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Car reviews - Citroen - C3

Our Opinion

We like
Individuality, comfort, refinement, performance, economy, design, personalisation, practicality, long warranty, uniqueness
Room for improvement
No AEB, no keyless entry, no manual gearbox option, startlingly high entry price, no sub-$20K entry-level opener

Gallery

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Citroen logo15 Mar 2018

Overview

WILL the third time be a charm for Citroen’s cheerful C3? Actually, the all-new 2018 version is the first we’d actually truly recommend, since it adheres to brand values of comfort, luxury and elegance, within the confines of a handy light hatch.

We’re also pleased with the performance and economy on offer, but at $23,490 (plus on-roads), this French baby ain’t cheap. And nor is it as fully equipped as we’d hoped, with AEB and keyless entry and start AWOL for the time being.

Still, there’s a lot to like here.

Drive impressions

Just as the existing, second-generation 308 heralded Peugeot’s return to form back in 2014, the third C3 to be sold in Australia since 2002 is the most convincing Citroen in ages, taking the double chevron brand out of the wilderness and back towards glory.

But before we start blowing up celebratory hydropneumatic balloons, the key word here is ‘towards’, because France’s answer to the Volkswagen Polo, Mazda2, Skoda Fabia and Kia Rio isn’t quite ready for a ticker-tape parade just yet, frustratingly.

Let’s begin with the baby elephant in the room. Any way you look at it, this is a startlingly expensive light hatchback, from $23,490 plus on-road costs (or $26,990 driveaway).

Especially one that does not include autonomous emergency braking, keyless entry and start or satellite navigation (even if Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is standard). It makes us think that Citroen isn’t that serious about making a proper go of things in Australia.

We’re hearing rumblings that these and other AWOL items might be in the pipeline, but until such stuff happens, C3 drivers will need to keep eyes out front, a finger on a button and a key in the ignition.

But, folks, if you can see past such savagery, there is much to soothe the beast in this latest, strikingly contemporary and well-proportioned baby Citroen.

Let’s take the roomy and practical interior. While still built to a price, clever engineering has ensured that the front seats feel like comfy sofas the front passenger can position their seat well forward, so a long-legged occupant behind can fit with space to spare there’s pleasingly little rumble or droning coming from the road or tyres and the dashboard is cohesive yet interesting, excelling in the areas of ventilation, storage, information gleaning and good looks, without any glaring functional flaw (save, perhaps, for the fiddly touchscreen that requires two prods to access audio or climate control options).

The joy here is that while the plastics are generally of a sub-Volkswagen level of hardness, they’re stylised and well put together, and are often joined by some lovely leather-esque materials or metallic trim that calls to mind expensive luggage. The effort that the interior architects have gone to is commendable.

That air of quality and grace continues with the driving experience, thanks to a suspension tune that – despite wearing 17-inch wheels and tyres – offers comfort that most cars from the next class up could only dream of emulating.

The ride is calm and cosseting, whether over ragged inner-Sydney streets or craggy country roads. Fellow contributor Daniel DeGasperi described the quiet Citroen as the anti-Mazda2. How true.

Now, with such civilised manners, we’d be almost prepared to forgive soggy steering, wayward body movement or feeble performance, but happily, the C3 displays no such vices anyhow. Being related to the athletic Peugeot 208, it steps up with reactive steering, agile handling and impressively composed road-holding, particularly for one so cushy.

Meanwhile, the 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo, mated solely to a six-speed torque-converter auto, delivers eager off-the-mark oomph, as well as a decent mid-rev wedge, with little hesitation and no hoarseness, though not everybody will savour the distinctive thrum of a hearty triple. That the Citroen also promises exceptional real-world parsimony is yet another bonus.

Cool and composed, if the C3 wore a three-pointed star some might be declaring this a true luxury hatch with brilliant de-fatiguing capabilities if that badge bore a blue propeller perhaps a few might cheer on the dynamic bandwidth on offer and if the name spelled ‘Mini’ then others probably may tout the fashion-forward design meets retro-chic. And a $23,490 asking price wouldn’t be deemed so steep.

Yes, AEB and keyless entry are two glaring specification oversights that importers Inchcape need to address ASAP, but for the comfort, refinement, utility and feel-good individuality that it provides, the C3 is the opposite of a mundane B-segment hatch.

Fix these, Citroen, and this unexpectedly charming newcomer could really return the marque back up to previous heights.

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