Citroen's C4 Cactus made quite an impression. A polarising machine, it was the Frenchest French car for ages which translated into almost no local sales but admiration for the bravery of those who signed it off.
It did quite well in its home market though and its designers took note. When the company turned its attention to a smaller SUV based on the C3hatchback - complete with the baffling Aircross name - the Cactus was an obvious inspiration.
With the Hyundai Venue on the scene - as well as a wealth of larger machines at lower prices - the Citroen C3 Aircross needs to be good to justify a big sticker price.
Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
A perennial Citroen problem is the price - at $32,990, the tiny SUV is doing battle with cars that are really a size up, coming in closer in size to the Venue than, say, the ASX.
The C3 Aircross has halogen headlights.
That Yaris Hybrid price (we're all still reeling from that number) scores you a 17-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo, climate control, front camera, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, sat nav, halogen headlights (yep, you read that right), head-up display, leather wheel and shifter, auto parking, auto wipers and headlights, wireless charging pad and a space-saver spare.
The central touchscreen is annoying in that there are almost no hardware switches for functions like climate control. The software is a bit on the slow side, too, but you do get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The stereo is fine.
Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?
As you might imagine, it's an individual design. Lots of Cactus cues, like the roof rails, bluff front end and stacked headlights Hyundai, uh, appropriated for the Kona. Curiously, no 'airbumps' along the side despite the C3 hatch having them...
There's lots of Cactus cues, like the roof rails.
The 17-inch wheels somehow look tiddly given the airspace over the wheels and I can report that black is not really this car's colour, even with the contrasting white roof and weird Mazda 121 Shades special edition venetian blind treatment on the quarter window. Bit of an '80s throwback there for you.
Lots more Cactus inside though, starting with the brilliant front seats, squared-off steering wheel and funky air vents. The little tray on top of the glove box is good, but it isn't rubber-lined, so that's annoying.
The Top Gun handbrake is hilarious but apart from the texturing of the fabric on the seats, it's a tad dark below the windowline.
The 17-inch wheels somehow look tiddly given the airspace over the wheels.
Practicality - How practical is the space inside?
Even for a little car, the Aircross could do better. The lack of a proper cupholder provision for the car - a solitary spot at the rear of the centre console - is mildly baffling until you remember that this car is from France. The French hate a cupholder but, obviously, you can fit wine bottles in the doors.
It's worth repeating just how comfortable and supportive the front seats are on any given journey. Broad but supportive and somehow perfectly sprung, I would cheerfully rip out most other front seats and replace them with these.
It's worth repeating just how comfortable and supportive the front seats are on any given journey.
Anyone who forces anyone to use the middle seat should be ashamed of themselves but the headroom is good back there.
The boot is a big one for the size of the car, swallowing 410 litres.
With both rear seat sections folded capacity expands to 1289 litres.
The rear seats are less of these things and anyone who forces anyone to use the middle seat should be ashamed of themselves. The headroom is good back there, though.
The boot is a big one for the size of the car, swallowing 410 litres and expanding to 1289 litres with both rear seat sections folded.
Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
One of the great engines in mass-produced road cars today has found its way under the bonnet of the Aircross. Peugeot-Citroen's 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo is a cracking engine, serving up 81kW/205Nm through a six-speed Aisin-sourced auto to the front wheels.
Peugeot-Citroen's 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo is a cracking engine.
While the 11.8-second dash to 100km/h is, uh, leisurely, the torque figure means that on the move it's not as sluggish as that number or its 1200kg kerb weight would suggest.
Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?
Citroen claims a handy 6.6L/100km on the combined cycle and my week with the fizzy Frenchie included a trip over the hills and far away as well as a lot of suburban running.
The digital display on the dashboard read 7.3L/100km, which isn't bad going without stop-start. It does require 95 RON premium fuel, though.
Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
It has a five-star Euro NCAP rating dating back to 2017.
Three top tether anchors and two ISOFIX points complete the picture with a five-star Euro NCAP rating dating back to 2017. There is no corresponding ANCAP score, despite the agreement between the two agencies.
Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
That plan costs a stiff $2727 for your five visits (or every 12 months/15,000km). That's nearly three times what you'll pay for a C-HR or about $400 more than a Mazda CX-3.
Driving - What's it like to drive?
French cars have a very specific audience in this country, which includes weirdos like me. I've owned Peugeots and Renaults and loved every second of it.
Top of my list after my darling baby boy wrote off our family car (which was bought for him to drive), the Cactus was close to the top of the list. This fandom isn't blind, though - I know what I'm getting myself into having to dispassionately assess their faults and foibles as well as their triumphs and tangible benefits.
The 1.2 turbo is, as ever, eager to please and well-matched to the six-speed auto.
If I'm being honest - and it's just you and I here - I didn't think I'd like the C3 Aircross, there was just something about its SUV pretensions. I can't say the looks grabbed me and the inexplicable exclusion of the airbumps made me irrationally cross.
But once you slip behind that square-ish wheel into the comfortable embrace of those excellent seats, you forget the aesthetics (which did grow on me, even in black).
The 1.2 turbo is, as ever, eager to please and well-matched to the six-speed auto. The two work well together to get you moving, although the engine is the noisiest installation I can remember. In the Peugeot 308, it's virtually silent.
On the move, the lovely ride also impresses, soaking up the bumps (except those aggressive rubber speed humps in shopping centre car parks) while keeping body roll to an acceptable minimum.
It's perfectly fine in the suburbs, even with its limited power. Breaking into traffic can be a bit of a moment, but there are slower cars about.
Citroen is unashamedly about comfort over handling, but the trade-off for the comfort is pretty good.
Where the Aircross is really good is out on the freeway. It's quiet for such a small car and that torque figure makes joining the M4 freeway (west out of Sydney) fine, and it cheerfully kept up on the climb up the Blue Mountains and the brakes and transmission were great down the other side.
Citroen is unashamedly about comfort over handling, but the trade-off for the comfort is pretty good in that it still handles despite a plush ride and being up on stilts.
It's a good car, no question. Individuality is key to Citroen's brand appeal and you get that, too. A comfortable cabin, plush ride and hot damn, it's way too expensive, which is a crying shame. You could argue - as Citroen's product planners probably have - that it doesn't help to offer one in the mid-$20K mark because it won't make much money because so few people will buy it. Drop it at a premium, only lose a few opportunistic buyers but make more money per unit with committed fans? Why not, I guess?
Like most French cars, I'm glad it exists for weird French car fans like me to consider.
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