This French brand is struggling for sales in Australia, but it has lots of positives that deserve closer attention from buyers.
Citroen isn’t having a good time in Australia, sales are almost non-existent as the French brand struggles to find room to move in a crowded market. We test its newest C3 small hatch to see if it deserves more attention.
It’s a breath of fresh air
The Citroen C3 stands out from the crowd, thanks to its stylish looks and funky design details. It takes a leaf out of the Mini book by offering configurable packs that add dashes of colour on the fog light surrounds, side mirror caps and front doors. You can also choose between four different coloured roofs if you really want to make a statement. A white car with a red roof and side mirrors looks surprisingly good, but the pick is the teal blue exterior with black roof and highlights. Citroen has persisted with its quirky “air bumps” — three plastic bubbles on the driver and passenger doors that protect the car against doors opened carelessly in carparks. In a nod to the popularity of SUVs, the designers have given the C3 a tough, off-roader-style front end.
The flair continues in the cabin
Too often small-car interiors are a sea of grey fabrics and greyer plastics. Not so the Citroen. The two tone fabric on the seats incorporates a strip of colour near the headrests, while the dash also gets a splash of colour break up the grey plastics. The luggage strap-style door handles are a nice touch as well. The touchscreen is smallish but the display is clear and the menus are reasonably easy to navigate. Leg, head and shoulder room is tight in the back and there are no air vents or USB ports for rear passengers. First-world problem: the cupholders are comically small. They’ll fit an old-fashioned can of soft drink or a cappuccino, but you can forget about your reusable water bottle for the gym. There’s no centre console to store stuff out of sight, either.
All the mod-cons are there
The C3 is well equipped for this end of the market. Satnav, Apple Car Play/Android Auto and digital radio are all standard, although there’s only one USB port and one 12-volt outlet for charging devices. Other goodies include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry and push-button start, front and rear parking sensors and climate control aircon. The price is steep, though, at $28,990 plus on-roads for the auto, especially when you can get a top-spec Mazda2 or VW Polo for $3000 less or a Toyota Yaris hybrid for roughly the same money. Five years of free service and roadside assistance soften the blow a bit but the fact Citroen has only sold 13 C3s in the first two months of the year suggests pencils need to be sharpened.
Safety is covered
The C3 has most of the driver aids you’d expect in a car in this size and price bracket. Standard fare includes auto emergency braking, blind-spot detection, lane departure warning (but not lane keeping) and speed-limit detection. Other tech includes tyre pressure monitoring and a driver fatigue warning, but radar cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert are missing from the spec sheet. A space saver tyre is par for the course in this segment.
Progress is leisurely
The C3 is powered by a three-cylinder turbo with modest power outputs. The 1.2-litre engine produces just 81kW but has an impressive 205Nm of torque available from low in the rev range. It’s no pocket-rocket, taking almost 11 seconds to reach 100km/h, but it’s fine for scooting around town. The stop-start feature can frustrate, though, as it takes a while before it kicks clumsily back into life, creating an uncomfortable pause at the lights. On the open road, the C3 feels nicely sorted, sitting flat through corners and showing good composure over bumps. Pockmarked city backstreets deliver the odd jolt to the cabin, though.