Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Citroen C3 2023 review


Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.5/5

You’re a city dweller on the hunt for a small hatch, but the usual suspects just don’t do it for you. Time for a trip down the urban road less travelled.

The Citroen C3 fits the bill in terms of scale, but brings something extra when it comes to personality. A fun-sized European with the ability to surprise and delight.

It comes at a price, though. So, is the promise of some extra excitement in your motoring life worth it? Read on to find out.

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

The Citroen C3 is offered in a single Shine grade, and lines up against a slew of similarly city-sized hatches from China, Europe, Japan and South Korea. Think Kia Rio, Mazda2, MG3, Suzuki Swift, Toyota Yaris, and VW Polo

But when it comes to its price - $32,267, before on-road costs - you’re looking at primo competitors only, like the Suzuki Swift Sport Turbo ($30,990), Toyota Yaris ZR Hybrid ($32,200), and VW Polo Style ($31,250).

And to tempt you away from those more mainstream options, Citroen loads up the C3 with a solid list of standard equipment.

The C3 has LED headlights and daytime running lights. (Image: James Cleary) The C3 has LED headlights and daytime running lights. (Image: James Cleary)

Aside from the safety tech covered later in the review, this small hatch features keyless entry and start, cruise control, a 10-inch colour multimedia touchscreen (with voice recognition across multiple functions), climate control air, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, six-speaker audio (with digital radio as well as Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity), built-in sat nav, LED headlights and daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, and 16-inch alloy wheels

Not too shabby, but bear in mind, as is often the case in this class, the trim is cloth, the front seats adjust manually and the instruments are conventional analogue. 

At this point, it’s important to mention ‘perceived quality’, a term used in various industries to describe the look, touch and feel of a product. And it’s here that the C3 suffers. 

The C3 features 16-inch alloy wheels. (Image: James Cleary) The C3 features 16-inch alloy wheels. (Image: James Cleary)

Open the tailgate, look to the pillar on the right-hand side of the rear windscreen (from the inside) and you’re confronted with more than half a dozen spot weld craters that have creased the sheet metal to varying degrees. Not to mention a crude fold of the outside panel onto this interior piece. Perfectly functional, but not a good look.

The elastic cords suspending the cargo divider at the top of the boot space feel as insubstantial as the thin metal hooks they’re attached to, and the finisher matt sitting on top of the engine looks like it won’t stand the test of time. 

There are other examples, but suffice it to say, the overall feel is not in the same league as this car’s main competitors.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

If Citroen is known for anything it’s daring, innovative design. From the idiosyncratic 2CV, via the sleek DS, to the ultra-cool SM, and angular BX, Citroen boasts a 100-plus year back-catalogue of stunning automotive breakthroughs.

And true to form, the C3 sits left-of-centre with a determined, almost angry expression defined by chrome borders extending from its signature ‘double chevron’ logo above the grille.

A mix of carefully radiused curves, soft organic shapes and whimsical decoration define the rest of this SUV-ish hatch. Rounded rectangles and squares (squircles?) are a recurring theme, forming part of a dent-resistant panel along the car’s flanks and embossed into the door cards inside.

Our white test example sported a (no-cost) contrast red roof colour, the same shade picking out details like the front fog light surrounds, exterior mirror caps and side scuff panels. 

A mix of carefully radiused curves and soft organic shapes define the C3. (Image: James Cleary) A mix of carefully radiused curves and soft organic shapes define the C3. (Image: James Cleary)

The interior is less bold with a multi-tone grey colour palette broken up by light green contrast stitching on the seats, as well as piano black finish on the centre console and satin chrome highlights around the air vents, instrument panel and door handles.

Plus, the squircle still makes its presence felt in everything from the directional air vents to the speaker grilles and sections of the dash.

Functionality and ergonomics are good with sensible touches like a physical knob for audio volume control (big tick) as well as easy-to-navigate controls for audio, phone and more on the steering wheel.

An unexpected highlight, and regular talking point with people in the car during my week with it, is what Citroen calls ‘Luggage-inspired’ front interior door handles. 

Check out the interior photos. The straps look amazing, are easy to use, and remind me of the handle on my mum’s circa-1965 Olympia portable typewriter.  

  • The C3 has ‘Luggage-inspired’ front interior door handles. (Image: James Cleary) The C3 has ‘Luggage-inspired’ front interior door handles. (Image: James Cleary)
  • The interior is less bold with a multi-tone grey colour palette broken up by light green contrast stitching on the seats. (Image: James Cleary) The interior is less bold with a multi-tone grey colour palette broken up by light green contrast stitching on the seats. (Image: James Cleary)

How practical is the space inside?

At a fraction under 4.0m long, just over 1.8m wide, and close to 1.5m tall, the C3 is a small hatch that, in terms of practicality, does well in some areas and could do better in others.

On the plus side, there’s plenty of space for the driver and front seat passenger, and rear room is surprisingly generous. Sitting behind the driver’s seat, set for my 183cm position, I had more than adequate head, leg and knee room.

Three full-size adults across the rear is a short-journey proposition only, but a trio of up to mid-teenage kids will be fine.

The space-efficiency carries over to the boot, with 300 litres of volume available (below the parcel shelf) with the 60/40 split-folding rear seat upright. But beyond that number, the space has been carefully sculpted to maximise usability.

The boot capacity measures at 300 litres. (Image: James Cleary) The boot capacity measures at 300 litres. (Image: James Cleary)

We managed to fit our three-piece (36L, 95L, 124L) luggage set in there, with a small cheat of removing the divider, and could swap them out for the bulky CarsGuide pram, with room to spare. Fold the rear backrest down and available space increases to an impressive 922 litres.

The downside is storage and concessions to comfort elsewhere in the car. As in, a lack of them.

For a start, the dual cupholders in the front centre console confirm the French’s affection for Espresso. You’ll struggle to locate an average size take-away coffee cup in one of those dainty receptacles.

The front door bins are long but relatively narrow, and lack a designated spot to hold bottles upright, so I found myself laying drink bottles horizontally along them, which is awkward.

The boot space has been carefully sculpted to maximise usability. (Image: James Cleary) The boot space has been carefully sculpted to maximise usability. (Image: James Cleary)

Plus, there’s no lidded storage box between the front seats, so no centre armrest, either. Rather an open tray behind the handbrake lever.

The glove box is modest, there’s a small open cubby below the central multimedia screen that isn’t big enough to hold a phone, there’s just one USB-A port for connectivity/power and a single 12V outlet.

No fold-down centre armrest in the rear, either. There are map pockets on the front seat backs, a single (again, small) cupholder at the end of the front centre console for back-seaters to share, and while rear door pockets are welcome, they’re petite.

Yes, the boot is commodious, but it lacks tie-down anchors to secure loose loads, and the flimsy carpet in there is prone to moving around.

On a more positive note, the spare is a 15-inch space-saver, which is streets ahead of the all-too common inflator/repair kit.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Citroen C3 is powered by a small-capacity (1.2-litre), turbo-petrol, three-cylinder engine, driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission

This little unit punches well above its weight thanks to tech like direct injection, and dual variable valve timing to enhance pulling power. The lightweight (all-alloy) unit produces 81kW of power at 5500rpm and a substantial 205Nm of torque at just 1500rpm.

The C3 is powered by a 1.2-litre turbo-petrol, three-cylinder engine. (Image: James Cleary) The C3 is powered by a 1.2-litre turbo-petrol, three-cylinder engine. (Image: James Cleary)

How much fuel does it consume?

Citroen’s official fuel economy number for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle is 5.2L/100km, the 1.2-litre three-cylinder emitting a modest 118g/km of CO2 in the process.

Our time with the car included mainly city and suburban trips, with some freeway running thrown in, and the result was a (dash-indicated) average of 8.0L/100km. Not exactly miserly, and points to the turbo triple having to work pretty hard to keep up around town.

Minimum fuel recommendation is the relatively pricey 95 RON premium unleaded, but you’ll need just 45 litres of it to fill the tank. Using the official consumption figure, that translates to a range of 865km, dropping to around 560km using our real-world number.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Citroen C3 scores four out of five ANCAP stars courtesy of testing dating back to 2017.

The sticking point was a sub-par result in Pedestrian Protection, one of the independent safety body’s four main assessment areas (beside Adult Occupant Protection, Child Occupant Protection, and Safety Assist).

Specifically, potential pedestrian head injuries resulting from contact with the base of the windscreen and “stiff” windscreen pillars.

But Citroen hasn’t left the C3 standing still with active (crash-avoidance) tech fitted to the current model including the usual suspects like stability and traction controls as well as more sophisticated systems like ‘Autonomous Emergency Braking’ (AEB), forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, ‘Driver Attention Alert’, a reversing camera (with zoom function), and tyre pressure monitoring. 

The C3 scores four out of five ANCAP stars courtesy of testing dating back to 2017. (Image: James Cleary) The C3 scores four out of five ANCAP stars courtesy of testing dating back to 2017. (Image: James Cleary)

That said, although there are parking sensors front and rear, there’s no cross-traffic alert (front or rear), no adaptive functionality on the cruise control, and no lane change assist. Arguably unrealistic to suggest all of these should be included at this price point but it’s worth noting not all boxes are ticked.

If a crash is unavoidable there are six airbags on-board (driver and front passenger front and side, plus full-length side curtain). The hazard lights automatically activate when emergency braking force is applied, but multi-collision brake, which reduces the chances of further impacts after an initial crash, is missing-in-action.

There are three top tethers for child seats or baby capsules across the back seat, with ISOFIX anchor points in the two outer rear positions. 

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

Citroen covers the C3 with a five year/unlimited km warranty, which is cost-of-entry now in the mainstream market, and roadside assistance is included for the duration.

Service is scheduled for 12 month/15,000km intervals, with costs capped for the first five workshop visits. The average annual figure over that period is $505, which is way more than double the $205 you’ll pay annually for servicing a Toyota Yaris ZR Hybrid. Sacre bleu!

Citroen covers the C3 with a five year/unlimited km warranty. (Image: James Cleary) Citroen covers the C3 with a five year/unlimited km warranty. (Image: James Cleary)

What's it like to drive around town?

The C3’s compact footprint and relatively light weight (1090kg) make it an urban-friendly option and outputs from the 1.2-litre turbo-petrol engine are exceptional.

Maximum torque of 205 Nm is plenty of pulling power from such a tiny unit, and with that number arriving at just 1500rpm it should be ideally suited to stop-start traffic. 

And yes, with enthusiast use of the right pedal the C3 gets up and goes pretty well, but refinement isn’t its strongest suit. 

The throttle can be jumpy unless you’re super smooth with it, the three-cylinder engine’s typically coarse note makes its presence felt under load, and the brakes need to be dealt with gently to avoid an overly aggressive stop.

Sure, familiarity and practice will help you get in tune with the car but it’s not a smooth ‘plug-and-play’ drive like the majority of its competitors.

The front seats are as comfortable as they are supportive. (Image: James Cleary) The front seats are as comfortable as they are supportive. (Image: James Cleary)

That said, in true Citroen fashion, steering feel is good, the front seats are as comfortable as they are supportive, while the suspension manages to blend plush compliance with excellent dynamic response. Another Citroen hallmark.

The six-speed auto shifts smoothly, with a press of the Sport button encouraging it to shift up later and down earlier for a more urgent response. But the zig-zag (my term, not Citroen’s) shift pattern makes for an awkward shuffle between D, N and R when parking. No doubt you’d get used to it, but I’m not a fan.

Speaking of parking, the C3's diminutive size makes it easy to slot into even tight spots, the standard front and rear proximity sensors, as well as a decent resolution reversing camera helping out, too.

There are both front and rear parking sensors to assist with getting in and out of tight spots. (Image: James Cleary) There are both front and rear parking sensors to assist with getting in and out of tight spots. (Image: James Cleary)

 

The Citroen C3’s plus column contains some big ticket items like a solid standard equipment list, design flair, generous interior space, an eager engine, good safety and a comfy suspension. However, the minus side of the ledger isn’t exactly empty, with entries like steep price, marginal perceived quality, poor cabin storage, sub-par refinement, okay economy, and high ownership costs. 

But there’s no doubt this car delivers a different, adventurous take on the city-sized hatch, and for you, that alone may count for more than any of those things. 

$28,880 - $34,990

Based on 6 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Urban score

3.5/5
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.