Citroen C3 Review

Find out more about the Citroen C3 in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

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  • Pros
  • Distinctive design helps it stand out
  • Efficient and low-emitting engines
  • Comfortable driving feel
  • Cons
  • Not dynamic to drive
  • Engines are noisy
  • Reliability is questionable due to Citroen’s reputation
  • MPG
    49 - 76
  • CO2
    97 - 131 g/km
Review

After being unveiled at the 2001 Frankfurt Motor Show, the Citroen C3 made its way onto the UK’s roads at the start of 2002, offering practicality with unique styling and a comfortable ride. It may not have lit many fires in terms of performance, but for an everyday run-around, the first generation fit the bill – although it has aged a lot since.

 

In its second generation, the curvy styling was maintained but in a much more refined fashion, and with a more upmarket feel, it again was a good urban runner which lacked the overall quality of some of its rivals, such as the Volkswagen Polo.

 

The first two generations inspired further models, such as the C3 Pluriel convertible and the C3 Picasso MPV, which gave the C3 range further scope in the small car market.

 

However, with the newest generation, the C3 has been transformed into a rather trendy supermini that takes styling cues from the C4 Picasso and C4 Cactus.

 

It may be based on the same chassis as the second generation model, but it has been extended to allow for more interior space to make this one of the most practical superminis on the market.

Latest Model

 

With the third generation released at the tail-end of 2016, Citroen wanted to reinvigorate the C3 model, and after creating some bolder designs with recent small cars, such as the C4 Cactus, the French brand decided to carry some of those elements into the new version of the small hatchback.

 

Fitted with a new range of trim-specific BlueHDi diesel and PureTech petrol engines, they can be paired with a five-speed manual or a newly-introduced EAT6 automatic transmission.

 

To keep up with many of its supermini rivals, the C3 is fitted with some of Citroen’s safety systems from the base ‘Touch’ model, including speed limit recognition and warning, lane departure warning and ‘coffee break alert’ – which ensures drivers don’t drive too long each time. The top level Flair model adds a reversing camera.

 

Inside, the latest C3 is a much more interesting place to be than before thanks to design tweaks and although it may not be as dynamic looking as some of its rivals, it is both comfortable and customisable, so customers can give it their own personal twist.

 

Value for money

 

For the base level Touch, Citroen fits some good features including variable-assistance power steering, electric front windows and DAB radio with Bluetooth, USB and Auxiliary port for phone and multimedia player connectivity. With some good base options, the £10,995 price tag is competitive amongst the supermini market.

 

On the used market, models from the previous generation are available in high spec and with relatively few miles on the clock. One thing that was attractive about the second version was its efficiency of the diesel models, and one example of those is a 2015 C3 in Exclusive trim – which was the second-highest in the range.

 

Fitted with cruise control, Bluetooth mobile hands-free and anti-theft alarm, this model has 12,700 miles on the clock and is fitted with a 1.6-litre Airdream diesel – which is capable of 80mpg. Priced at £8,950, this is a good run-around model to buy with plenty of useful features, but can’t quite compare on the safety front due to the new model’s excellent spec.

 

Looks and image

 

As the latest model was only released onto the market towards the end of 2016, it is unlikely that many of these will be on the used market, however the newest model is much more interesting to look at than previous versions.

 

Interesting design features, such as the airbumps on the side – first seen on the C4 Cactus –  and a chicer body shape, makes the new C3 stand out much more in the supermini market, and with personalisation options abound, customers can make the model as colourful as they choose.

 

In what may have compromised the C3 on its overall driving feeling, Citroen aimed for a more comfortable drive and as that was their goal, they have achieved it very well. But when compared to other superminis, it lacks the responsive, steering feel and body control that make some small cars a lot of fun to drive.

Space and practicality

 

Despite being built on the same structural base as the second generation, the interior space of the C3 has been extended to create the most spacious model in its 15-year history. Still under the supermini standard of 4m in length, the C3 has a surprisingly large and squared-off boot, which can be very handy.

 

As with any supermini, rear legroom can be restricted if people in the front seats are of a taller build and need extra space, but as the C3 has a slightly taller build, headroom is not at a premium. Front space, however, is excellent and with plenty of storage space in and around the front cockpit.

 

With wide opening doors for front and back passengers, getting in and out is very easy for all passengers, and with Isofix points for child seats and other securable objects, the C3 is practical for families too, even if the overall space of the C3 is not the best.

 

Engines

 

In basic terms, Citroen is offering customers two engines to choose from, but they have different power outputs for different trim levels. With a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol and a 1.6-litre diesel unit at the core of the options, there is only a slight variation between the choices, but in a car this size, it does have an effect on performance.

 

Ranging from 67bhp to 108bhp, the 1.2-litre petrol is still an efficient engine, returning less than 110g/km CO2 and well above 55mpg. However, the 67bhp unit doesn’t quite have the pull of 80bhp option, but it does mean a low insurance bracket for those looking to save money rather than demand performance. The most impressive choice in the range is the 98bhp BlueHDi diesel option, which can return upwards of 75mpg and is exempt from road tax. It is in a higher insurance group and is only available on the top two trim options, but is one of the better driving options in the C3 range.

 

Running costs

 

Thanks to efficient engines that can all return 60mpg or above, filling up will be a less frequent occasion than with other models, and with the base level petrol fitting into the low insurance group of 8, the top option still settles in the ‘20’ bracket. The maximum you will pay for road tax in the current range of the C3 is £20 per year.

Things to look out for

 

Due to the recent release of the latest generation, few problems have come up on the new C3. However, both the first and second generation suffered from several problems, such as brake fade, slowly returning acceleration pedals, light failures and engine cut-outs. With more than 20 significant problems throughout the C3’s history, caution on used models is highly recommended, with checking the service history of a used model an absolute must.

 

Rivals

 

The supermini is crowded enough as it is, but thanks to the more modern styling and improved interior quality, the new C3 could now be a very decent challenger as it will attract younger drivers with the more interesting look. However, with the best-selling Ford Fiesta, the C3 doesn’t quite compare on driving feel and overall value, and with the VW Polo, the quality finish and low running costs will attract customers away from the C3 due to Citroen’s unreliable reputation.

 

Depreciation warning

 

Due to the model’s poor reliability in the past, used models haven’t performed well and usually retain between 35 and 40 per cent of their starting value. This is 10 per cent lower than some of the model’s sector rivals, and this affects their overall value. However, the new models could attract more attention on the used car market due to its improved safety features, trendier yet more polarising looks and efficient engine options, but it is too early to tell at this point.

Which C3 to Pick

Trims Explained

To make customer choice much easier – or more limited depending on your view – the C3 is available in just 3 trim levels – Touch, Feel and Flair. With the simpler choice, it does mean there is a larger gap between trim levels and that means the cost gaps are more significant.

Touch

With the Touch models, the C3 has hill start assist, speed limit recognition and speed warning, coffee break alert and lane departure warning installed. Coming with electric front windows, DAB radio, Bluetooth and multimedia connection ports, the Touch trim has plenty of accessories from the base level option.

At a price point of £10,995, it is competitive in the small car market for starting models.

Feel

There is a large price leap to the Feel trim, which starts at £13,335, and there is a reasonable and cost effective difference between the two models. Fitted with Citroen’s Mirror Screen infotainment system with Mirror Link and Apple CarPlay, a seven-inch touchscreen and security alarm.

As well as exterior cosmetic changes, such as 16-inch ‘Matrix’ alloy wheels and wheel arch extensions, there are significant changes between the base and middle trim levels.

Flair

The Flair trim is the top level option and the most stylish of the bunch. With the most cosmetic features, such as the Airbumps and Onyx black roof features, this version of the C3 stands out. As well as automatic air conditioning, reversing camera and sector-first ConnectedCAM – which records the entire journey and will automatically save footage from before and after an accident – that may prove to help lower insurance premiums in the future as a way of tracking journeys.

As well as a leather-trimmed steering wheel and dark-tinted rear windows, the starting price of £15,085 is very reasonable considering the amount of extra kit is added between the Feel and Flair trims.

Summary

  1. Styling is distinctive, but may not be for everyone
  2. Improved safety features on previous editions
  3. Low number of trim levels
  4. Large amount of personalisation options
  5. Old models are poor on the used market
  6. New models are cheap to insure and run
  7. Decent specification levels from the base model
  8. Efficient range of engines
  9. Rear passenger space is limited
  10. Not as interesting to drive as rivals, but provides more comfort than performance