The Citroen C3 is the French firm’s best-selling model globally since its launch in 2002.
That means there’s a certain amount of pressure resting on the shoulders of the new, third-generation C3 to perform – and with an all-new design, affordable price tag and some nifty tech smarts it’s off to a solid start.
Citroen has focused on four main areas with the new C3 as it aims to keep pace with the likes of the Vauxhall Corsa and Ford Fiesta: design, personalization, comfort and technology.
Let’s start with design – and here the C3 is an interesting fusion between traditional supermini and city crossover. It stands taller than some of its rivals, with a higher bonnet and wheel arches, which improves sight lines from the driver’s seat and gives the car a commanding stance on the road, while still being nimble enough on city streets.
It’s certainly an improvement on the looks of the first- and second-generation C3s, and brings the model right up to date.
Bump in the car
Citroen’s distinctive Air Bumps – first seen on the larger C4 Cactus – make the leap down the range to adorn the sides of the C3, although you can opt not to have them.
While they’re certainly unusual, we’re actually quite fond of the look. It’s something different, and it makes the car stand out and instantly recognisable. And that’s exactly what Citroen wants.
The ‘uniqueness’ factor moves us nicely to customization – it’s an area Citroen is pushing hard for its new supermini, with a wide range of finishes available to let you put your own stamp on your new vehicle.
You can choose from nine body colours, three roof colours (black, white, or red) and three interior finishes. In total you’re looking at 36 different combinations, which keeps things interesting.
Moving inside, and the Air Bump inspiration continues with indents on the door panels and bump-shaped air vents on the slick, minimalist dash.
It’s not exactly game-changing, but scratchy plastic is kept to a minimum, and for a car that starts at £11,000 it’s hard to find any real faults with the aesthetics.
If we’re being picky the 7-inch touchscreen (standard with the Feel and Flair trims) looks like a cheap Android tablet bolted on top of the centre console, rather than lovingly crafted into the framework – but Citroen isn’t the only manufacturer adopting this style of installation for its screens, so we can forgive it here.
Slide into the driving seat and you’ll appreciate the 2cm wider chair and additional support at your sides as it almost cuddles you into position – and the result is certainly comfort (ding, key focus 3 of 4 – hope you’re keeping up).
Taking the C3 out on the road, the smooth drive, upgraded suspension and cosy chair make for an enjoyable and comfortable experience, with less noise and less vibration, while the punchy three-cylinder turbocharged engine, delivering 110hp, is responsive under foot.
The car is nippy on country roads and can be thrown into corners, although realistically this is a car that will spend most of its time roaming city streets – and it’s great at that.
Plump for an S&S (start and stop) engine – S&S-equipped models start at £13,295 – and the new C3 will save fuel when you stop at traffic lights or are stuck in rush-hour queues, by cutting the engine when you’re not moving and automatically starting it up again as soon as you hit the accelerator.
Back inside the cabin, those sitting in the front will appreciate their bright and airy surroundings – there’s plenty of headroom, and a comfortable distance between the two front passengers, which increases the comfort of the new C3 further.
There are a few small niggles though. The driver footwell is a little on the narrow side – we found our large size 12 feet catching each other from time to time, while there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of space between the clutch and brake pedals.
Hop in the back, and, in contrast to the front, headroom for those who are six foot or taller is at a minimum, thanks to the rear seats being slightly more elevated. The bench seat is still comfortable though, and legroom is adequate for a car this size.
There’s plenty of room in the boot, meanwhile, with a 300L capacity capable of easily taking the weekly family shop or a couple of suitcases.
Hey road, say ‘cheese’
Until recently you’d only find extensive tech features in cars costing more than double the price of the new C3; but manufacturers are slowly starting to filter the treats down their ranges, and Citroen has taken things even further with this third-generation model.
The new C3 is the first car in Citroen’s range to boast its ConnectedCam.
This comes as standard with the top of the line Flair model, while it’s a £380 optional extra with the Feel trim; unfortunately you can’t get it with the entry-level Touch trim.
The ConnectedCam is a wide-angle HD camera that’s mounted behind the rear-view mirror, and faces forward towards the open road.
There are two buttons on the camera, one for snapping photos and the other for shooting video, allowing you to capture your most epic of road trips. The camera comes with 128GB of storage, which means you’re unlikely to run out of space on a single journey – although you can’t view your snaps or footage on the 7-inch touchscreen, which feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Instead you need to download the ConnectedCam app to your smartphone (available for free on Android and iOS), and then download photos and videos from the camera to your handset. The app will show you everything you’ve captured, and you can then choose what to download.
You can then share your masterpieces on social media via the application – but this isn’t quite as straightforward as it should be.
The app on your phone will walk you through connecting with the in-car cam, and it uses a Wi-Fi connection to send and receive data. That’s fine for downloading your shots to the phone, but if you want to then share them immediately through the app you’ll need to switch Wi-Fi off and let your phone signal take over to establish a web connection.
It’s not a terrible process to go through, but it feels clunky and it’s something which could be made much slicker. The app itself feels first-generation, and we hope Citroen will improve the speed, connection reliability and general interface during 2017.
The ConnectedCam isn’t just there for fun though – it can also come to your aid if you have a crash. In the event of an accident the ConnectedCam will record the 30 seconds before, and 60 seconds after, impact to give you reliable footage of the incident – which could come in handy for an insurance claim.
Touch and go
Turning to the touchscreen on the centre console, its clunky, gloss black bezel is home to six touch-sensitive icons which give you quick access to functions including the media player, sat nav (a £500 optional extra), temperature controls and phone calls.
You can link your handset to the C3 using either MirrorLink (for compatible Android devices), or Apple CarPlay for the iPhone owners among you.
The latter option is more interesting, with CarPlay giving you access to a range of applications on your iPhone in a more car-friendly interface – ideal for checking iMessages and finding the perfect driving soundtrack on Spotify. There’s also a USB port and 3.5mm audio jack located behind the gear stick.
The C3’s satellite navigation is one of the better manufacturer offerings on the market, although if you do have an iPhone we’d recommend hooking up to CarPlay and using Apple Maps over the built-in option.
The new Citroen C3 is a great little city runaround, combining technology, comfort and affordability in a striking design.
As long as rear headroom isn’t a big issue for you, the new C3 is an excellent supermini option, and we’d highly recommend taking it for a test drive. It’s available to purchase now – so if you’re tempted, all you need to do is decide which of the 36 colour combinations you’re going to pick.