The Citroen C3 used to be one of the most tedious superminis on sale. Not any more. This new 2017 model, inspired by the breakthrough Citroen C4 Cactus, has been transformed, turning it from class dunce into one of the stars of the sector. If you want styling flair and something refreshingly different, look no further.
Did you know? The Citroen ConnectedCam acts as a dashcam, storing footage 30 seconds before an accident and 60 seconds afterwards.
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The previous Citroen C3 was barely a contender in Britain’s ultra-competitive supermini sector. This new 2016 model transformed the five-door hatchback’s fortunes. Outwardly good-looking and design-conscious, it’s eye catching in a way the anonymous previous model was not. The rest of it is newly competitive as well, with a smart cabin, competitive drive and some decent engines. Prices aren’t bargain-basement, but they’re good value, rounding out the C3’s bottom-to-top transformation in class competitiveness.
Design & Exterior
Interior & Comfort
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Spec & Trim Levels
Running Costs & Fuel Economy
Quirky styling transforms appeal
Decent on-road abilities
Available on-board tech
We Don’t Like
Others are, ultimately, better to drive
Soft suspension floats a bit at speed
Cheaper engines are so-so on power
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Design & Exterior: (9/10)
Above all else, it’s the fresh styling that makes the Citroen C3 desirable. Something entirely forgettable and mundane has been transformed into a style leader, carrying plenty of the modern cues first seen on the C4 Cactus. This is a contemporary car, and proud of it.
With short overhangs, large wheels, Mini-style black wheelarches and a pure, clean but strongly-shaped five-door bodystyle, it is satisfying even in its most basic guise. Moving up the range brings larger alloys and contrast-colour details that enhance it further.
The icing is the Citroen Airbumps , which are fitted to the range-topping models. First seen on the C4 Cactus, these plastic air cushions on the body-sides shrug off car park bangs, yet also bring added designer kudos. Currently, they’re only offered in black, with either white or red detailing. Expect more colours to follow in time.
All this has fully shaken up the image of the C3, from a dowdy and forgettable Eurohatch that was mere rental car fodder, into something genuinely worthy of consideration alongside a Ford Fiesta or Renault Clio. And it gets better as you delve deeper…
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Interior & Comfort: (9/10)
The interior of the latest Citroen C3 is as strong as the exterior. Again, it’s fuss-free but confidently designed, with distinctive features in even the smallest details. See the unique font of the dials, the clean and simple centre console buttons and the shape of the air vents.
The interior is best when specced in trims a step up from basic Touch. These get a free-standing central colour touchscreen, with extensive functionality. You control the automatic air conditioning through it, for instance. It fully enhances the clean look of the C3 interior and, with its high-resolution screen, adds a premium touch. The rest of the interior is more everyday in finish, quite different to the posh Volkswagen Polo, but even this is somehow in keeping with the C3’s ethos.
A really neat touch is the light grey covering that’s been applied to the door bins. Bright and tidy-looking, this makes it very easy to find things within them.
The front seats are broad, but a little soft. They could do with firmer support for long distances. The driving position is decent, though – an improvement on the old C3 – with lots of adjustment for controls and seats. Visibility is good and it’s easy to tell where the C3’s extremities are. We were surprised at how quickly the reverse-park camera got dirty in winter weather, though.
In the rear, there’s just about enough space for adults. Their knees will be squashed, but decent foot space below the front seats means they won’t feel uncomfortably hemmed in. Headroom isn’t bad either, so long as you avoid the panoramic sunroof. And unlike the C4 Cactus, you can open the rear windows.
The Citroen C3 has a 300-litre boot with the seats up. This is bang-on average for the sector – bigger than the outgoing Ford Fiesta, but not as big as the commodious 320-litre boot of a Skoda Fabia. Fold the seats and it stretches to 922 litres. Split-fold rear seats are standard on all (unlike the larger C4 Cactus, which surprisingly has a fixed rear seat-back). We did find the load lip to be a bit high, though.
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Technology & Connectivity: (8/10)
Citroen equips the C3 with a strong range of tech features. All models have Bluetooth with media streaming, for example, backed by by USB and Aux sockets. A DAB radio is fitted to all as well, as are, impressively, a ‘coffee break alert’ driver drowsiness detection system, speed limit recognition system and cruise control with speed limiter. Such tech is normally the preserve of luxury cars, but it comes on every new C3.
Move up to the mid-line trim and the seven-inch colour infotainment screen becomes standard. This has Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink for hooking into certain smartphone apps. More tangible tech includes steering wheel audio controls, LED daytime running lights and automatic air conditioning (air-con is lacking on the basic car).
The most intriguing tech feature is the inbuilt ConnectedCam, fitted as standard to range-topping Flair models. This is a built-in dashcam and stills camera housed behind the rear-view mirror that, via a smartphone app, lets you take images or shoot 20-second videos and then share them on social media. It’s nothing if not novel.
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Performance & Handling: (7/10)
The C3 is a light, easy car to drive, one that majors on comfort rather than Ford Fiesta-style dynamism. Suspension is soft, so the ride is supple and it leans a bit around corners. The steering is light and doesn’t have much feel, but it makes the Citroen fuss-free to chuck around town. It does get a bit floaty at speed, but the motorway is not its natural environment.
Avoid the basic 1.2 Puretech 68 petrol engine, unless a low list price is all. The C3 now weighs less than a tonne in basic guise, but 68 horsepower still isn’t enough. We’d advise you go for the 1.2 Puretech 82 or, better still, the 1.2 PureTech 110 S&S. The latter comes with a turbocharger that transforms pulling power and flexibility.
This engine is by far the best all-rounder. It has twice the grunt of the most basic motor, but produced at almost half the engine revs. You also need to stir the gearbox far less, which helps offset the throbby engine note of these three-cylinder motors. And it’s more refined than the diesel alternatives; the 1.6 BlueHDi engines are effective, but of limited appeal in a small supermini.
Most C3 will come with a five-speed manual gearbox. It’s light, but a bit soggy and imprecise. At least the clutch is also light, while the strength of the 1.2 Puretech 110 engine means it’s very hard to stall. The sole automatic model is the 1.2 Puretech 110 S&S EAT6, which has an automated manual gearbox. It’s smoother than it was, but still not great, especially considering the lb1,200 price premium.
Recommended engine: 1.2 Puretech 110 S&S
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Safety Features: (6/10)
All new Citroen C3s have six airbags and two rear Isofix child seat mounting points. The lane departure warning system is a surprise standard feature, as is the system that warns you if you’re speeding. But it’s disappointing that autonomous emergency city braking is not yet available, even as an option.
Euro NCAP has yet to test the new C3. We suspect that, because of the lack of autonomous emergency braking, it won’t be in the running for a full-house five stars. The C3 is derived from the same platform as the Peugeot 208, and that car scored five stars in 2012. However, Euro NCAP standards have toughened up since then.
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Specs and Trim Levels: (8/10)
There’s a vibrant range of nine colours offered on the Citroen C3. The two solid colours are Polar White and Almond Green (the latter is free, Polar White is a small added cost). Metallic choices include Cobalt Blue, Perla Nera Black, Ruby Red, Arctic Steel, Shark Grey, Soft Sand and our favourite, Powder Orange.
You can pick from three contrast roof colours as well: Sport Red, Opal White or Onyx Black. On Feel and Flair models, it’s a no-cost option – black is standard, while white and red are free alternatives. The colour switch stretches to the door mirrors as well.
Citroen C3 trim lines are a simple range of Touch, Feel and Flair. Touch doesn’t look too basic: it still gets body-colour bumpers, although it lacks alloys, wheelarch extensions and body-colour door handles. The roof lacks contrast paint and, in what could be a deal-breaker, it doesn’t have air conditioning.
Feel models are much more comprehensively equipped. They have big 16-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights and the contrast roof option. Inside, the standard colour touchscreen transforms the dashboard, making it feel like you’ve moved up several grades, not just one.
Flair is a style-focused trim jump. Its door mirrors are matched to the roof colour, which are matched to the fog light surrounds. It gets Airbumps, and front foglights, plus dark-tinted rear glass. Rear parking sensors and automatic headlights add convenience, and it has a reversing camera.
For some, the big question will be how to get Airbumps. Well, you can’t get Airbumps on a basic Citroen C3 Touch, even as an option. To get them as standard, you need to pick the Flair. Can’t stretch that far? You can option them on Feel models, but not if you pick the Ruby red body colour, oddly. Most cars will come with white detail inserts, but the Sport Red roof option will switch these to red.
Airbumps cost lb290 on Feel models, and include front foglights with a cornering function. If, for some reason, you really don’t like them on Flair models, you can choose not to have them fitted, at no extra cost.
Size and Dimensions
The Citroen C3 is a typical modern supermini size: just under four metres in length and 1.75 metres wide. It’s now one of the bigger models in this sector, and a step up on the car it replaces, but still within class constraints. To make manoeuvring easier, parking sensors and a reversing camera are optional on Feel models, standard on Flair. There is just the single five-door bodystyle.
Max towing weight without brake
450kg – 600kg
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Running Costs & Fuel Economy: (8/10)
Official fuel economy figures for the petrol engines do not lie: the turbo 1.2 Puretech 110 S&S really is more fuel-efficient than the slower Puretech 68 and 82 alternatives. Standard engine stop-start helps here, but so too do reserves of power that make it more efficient away from town. In real-world driving, this advantage may, if anything, become greater. You have to work the non-turbo engines so much harder.
The two diesels deliver headline-grabbing fuel economy and CO2 figures. The BlueHDi 75 S&S claims 80.7mpg on the combined cycle, along with 92g/km CO2. If you want to get to 62mph from rest 3.1 seconds faster, pick the BlueHDi 100 S&S; the mpg penalty is negligible, with combined economy dipping only slightly, to 76.3mpg and 95g/km CO2.
Reliability and servicing
The Citroen C3 has traditionally had a rather unimpressive reliability record. Electrical niggles and flaky trim are commonplace, and they haven’t worn their age well. We hope this has been addressed with the latest C3, which draws heavily from the proven Peugeot 208.
Citroen offers a servicing pack valid for three years and 35,000 miles. This allows you to pay in advance for your C3’s servicing, saving a wodge of cash in the process. Citroen advises service intervals of 16,000 miles for both petrol and diesel versions of the C3.
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Prices for the Citroen C3 start from lb10,995, but nobody will buy this 1.2 Puretech 68 model. Reflecting the big jump in equipment, Feel models cost around lb2,300 more, which is why the choice 1.2 Puretech 110 S&S costs over lb15,000. The same engine in Flair trim is well over lb16,000, which is probably too much for a Citroen supermini whose retained values still have plenty to prove. Even the cheapest diesel is above lb13,000.
It’s is worth noting that you don’t have to add optional sat nav to a C3. Because it has Apple CarPlay as standard, iPhone users can access their smartphone’s in-built mapping through the touchscreen for free. We would, however, add optional metallic paint and Airbumps to our choice Feel trim.
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Green Car Buyer
1.6 BlueHDi 75 – The most fuel-efficient Citroen C3 can do 78.5mpg, emits 93g/km and has stop-start as standard
Flair – If you like tech, you’ll love the class-unique Citroen ConnectedCam fitted as standard to Flair models
Feel – Feel models get chunky wheelarch extensions, a contrasting roof and matching door mirrors. Distinctive LED running lights are also standard
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