With the relationship between France and Australia about to hit rock bottom – at least between their respective leaders – we thought it timely to test what is arguably the cutest small car on the market, the Citroen C3, before the trade war begins.
Citroen has been in the automotive doldrums for several years but now, under its new importer, the well-established Inchcape Australia, is looking to get back into the game with some serious marketing clout.
While city cars like the C3 are relatively scarce in Australia they are everywhere in the world’s largest congested cities especially in Europe.
Wherever we went during our week-long test of the C3 we drew admiring looks. From every angle it is a seriously attractive little car especially at its chunky front where the signature Citroen twin chevron badge sits in the centre of twin chrome bars that run across the width of the car and merge into the two-tier front LED headlights and LED daytime running lamps.
The profile shows smooth coupe-like lines and bold new 16-inch Helix alloy wheels. Between them sits a new design of the exclusive Citroen side protection Airbumps which add character as well as practicality but, to our eyes at least, detract from the car’s appearance. Others no doubt will love them – Vive la difference!
One of the most appealing features of the C3 is the large range of bright and bubbly colour combinations both exterior and interior. On the outside there are different colours available for the body, roof and various trim items including the Airbump surrounds, door mirror shells and rear window trim.
Interior storage is disappointing with two small cupholders tucked away at the base of the front console and awkward to access; the centre space is dominated by an old-style ratchet parking brake so no spare spots there; while a small box at the rear of the centre console serves as a third cupholder for rear occupants. On the positive side there are good-sized door pockets.
Rear legroom is very tight, almost to the extent of only being suitable for younger children unless the front seats are well forward.
There’s 300 litre of boot space which is pretty good for this class, and the 60/40 split rear seatback fold flat to extend the space to 922 litres. The spare wheel is a space saver below the boot floor.
Standard equipment includes six airbags; enhance ABS brakes; stability and traction control with anti-skid system; distance alert system and autonomous emergency braking; lane departure warning; driver (in)attention alert; speed limit recognition and warning; and tyre pressure monitoring.
Display is through a 7.0-inch high-resolution touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard. It’s easy to reach although some of the most commonly-used features such air conditioning are accessed through the screen rather than the solid knobs which require less distraction.
Standard features include satellite navigation; DAB+ digital radio; Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink connectivity; and voice recognition. There’s only a single USB port, located on the front console.
Despite its compact dimensions getting into and out of the C3 isn’t too difficult. Once settled into stylish the imitation wool seats they prove to be soft and comfortable with good side support. Unfortunately, there is no power adjustment.
With its small dimensions the C3 is easy to park with front and rear parking sensors and reversing camera making it almost foolproof.
Now for the really good news – the little Citroen not only has class-leading style, it’s also a delight to drive. It’s quick off the mark, and zippy and agile around town. The small and chunky steering wheel feels great.
Small French cars are known for the quality of their ride and handling and the C3 is no exception with bumps and speed humps absorbed better than expected from such a compact body.
There’s good grip and minimal body roll through corners.
C3 comes with start/stop technology but it’s loud and quite annoying. It can be turned off temporarily but whenever the ignition is turned off and on again it defaults back on again.
Fuel consumption is listed at 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres. We were well above that at 7.2 L/100 km.
At just under $29,000 Citroen C3 Shine is a hatchback at an SUV price which is disappointing because its likely to deter young owners who would just love to be able give their imaginations free rein with the brilliant colour options.
But for any well-paid young executive types looking to show off around town and enjoy some driving satisfaction then this could just be the car for you.
Like all Citroens the C3 comes with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty and five-year roadside assist.
AT A GLANCE
C3 Shine: $28,990 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Citroen dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Citroen C3 Shine 1.2-litre turbo-petrol five-door hatchback)
Capacity: 1.199 litres
Configuration: Three cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 82 kW @ 5500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 205 Nm @ 1500 rpm
Fuel Type: Standard unleaded petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.2 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 118 g/km
DRIVELINE: Six-speed automatic
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 3996 mm
Wheelbase: 2539 mm
Width: 1829 mm
Height: 1474 mm
Turning Circle: 10.9 metres
Kerb Mass: 1090 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 45 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Five years / unlimited kilometres
Thirst : 6/10