After a brief absence in South Africa, eclectic French brand Citroen has rejoined the local market. While their line-up remains small for now, they’ve got entrants which compete in key segments. The C5 Aircross, for example, does battle with established midsized SUVs such as the Tiguan and Mazda CX-5. In the middle of their range is the C3 Aircross, which competes in the lucrative compact crossover segment.
On the lowest rung of the ladder sits the C3. Going up against the Polo and Fiesta, the littlest Citroen relies on a left-field approach to attract buyers for whom the VW and Ford are just a touch too plain and common.
And from the styling, it’s clear to see that nobody will be mistaking the C3 for any other hatchback. The styling is chic and distinctive - it also divides opinion like very cars can. While the quirky exterior design didn’t do it for some, others on the AutoAdvisor team loved the design. The Airbumps lend some visual character, while the slim daytime-running lamps and bulbous headlamps give the Citroen plenty of presence.
Pop inside the cabin and it’s a similar affair. Undoubtedly a pleasant place to be, some of the materials found within the interior aren’t up to the same standard as the Volkswagen Polo - and even other Stellantis offerings, like the 208 and Corsa.
The seats are lovely, though. They’re beautifully-trimmed in a tasteful cloth upholstery and offer decent thigh support. We’d appreciate a touch more side bolstering, though. In terms of equipment, our Shine test unit boasted plenty of standard kit. Cruise control, automatic wipers, six airbags and ABS with EBD all form part of the R334 900 list price.
The infotainment screen, while feature-rich, can feel rather cumbersome. The complicated layout of the menus - and sub-menus - can leave users feeling confused, as they stab endless functions. For example, adjusting the temperature is far more complicated than it should be. This afflicts most Stellantis products and some Volvo models.
The 81 kW/205 Nm 1.2-litre, three-cylinder engine is also used in the Corsa and 208 - albeit in different states of tune. In the C3, you receive the detuned variant. But that’s no bad thing. Thanks to the fast acting six-speed automatic gearbox, it feels sprightly and responsive. It pulls strongly from low speeds and is a joy to drive in town. With regards to fuel economy, Citroen claims an average fuel-use figure of 6.0 l/100 km. We found our best figure to be 7.1 L/100 km.
It’s not as entertaining as a Fiesta through the bends, with notable body roll. However, we must commend Citroen on providing the C3 with such a supple ride quality. Although the Corsa comes close, the C3 undoubtedly has the best ride quality in the segment. It’s properly smooth, dismissing bumps and ridges with ease.
At this price point, we think the C3 offers tremendous value for money. It’s packed to the rafters with comfort and safety equipment, offers an incredible soft ride and a three-year/60 000 km service plan. We worry, though, about resale value and the lack of dealer network when compared to more established rivals. That being said, the C3 is a compelling alternative to the more ubiquitous hatchbacks it competes with. If style and standing out from the crowd are important to you, there may not be another choice for you.