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Car reviews - Citroen - C3 - 5-dr hatch range

Our Opinion

We like
Packaging. Unique Zenith roof
Room for improvement
Automatic transmission, low-speed ride, cheap plastic strip on fascia

17 Nov 2010

ALTHOUGH Citroen Australia will sell three trim levels of its new C3 and three engine/transmission combinations, all the cars on offer at the national media launch were Exclusives equipped with the 1.6-litre petrol engine and four-speed auto.

The absence of any manual diesel C3s for the press to sample is explained by the fact they won’t arrive in Australia until next month. The $19,990 1.4 manual will be available for a test drive in due course.

Unfortunately, the marriage of petrol 1.6 and four-speed transmission is an unhappy one. It didn’t take long in the car to realise that the four-speed automatic is not only old-fashioned, but jerky in operation.

Even a modest ascent had it hunting between gears with raucous aural accompaniment. Twice when accelerating off the mark the transmission suffered a conniption for perhaps 0.2 of a second as it tried to choose the right gear. It was a compelling measure of how far off the pace this unit is.

The engine does not demonstrate its 88kW to maximum advantage through just four ratios. Initial acceleration is quite slow, despite the claimed zero to 100 km/h time of 10.9 seconds. The problem is that maximum torque of 160Nm comes at a high 4250rpm and the car bogs down. Once up to 50 or 60km/h it feels quite lively with crisp throttle response.

At parking speeds the electric steering is old-American-car light but quickly acquires weight with km/h and becomes a joy to use, as per the DS3 which shares the C3’s platform.

Over familiar roads the new C3 asserted its dynamic superiority over its chic-looking but stodgy predecessor. It turns into corners eagerly, exhibiting little bodyroll.

The ride is mostly comfortable without being plush but sharp low-speed corners get the better of the new (solid) rear axle with its flexible transverse beam to make their presence felt.

It is not a car that would take kindly to tyres of any lower profile than its 65-series. There is just a hint of pitch when pushing on over undulating surfaces. Score the dynamics at 6.5 compared with the old car’s 4.5.

The improvements in quality are palpable. You can see where money has been spent but also where it has been saved.

The Zenith windscreen has been superbly executed. By sliding the headlining forward you can reduce the apparent size of the screen to normal dimensions. In the open position the headlining swallows about 50mm of headroom but because of the impressive range of height adjustment on the front seats this is unlikely to pose a problem even for very tall drivers.

The very attractive steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach. All-round vision is exemplary.

Although perhaps not ‘Exclusive’, the seats are trimmed in a combination of shiny fabric and velour, are very comfortable and offer reasonable lateral support. The scalloping of the back of the front seats and the inclusion of pockets reveals a pleasing attention to detail.

This interior is much more spacious than the old model’s. The old car was 1667mm wide but this one, at 1728, is closer to the C4’s 1773mm.

The leather-wrapped wheel with its flat bottom is echoed by the design of the speedometer. Although the instruments and controls are mostly attractive, the cruise control/speed limiter is entirely obscured by the steering wheel and is too fussy in operation.

What lets the ambience down is the cheap silver-finished slab of plastic that is a far cry from the lovely glossy piece used in the DS3. No overhead grab-handles are provided in the front because of the Zenith screen but there are none in the rear either. Nasty shiny carpet is a cheap touch.

There is room in the rear compartment for a 1.8m tall occupant to sit comfortably behind a similarly configured driver. This is in spite of a wheelbase that is down from 2460 to 2451mm. Boot space is generous and well shaped. There is a 15-inch steel wheel as a spare.

Despite being physically larger than its predecessor (up 91mm in length to 3941mm, up 4mm in height to 1524mm and, as mentioned, up 61mm in width), the C3 in entry-level guise has put on just 25kg at 1030 kg.

GoAuto looks forward to testing the manual diesel C3 which promises to offer a more compelling blend of driveability and economy.

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