Driven: Citroen C3
Citroen is back, a welcome statement for local fans of the quirky French carmaker that left South Africa in 2016 before making a comeback towards the tail end of 2019. Recently, AutoAdvisor had the brand's latest C3 on test, a car designed to take on segment favourites such as the Volkswagen Polo and Ford's Fiesta.
The first thing one notes when approaching the C3 is just how quirky the product is from an exterior and interior design perspective. The two-tone paintwork, allowing for a contrasting roof along with the brand's signature 'Airbumps' creates an entirely unique aesthetic.
The front-end is unmistakably Citroen, with the brand's badge spanning the width of the front of the car and extending into the daytime running lights (DRLs). Below the DRLs are the oval headlights which flank a rectangular front grille while red-coloured fog lamp surrounds round-off the front-end. The aforementioned Airbumps are lifted from the C4 Cactus model and dominate the side profile of the C3. The Airbumps are basically six air-filled pieces of plastic stuck to the side of the car, which the brand claims will eliminate parking lot dings.
The rear-end of the C3 showcases the contrasting red roof of our Feel derivative press car, which extended to the rear spoiler and C-pillar, where the red meets a grey graphic. The rear lights continue the rounded theme seen in the rest of the exterior while a pronounced black-clad rear bumper matches the cladding seen on the wheel arches. The design is so much more flamboyant than the vanilla C3 models of the past, making it pleasing, in our opinion.
The interior of the C3 continues the outlandish concept served-up by its exterior with red and grey adorning the dashboard and seat stitching. The cloth-covered seats combine light and dark grey with contrasting red accents and provide a great deal of comfort. The rest of the cabin is entirely different to other cars in this segment, from the door pulls that appear to have been taken from expensive luggage to the contrasting beige door bins and the rounded rectangles that appear on pretty much every surface.
There's a distinct lack of buttons inside too, with a few housed below the infotainment system and the others appearing on the steering wheel or behind it, where the cruise control and other functions can be controlled. This results in a clean interior design, however, it also reveals a variety of cheap-feeling interior plastics and means that many media and climate control functions must be performed on the 7.0-inch screen. While offering a USB port which endos the car with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality, the rest of the C3's infotainment system proves outdated and in need of an upgrade.
When competing in a segment as brutal as this, a car needs to blend practicality with efficiency, usability and a degree of desirability. The C3 offers respectable dimensions of 3.99 m in length, a width of 1.75 m, a height of 1.47 m and a 2.54 m wheelbase, however, rear passenger headspace for taller occupants may be an issue while the 300-litre boot volume isn't exactly class-leading.
Standard safety features include six airbags, ABS with EBD, an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), rear parking sensors, Isofix child seat anchors, a Driver Attention Alert as well as a Lane Departure Warning System.
The model tested featured the brand's 1.2-litre naturally aspirated three-cylinder petrol engine with 60 kW and 118 N.m of torque mated with a five-speed manual gearbox. The small engine simply feels underpowered despite the car's sub-1 100kg kerb. There’s also the typical rough idle associated with a three-cylinder along with an underwhelming gearbox, making this the less desirable powertrain within the range. Fuel consumption is claimed at 5.7 L/100km, however, we achieved a figure of 6.5 L/100km during our tenure.
Where the C3 really shines is in the ride quality department. Where many of the cars within this segment have been engineered to have fun-to-drive dynamics, Citroen, true to its roots, has opted for a more plaint, supple ride quality versus others in this segment.
The C3 is, as we had expected, a left-field option within the segment. The entry-level model can be had for a reasonable price, however, it is underpowered and you will have to make do with the antiquated five-speed gearbox. Those with a penchant for quirky hatchbacks with a wonderful ride quality may need to add one of these to their shopping list.
Citroen C3 Shine R249 900