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Citroen C3 2021 review

The Citroen C3 has squared of circles (Squircles) everywhere - see them?

Daily driver score

3/5

Urban score

3.5/5

The Citroen C3 is a little hatchback like the Kia Rio, Mazda 2 or the Suzuki Swift but it’s different to them, which is why you’re here, I think.

The C3 is different, not in a technological or engineering sense, but in the style stakes. It’s a premium and quirky French take on the tiny-car-thing in a similar way to the Audi A1, Peugeot 208 and Mini Hatch.

Yep, it’s cool, tiny, and little bit fancy. Sounds perfect for the 21st century Australian urban dweller, right?

Well, one came to stay at our urban home in Sydney for a week and here’s what I thought.

 A premium and quirky French take on the tiny-car-thing. A premium and quirky French take on the tiny-car-thing.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

When it comes to the Citroen C3 I think 98 per cent of the appeal is the styling, and the remining two per cent is that you can also drive it places. Okay, that’s probably a bit much, but a big part of the C3’s charm is the way it looks.

There’s nothing wrong with that because the C3’s design is pleasing. If you were having trouble putting your finger on what it is about the C3's the styling that's so interesting and cute, then let me point out the rounded-off shapes.

The rounded off shapes are everywhere. The rounded off shapes are everywhere.

Yep, they’re everywhere – the headlights, the tail-lights, and those 'air bumps' down the doors which stop them from getting dings in carparks. Even the C3 badge on the back of the car is stylised to make a rounded-off rectangle shape.

I’ve heard the word ‘squircle’ used in relation to them and they’re everywhere, even on your phone, just look at the shape of the apps. Never noticed it did you? And they were literally right under your nose.

Even the C3 badge makes a rounded-off rectangle shape. Even the C3 badge makes a rounded-off rectangle shape.

Anyway, the same rounded rectangles are seen in the air vent design, the door handles, the shape is even pressed into the door trim. I’m not sure if I’m going bonkers, but does the steering wheel have a square with round edges look, too?

While we’re inside check out the suitcase strap style door handles and those seats. Oh man, if the car business doesn’t work out for this French brand the manufacturer could always go into making furniture because Citroen’s seats are supremely comfortable, supportive and stylish. In my opinion when it comes to comfort no other carmaker can beat Citroen’s seats.

Citroen’s seats are supremely comfortable, supportive and stylish. Citroen’s seats are supremely comfortable, supportive and stylish.

Enough about the seats. This isn’t seatsguide.com.au, so let me give you the dimensions. The C3 is 3996mm long, 2007mm wide (with the mirrors out) and 1474mm tall.

There are six colours to choose from including 'Almond Green' and 'Cobalt Blue', which are both optional and so is the 'Aluminium Grey' our car wore with the 'Polar White' roof.

This aluminium grey colour camouflages the C3 into the road. This aluminium grey colour camouflages the C3 into the road.

I nickname it Pigeon Grey because as you can see in the images the colour camouflages the C3 into the road and if it wasn’t for the white roof the car would be almost invisible in an urban landscape.

Maybe you want that but if it was me, I’d go for the standard Polar White and red roof which is also standard. The red and white combination suits this little car perfectly and it’ll stand out like it should.

Now, don’t get the C3 confused with the C3 Aircross which is the SUV version of the little hatch, while the C5 Aircross is even bigger. I’ve reviewed them all so you can read about those later. Let’s move on to the price.

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

There’s one grade in the C3 line-up, it’s called the Shine and the list price is $28,990.

Coming standard is, proximity unlocking with push button start (so convenient if you’re getting in and out a lot on short trips), parking sensors (but only at the back not the front which is a bummer in the city), a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera and sat nav, digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, climate control, cruise control, 16-inch alloys wheels and LED running lights, but halogen headlights.

There’s one grade in the C3 line-up, it’s called the Shine. There’s one grade in the C3 line-up, it’s called the Shine.

I’d expect more features for this price and there are rivals packing more into small cars than this for the same money. The Volkswagen Polo is $3K less and gets impressive features and if the VeeDub isn’t kooky enough then there’s Skoda's Fabia for $22K.

I get it, those cars aren’t as cool, so I’d seriously check out the $26,990 Peugeot 208 GT-Line which (because they’re part of the same company) shares the same engine and transmission and many other mechanical and tech bits.

Featuring LED running lights, but halogen headlights. Featuring LED running lights, but halogen headlights.

As for the Audi A1, the most affordable lists for $32,350, but it is a premium and cool little car worth taking a look at.

The Mini Hatch is more expensive again, but undoubtedly cool and different.

None of the rivals have the C3’s ‘air bumps’ treatment. It’s a Citroen creation which first made an appearance on the Cactus SUV about five years ago. They’re little plastic bubbles that are basically armour for your car to protect it against runaway shopping trolleys and people opening their doors into yours. They’re not just a gimmick, they work.

The plastic bubbles are basically armour for your car. The plastic bubbles are basically armour for your car.

You won't find seats like the C3’s in any of the competitor’s cabins, either. The ones you can see in the images come standard and they’re so good I’m thinking seriously about asking Citroen to make me a couch.

How practical is the space inside?

Let me rephrase that. How are you going to be using your car? Are you going to try and get away with it as a family car? If so, I’d say it’s going to be too small because the boot has a cargo capacity of only 300 litres and it won’t fit a large pram.

The boot has a cargo capacity of only 300 litres. The boot has a cargo capacity of only 300 litres.

Will there be people sitting in the back seats regularly? If so, again I think the C3 could be too small to frequently seat five, as legroom in the rear seats is tight, and at 191cm (6'3") tall I can’t sit behind my driving position.

The boot will not accomodate a large pram. The boot will not accomodate a large pram.

But if most of the time only one or two adults are going to be in the C3 then it will suit them well, with enough boot space for a suitcase (see the images) or shopping. Plus, if you do need to carry more people you can, and it’s unlikely, they’ll be as tall as I am.

The C3 will suit one or two adults. The C3 will suit one or two adults.

Cabin storage would be disastrous if it wasn’t for the enormous door pockets in the front and rear door. Apart from that, there’s no centre console armrest bin, two tiny cupholders near the gear shifter, a small glove box and a little shelf in the dashboard for a wallet or purse, but too small for my phone.

There’s just one USB port (the old Type-A) and one 12V. There’s just one USB port (the old Type-A) and one 12V.

As for charging and connection for devices, the C3 could be better. There’s just one USB port (the old Type-A) and one 12V (who uses these?).

One of my practicality gripes about the C3 is that to adjust the climate control it needs to be done through the touchscreen, when a dial would be perfectly fine and quicker. Thankfully, there’s an actual volume control knob.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The C3 has a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine making 81kW/205Nm, while a six-speed automatic transmission shift gears.

If a three-cylinder engine sounds tiny to you, then you’re right, it is, but these small powerhouses are really common for little cars these days. Plus, the power and torque outputs are more than enough for a car that weights only 1090kg.

The C3 has a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine. The C3 has a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine.

The transmission was the let down here, the shifts slow and uncertain at times

The C3 is front-wheel drive.

What's it like to drive around town?

The C3’s length is its biggest urban strength, and in the time I had it there was almost never a spot I couldn't squeeze into.

Visibility is also good in all directions, through those giant windows, although I did feel low down with even small SUVs seeming to tower over me.

I’ve reviewed the SUV version of the C3, the C3 Aircross, and the slightly taller ride height made for even better visibility.

Visibility is also good in all directions. Visibility is also good in all directions.

A comfortable ride and a fun sporty feel to the handling makes buzzing around town enjoyable, but if I could change anything it’d be the engine and transmission.

This may be a highly acclaimed three-cylinder engine and the transmission is a six-speed auto (torque converter, not a dual clutch), but their interaction with each other doesn’t provide the smoothest driving.

Gear shifts sometimes arrive too early. Gear shifts sometimes arrive too early.

The shifts sometimes arrive too early, or at peculiar times, sometimes hesitating mid-shift, and moving to higher gears results in slumps of turbo lag.

I also found the fuel saving idle stop tech way too intrusive, to the point where the engine was cutting out midway through intersections as I was waiting to turn. Thankfully, you can turn this off.

How much fuel does it consume?

Citroen says that after a combination of open and city roads the C3 should use 4.9L/100km, while its urban mileage is 6.8L/100km.

My fuel test covered 174.1km of mainly urban roads and I needed 11.76L to fill the 45 litre tank to full again. That comes to bang on the serving suggestion of 6.8L/100km.

Urban mileage is 6.8L/100km. Urban mileage is 6.8L/100km.

Not bad, but not fantastic fuel economy for a small car.

The C3 comes with fuel saving idle stop tech, too, which cuts the engine as the vehicle slows to a stop.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

ANCAP scored the Citroen C3 four stars out of a maximum of five in 2017, but that was before AEB was added in 2018. Also, standard is lane departure warning, and blind spot detection. As mentioned above there’s also rear parking sensors and a reversing camera.

The AEB system works at slower city speeds which is a plus for urban driving, but it doesn’t have pedestrian and cyclist detection, which is a minus.

The AEB system works at slower city speeds which is a plus for urban driving. The AEB system works at slower city speeds which is a plus for urban driving.

And there’s no rear cross traffic alert either, which in other cars has saved my skin more than once while reversing into busy little streets.

For child seats you’ll find three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.

There’s a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

The C3 is not a bad choice of car for the urban dweller with its tiny size making it easy to park, big windows for good visibility, the air bump armour protecting its doors, and tech like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for keeping your hands off the phone. The little Citroen is unique in its looks among many ‘samey’ hatches out there. If only the C3 drove as well as it looked. The driving experience could be smoother, but if you can get used to this side of its character there’s plenty to like – like those seats. So, for the daily driver score the C3 Shine gets 6/10 but a 7/10 for its urban score.

$28,990

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

3/5

Urban score

3.5/5
Price Guide

$28,990

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data