MOTORS REVIEW: Citroen C3 Aircross

CITROEN has just added to its SUV line-up with the launch of a pumped-up version of its C3 hatchback, the C3 Aircross.

But as the newcomer sweeps into view with its eyecatching elevated ride height, roof rails and distinctive rearend detailing, where does that leave the car that we first tested on the crowded streets of Barcelona over a year ago?

I spent a week on the more familiar streets of Rotherham getting to know a 1.6-litre BlueHDi turbodiesel version, in rangetopping Flair trim.

First things first — the C3 remains a striking proposition in the hatchback sector.

In the £17,765 guise tested here, it comes with many of the cues that made the DS 3 such a hit when it first landed in Citroen showrooms.

A contrasting colour for the roof and wing mirrors are key to this shared PSA Group appeal, while the split headlight set-up and standard plastic Airbumps, which might save the odd dent from a stray shopping trolley, all echo features seen on the larger C4 Cactus.

They are distinctive and unlike anything seen on any other manufacturer’s range and for this they deserve recognition.

I happen to think they look pretty good, too.

The C3’s interior is similarly innovative — typically Citroen, typically French.

Among the key features are a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, equipped with Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink smartphone operating systems.

A reversing camera, cruise control and a lane departure warning system are also part of the practical standard kit, as is Citroen’s unique-to-this-sector CoonectedCAM system.

Located just behind the rear view mirror, this integrated onboard camera can be connected to a smartphone to snap pictures along your route to share via Facebook or Twitter.

More practically, the system will automatically record footage in the event of an accident, storing moving clips from the run-up to the incident itself.

Aside from all this harnessing of technology and social media, the C3 really does feel a little retro.

Choose the right C3 interior spec and it boasts a cabin with more styling imagination than any current rival, with fabric door pulls, cheerful seat trims and colourful highlights all ensuring it’s a fun place to be.

Despite boasting an ample 300-litre boot, the C3’s rear quarters are cramped, though, a surprisingly low ceiling making the rear space as restricted as that in a Fiat 500 for adult passengers.

C3 prices start at £10,995 for the entry-Level Touch specification fitted with Citroen’s 67bhp (78lb.ft.) 1.2-litre, three-cylinder Puretech engine.

The line-up spans three trim grades — including Feel and Flair — and a choice of an 81bhp (87lb.ft) or 108bhp (151lb.ft) turbocharged versions of the petrol-powered Puretech unit.

Tested here is the 108bhp BlueHDi turbodiesel option I didn’t get to drive at launch.

It claims a 10.6-second dash to 62mph and 115mph top speed alongside a combined fuel economy of 76.3mpg and the now not-so-relevant, but nevertheless worthy, 95g/km CO2 emissions.

The new C3 is never going to be a boy racer’s dream, though.

It subscribes to a French love of soft springs and jaunty lean angles through corners, a laidback proposition which prioritises comfort proving fairly refreshing.

However, seats which look attractive but lack any real support or sculpting, and are a little on the firm side, do detract from this.

While the C3 rides nicely, its outright comfort is compromised as a result.

It is, however, frugal and stylish in its own unique way.

It’s probably a car that most will either love or hate.

As for me, despite its shortcomings, I still can’t fail to appreciate the little Citroen’s charming individuality.

First published Friday October 27, 2017