 sibling.

There have been C3 hatches around for more than five years, but the HDi version is the latest arrival, added as Citroen spreads diesel engines to all corners of its range. At just 1.6 litres, it is only a small engine, but no matter because the C3 is only a small car. Anyway, a turbocharger helps give it a decent punch. To make the most of power, performance and fuel economy, there is no automatic transmission option.

At first acquaintance the C3 HDi can seem rather sleepy, but it can deliver brisk acceleration. Diesels are all the rage, and this is one of the cheapest: Among the pint-sized diesel brigade, the Hyundai i30 and VW Polo cost less than the Citroen, the Fiat Punto costs the same, the Fiat 500 and Peugeot 207 cost more.

Its official fuel consumption figure of 4.4 litres per 100km is the same as the Toyota Prius Hybrid. Not that that's comparing apples with apples: the costlier Toyota achieves its result on petrol.

In the real world, a combination of easy-going highway running and trickle-along traffic snarls, the C3 I was driving gave excellent economy, averaging 4.7 litres per 100km.

Since it has a 47-litre fuel tank, count on going almost 1000km between refills. Hopefully that's far enough to find a servo with diesel at a price that won't break the budget.

CITROEN C3 HDi: Five-door hatchback powered by 1.6 litre turbodiesel with five-speed gearbox. Power 66kW. Torque 215Nm. FEATURES: Front and side airbags, anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, airconditioning, power windows, trip computer, six-speaker sound system, cargo cover, remote central locking, split-fold rear seat. PRICE: $23,990. RIVALS: Peugeot 207, Fiat Punto and 500, VW Polo, Hyundai i30. FOR: Personality and economy. AGAINST: Those seats. SUMMING UP: Little French charmer

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

SX 1.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $2,500 – 4,290 2008 Citroen C3 2008 SX Pricing and Specs
Exclusive 1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $2,200 – 3,740 2008 Citroen C3 2008 Exclusive Pricing and Specs
Pluriel 1.6L, PULP, 5 SP SEQ $3,000 – 5,170 2008 Citroen C3 2008 Pluriel Pricing and Specs
HDi Exclusive 1.6L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN $3,000 – 5,170 2008 Citroen C3 2008 HDi Exclusive Pricing and Specs
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.