We drove the Citroën C3 Aircross: a compact car with panache…

We have always loved Citroëns for their comfortable ride and indeed, their idiosyncrasies. In character and design, we found them always really stand out. Some models really oozed with pure panache, and we mean here of course the DS/ID and the 2 CV. But there were others, like the well styled GS with its air cooled four cylinder boxer engine and also the CX. Today then we are still totally smitten by the elegant C6.

This quest for originality we find back in all the models of the present range, notably the C3 Aircross which is the subject of our test here. The well rounded styling language stands out, and touches of character are added with the side cushions (Airbumps) which protect the bodywork from the rigors of modern urban life.

The Aircross has now a completely new grille and a revised light signature, as has been introduced on the 2020 C3. On the technical side, Citroën is – as could be expected – reaping the rewards of the Stellantis Group: the C3 shares its platform with the Opel Crossland X.

The dual tone paintwork adds extra panache, and also in the interior the dashboard architecture and air vents underline the original personality of this Citroën. We liked the instrumentation with its round dials, the judicious positioning of the new 9 inch infotainment screen and the look and finish of the seats. This Citroën is a car to live with and enjoy in daily life. Everything is well placed and easy to use.

Comfort comes first…

Like we said, Citroën means comfort, and this is immediately felt in this C3, right from the first metres you drive it. The suspension is pleasantly soft and copes very well with potholes and irregular pavés, although, as we said, it shares its platform with the Crossland X.

Sitting cozily in our seat, we moved the lever of the six speed automatic in “D” and basically left it there. The newly developed three cylinder 1199 cc engine develops a healthy 130 hp when coupled to the automatic transmission and this is more than enough to guarantee very lively performance for this 1150 kg heavy C3. It goes from 0 to 100 km/h in less than close to 10 seconds and its top speed is over 190 km/h.

But comfort is to be enjoyed here, and we did not adopt a too enthusiastic driving style with our test car. We just enjoyed the elegant and smooth progress. The C3 rewarded us also with low noise levels and very good economy when driven with restraint. The modern, direct injection three cylinder is silent, even under power, and when one adopts a more sedate driving style, the consumption stays close to 6 litres/100 km, even in urban driving. On the open road, cruising at legal speeds will deliver a consumption between 5 and 6 litres. CO2 emissions are quoted as some 116 g/km.

The automatic transmission is smooth and matches the engine characteristics very well.

The suspension is set up for comfort, and this means that the C3 will not really invite you to throw it around corners, although the handling is quite good. Remember it’s also the Crossland platform, it is just that body roll is more noticeable. In long, fast bends the C3 behaves wonderfully, as a “grande routière” befits.

But then the C3 treats you very well on urban pavés and frost ridden secondary roads. Straight line stability is excellent and the C3 is therefore well at home on autoroutes.

The Aircross version has some terrain capacities; we liked the driving aids like Grip Control and Hill descent Assist.

The seats are also very comfortable and have been further improved in this latest generation C3. Citroën calls them now “advanced comfort” seats, and are provided with extra 150 mm high density foam inserts. There is ample head and legroom for the front passengers. In the rear, seating conditions are a bit more cramped, but for children and smaller adults, everything is just fine.

Practical

Luggage space is good for its class with 410 litres, and this can be expanded to 520 litres when the rear seat is shifted forward. The seats can be folded in 40/60 split fashion, and when both are completely down, some 1289 liters are available. The rear sill is rather high, but not unduly so.

Our test car came with a 9 inch touch screen, and of course the screen of your Smartphone can be mirrored via Apple Carplay, Android Auto and Mirrorlink. The C3 also has an 120 degree camera built in the rear mirror, which can be actuated with a button or activates automatically in case of accident. You can even use an app to transfer the video to your Smartphone.

Not less than 12 driving aid systems are provided, and indeed, compared with the competition, the C3 is indeed lavishly equipped. On this Aircross version there is as we mentioned for instance grip control and hill assist descent control, and a coloured head display to top it all. It spoils you also with coffee break alert, rear view camera, hands free access and keyless starting, traffic sign recognition, active safety brake, automatic headlight dimming, park assist, lane departure warning, dead angle warning, driver attention alert and last but not least park assist.

Add to all this the panoramic roof, and you will agree that pleasure is to be had in the cabin of this C3.

Conclusion

The C3 is quite impressive in its class, with very good all round qualities and above all excellent comfort. You can take it as well for an extended urban (shopping) trip as on that long Gran Turismo tour along European motorways and winding mountain passes, it feels equally well at home in both!

It is sufficiently compact to be practical in our cities, yet offering enough room for a family of four including their luggage. With the 130 hp engine and the six speed automatic, there is more than enough zest to keep even de most demanding drivers happy, and they will also keep smiling at the pump. Add to all this the pleasant personality, with the Aircross version even the character of a compact SUV, and you will agree that this C3 deserves your attention when you are in the market for a compact car…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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