Aimed squarely at the likes of the Ford Fiesta and the Vauxhall Corsa, the C3 is Citroën’s entry into the hugely competitive supermini class. First introduced in 2002, the current model arrived in 2010 and received a subtle but effective facelift in 2013.
It continues the French manufacturer’s long history of doing things a bit differently. While a lot of superminis chase sporty dynamics, the C3 is built for comfort rather than speed.
The range kicks off with a willing but slightly anaemic 1-litre 68PS petrol engine. There’s a somewhat more sprightly 1.2-litre version of the same engine, which offers a useful step up in grunt at 82PS followed by a 110PS range topper.
All three return around the same CO2 and economy figures, but the 110PS engine is actually the greenest of the lot in manual form, at 100g/km of CO2 and a claimed 64.2mpg. It is, however, significantly more expensive in Platinum spec.
There’s also a pair of refined and impressively economical 1.6-litre diesel engines, producing 75PS and 100PS respectively. The Blue HDi 100 is only available in the top spec Platinum model, which doesn’t come cheap at £17,130. However, it is tax free (at 2016 rates) emitting just 87g/km.
Economy is officially quoted as 83.1mpg, although our test car returned a not-unreasonable 46.4mpg in the real world.
Ride and handling
The C3 maintains Citroën’s reputation for ride quality. There is the occasional shimmy through the structure, but by and large it rides with the sort of aplomb you’d normally expect from cars at least one size up.
There is a price to pay for this serenity, though. The soft springs noticeably blunt the handling, giving the C3 a marked tendency to roll. There’s also a rather rubbery feel to the steering, which offers little in the way of feedback.
For most people this won’t be a great issue, although it’s a shame that wind and road noise aren’t better supressed to make the most of the C3’s talents as a cruiser.
Interior and space
You’ll struggle to find a brighter, airier cabin than that of the C3. All models barring the entry-level VT can be ordered with Citroën’s fantastic panoramic windscreen, which wraps over the front seats to give the feeling that you’re sitting in a giant bubble. All-round visibility is excellent, aided by a fairly high driving position.
Generally the materials are good and the design feels surprisingly fresh for a car that’s no longer in its first flush of youth. The only slight let down is the lack of cabin storage, with shallow door pockets and not so much as a cupholder in the front.
Leg room is tight for grownups in the back, but kids will love the visibility and there’s a larger-than-average boot, capable of swallowing 300 litres of luggage. ISOFIX mounts are standard and all C3s come with five doors.
What to know before you buy
There are essentially three trim specs in the current range – VT, Edition and Platinum. The entry level model is relatively affordable, but it’s quite basic inside and only available with the lowest power petrol and diesel engines.
Starting at £12,855, the Edition adds alloy wheels, cruise control, parking sensors and Bluetooth, not to mention some nicer cabin materials. Finally, Platinum brings leather seats, plus automatic air conditioning, DAB radio and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
The leather seats are a welcome addition, providing plenty of back support (if not much in the way of lateral support through the bends) but the user interface on the touchscreen seems a little clunky, as do the graphics.
In terms of safety, the C3’s four-star Euro NCAP rating is respectable, but it lags behind some of the more recent opposition. Like most manufacturers, Citroën provides a three year or 60,000 mile warranty and there’s the option of maintenance and road side assistance packages.
Historically, the C3 has found itself mid-table for reliability, with various minor trim and electrical issues. Our test car had a rather irritating intermittent rattle from behind the dashboard that seems to bear this out. Major issues are rare, however, and Citroen does appear to be on the up as far as quality is concerned.
It’s easy to forgive the C3’s overtly comfort-orientated dynamics when you consider that Citroën’s sister brand DS. It offers a far sportier take on the same platform in the form of the DS3. The Ford Fiesta and Suzuki Swift are also worth considering if you’re tempted by a more engaging drive.
For those in search of added practicality, the recently revamped Honda Jazz is hard to beat. It’s verging on mini-MPV inside, offering more in terms of boot space and rear seat accommodation, despite similar overall dimensions.
The C3 is not without its foibles, but it’s a pleasant place to spend time, with some nice styling features and class-leading ride quality. Keen drivers may find themselves underwhelmed, though, and it’s not as quiet as it could be on the move.