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Indians and their love for SUVs is no secret. Back when SUVs were only large and unaffordable machines, we in India made do by becoming a hatchback-loving market as the small cars were more affordable. Then some smart brains at work introduced compact SUVs and even sub-compact SUVs.
These new segments democratized SUVs for the masses and these small SUVs only seem to be gaining more favour with buyers and even manufacturers. Citroen is the latest manufacturer to bite the sub-compact SUV bug with the debut of the C3.
The Citroen C3 is only the second product from the French car manufacturer in the Indian market. While Citroen aimed its first product - the C5 Aircross - at the premium end of the mid-size SUV market, the C3 is more of a mass-market product with a twist. Citroen says it is ‘A Hatchback With A Twist' and we have been driving it to find out what exactly this twist is!
Does it have the quirkiness that is typical of a Citroen? How does it drive? Is it a premium product? Read on to know more.
Design & Style
Quirky and oh-so-Citroen is what we would call the design and styling of the Citroen C3. It is a typical Citroen and even from a distance, one would recognise it is a car from the French car manufacturer's stable.
The first element to grab your attention will certainly be the paint scheme and the bright colours on the C3. You get to pick from 10 different colour options including single-tone and dual-tone paint schemes. Citroen has added more splash to the colours by introducing several accessories, 3 Packs, and 56 customisation options, so you can spec their C3 to your exact taste and #ExpressYourStyle.
The design language is typical of a Citroen. Up front is the signature Citroen grille with the iconic logo in the centre and chrome strips flow from the edges of the logo and into the LED DRLs and headlamps. Yes, it does get a split-headlamp design, which is once again typical of a Citroen.
At the bottom is a new bumper with a silver scuff plate and the fog lamp housings receive an orange surround. The orange colour is found on various elements of the Citroen C3. This includes the ORVM and roof too. This brings us to the side profile of the small SUV.
It sports all-around body cladding and this varies in size on the sides of the C3. To add a dash of styling to the side profile, the Citroen C3 gets a little orange element embedded into the black body cladding. The A & B pillars are blacked out while the C pillar features body-coloured styling along with an orange stripe in a black panel. The roof rails only add to the styling aspect.
However, it is at the rear that the Citroen C3 is at its stylish best. It features wraparound tail lamps that look elegant and the prominently placed Citroen badging looks great too. The chrome elements next to the LED tail lamps and the chrome strip in the bumper along with the chrome reflector surrounds lend the Citroen C3 a premium appearance.
Despite the Citroen C3 having a premium and stylish appearance, there is some clear evidence of cost-cutting that is present in the sub-compact SUV. There is no shark-fin antenna. Instead, the C3 makes do with an old-school wire antenna that is placed towards the front of the roof, and to someone with an eye for detail, this is in complete contrast to the styling found on the rest of the vehicle.
There's yet another element where cost-cutting is very evident. The Citroen C3 rides on steel wheels. Alloy wheels are not available even on the top-spec model. The plastic wheel caps on the steel wheels do look stylish and make their presence felt. However, they do not come close to being an alloy wheel and that could be a huge turn-off for some buyers.
If one sets aside the lack of alloy wheels and a shark-fin antenna, the Citroen C3 does make for an extremely stylish and premium alternative to the current crop of sub-compact SUVs in the market.
Cockpit & Interior
Citroen is known for implementing quirky interiors in its cars and the C3 is no different. However, there is a slight twist here. The dashboard looks funky and attractive, the seats though are the opposite. The seats are subtle and simple. You do get dual-tone seats, but the colours and patterns are rather simple.
The dashboard looks rather fancy. A large part of the dashboard is covered in a unique orange shade. The AC vents are unique and stand out. The vents on either side of the dashboard are placed vertically while the centre vent is placed horizontally.
Right in front of the driver is the chunky flat-bottom steering wheel with the Citroen logo placed prominently at the centre. You do get steering-mounted controls for the audio settings and at the centre of the bottom spoke is a unique design element.
Behind the steering wheel is a digital instrument cluster that displays a lot of information including the trip meter, distance to empty, average fuel consumption, low fuel warning, gear shift indication, door ajar warning, etc. It misses out on one extremely important feature though. The Citroen C3 doesn't feature a tachometer and this is a rather shocking omission.
Taking centre stage on the dashboard is a 10.25-inch Citroen Connect infotainment unit. It is fully loaded and gets features like Bluetooth connectivity and audio is reproduced through four speakers. The speakers are alright and the quality of audio is decent. The Citroen C3 is the only car in the segment and at this price point to feature wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a great thing.
Pairing your smartphone with the infotainment unit is a rather simple and straightforward process. There's barely any lag in its operation and using it is very easy. Below the centre air conditioning vents are the controls for the air conditioning. They are old-school rotary knobs and hit us with some nostalgia in a world full of more modern haptic touch AC controls.
Below these controls, you find a USB Type-A slow on one side and a 12V socket on the other side. There is a cubbyhole to store your smartphone and beneath it are the cupholders. The centre console doesn't stretch all the way back but ends just behind the gear lever. There's a silver surround to the gear lever, and that wraps up the cockpit and interior of the Citroen C3.
There are a few features that makes the cost-cutting quite evident inside the Citroen C3 as well. For example, there are stalks to manually adjust the mirrors inside the sub-compact SUV. Coming from a premium brand like Citroen, this is a shocker. Also, we couldn't really recollect the last time we saw a 10.25-inch touchscreen together with manually-adjusting mirror stalks and instrumentation sans the rev-counter!
Yes, you do get power windows in all four doors. However, the switches to operate them are placed in a rather odd position. The driver's door has switches for the driver's side window as well as the passenger window. Placed behind the handbrake on the centre console are the switches for the rear passengers to lower or raise the windows. There are no switches on the rear doors!
The saving grace is that all four windows get the one-touch down function, but none of the windows come with a one-touch raising function. When all this is put together, you begin to realise that the Citroen C3 is the perfect amalgamation of some fancy features and design coming together with some really basic features that speak volumes about how it will be priced.
Comfort, Practicality & Boot Space
Right from the debut of the Citroen 2CV back in 1948, it was quite obvious that the brand would go on to make comfort its biggest priority over the years. Well, all Citroen cars are comfortable and the flagship C5 Aircross has already proved it time and again. So, it is quite obvious that there are a lot of expectations from the Citroen C3 as well.
We're pleased to report that the Citroen C3 more than just delivers on the comfort front. Firstly, there's the great ride quality which we will get into the details of, a little further in the review. Then there are the seats themselves. The front seats have the perfect amount of cushioning on all sides. There's great thigh support and lumbar support.
However, the seats come with fixed headrests and this is something that can definitely be improved. An adjustable headrest would make things much easier for the driver and passenger. It is a similar story with the seats at the rear too.
The Citroen C3 is one of the most practical vehicles in the segment with loads of cubbyholes and usable technology all around. There's the space in the dashboard to place your smartphone that we spoke about earlier. The glovebox is deep and cavernous and so are the door pockets. The seat back pocket though is only available on the top-spec variant and that is something that buyers of the base variant will miss.
Passengers at the rear get a single cupholder in the centre console behind the window switches and two USB slots to charge their smartphones. The Citroen C3 boasts brilliant boot space for its size. With 315 litres of storage, it can easily swallow your luggage for a weekend.
Engine Performance & Driving Impressions
The Citroen C3 is available with two engine options and we drove both of them to get a good feel of what each one offers. The base variant is powered by a 1.2-litre, naturally-aspirated, three-cylinder PURETECH 82 engine. Yes, you guessed it right, the 82 in the name stands for the power output which is 82PS or 80.8bhp while the peak torque figure stands at 115Nm. This engine is paired with a 5-speed manual gearbox.
The more powerful engine option though is the better choice of the two in our opinion and this is not just because of the extra power. It is, in essence, the same engine with a turbocharger. This time, it is named PURETECH 110, which signifies the 110PS or 108.4bhp power output. It is the torque that really steals the show here as all 190Nm of it comes in as low as 1,750rpm. This engine also gets an extra cog as it is paired with a 6-speed gearbox.
Turn the key and the engine comes to life with barely any drama. The three-cylinder clatter is only heard at higher revs and there's barely anything to complain about at lower RPMs. The clutch is light and feedback is great. Let go of the clutch pedal and prod on the throttle, and you will find the Citroen C3 building up speed pretty quickly.
It is very easy to ride on the wave of torque as the peak torque comes in at very low engine speeds. This also means, there's barely any turbo lag, and it is easy to overtake, no matter what gear you are in. Speaking of gears, the gearbox in this top-spec model is click-shifting and it is easy to shift too.
Shifting into reverse gear too, is pretty easy. However, we did face some issues getting it out of the reverse gear and back into neutral. This however, could be a one-off issue as we didn't encounter any other car at the first drive event with such a problem.
Acceleration as we already mentioned, is pretty strong, and 0-100km/h is done in about 10 seconds, which is pretty good. There are no drive modes and this might be considered a disadvantage by many. However, we think it allows for a no-nonsense drive.
The naturally-aspirated 1.2-litre engine offers a more linear drive experience in terms of outright performance. However, the three-cylinder clatter is quite evident at higher engine speeds and the engine did feel a little out of breath on certain steep inclines. The 5-speed manual gearbox shifts well and the 5th gear is a little tall to allow for better highway driving capabilities.
The steering feels great as the wheel is nice to hold and the feedback it offers is great too. It is balanced well, so it is lighter at lower speeds and weighs up nicely as speeds increase. We did find a bit of torque steer coming in, especially with the turbocharged engine.
The Citroen C3 handles well too. However, there is quite a lot of body roll which comes as a result of soft suspension. Also the byproduct of the soft suspension is the ride quality, which is excellent. We can go out on a limb here to say that the Citroen C3 has a ride quality that could give cars that are positioned 2-3 segments higher, a run for their money.
All of Citroen's cars are known for their brilliant ride and the C3 certainly lives up to this family trait. At slow and moderate speeds, there's barely anything felt inside the cabin. At triple-digit speeds though, only a slight thud is felt inside the Citroen C3.
Finally, we get to the braking aspect. Up front are disc brakes and at the rear are drum brakes. The braking is decent and the bite is good enough. However, the pedal travel is longer than usual and this takes some getting used to.
On the whole, the Citroen C3 provides an engaging and direct driving experience as long as it is not pushed very hard in the corners.
Safety & Key Features
Citroen has equipped the C3 with just enough features to keep its occupants engaged, but none of it is over the top.
- Driver & Passenger Airbags
- Reverse Parking Sensors
- Rear Doors Child Lock
- Engine Immobiliser
- Speed-Sensitive Door Lock
- LED DRLs
- Citroen Connect 10-inch Touchscreen Infotainment
- Wireless Smartphone Connectivity
- Fold-Flat Rear Seat
- One-Touch Down Windows
- Digital Instrument Cluster
Citroen C3 Colour Options
- Polar White
- Zesty Orange
- Platinum Grey
- Steel Grey
- Polar White Body with Zesty Orange Roof
- Platinum Grey Body with Zesty Orange Roof
- Polar White Body with Platinum Grey Roof
- Steel Grey Body with Zesty Orange Roof
- Zesty Orange Body with Platinum Grey Roof
- Steel Grey Body with Platinum Grey Roof
Citroen has established itself as a premium car manufacturer in the Indian market with the C5 Aircross. However, with the debut of the C3, it will be diving deep into the mass market and that is a huge risk the brand has already taken. The deciding factor on whether the risk will pay off or not, is of course the price point at which the hatchback with a twist will be launched.
As far as driving and performance are concerned, the Citroen C3 is a great car and could even keep an enthusiast happy. It certainly is ahead of its competition in certain areas and that already makes it a winner for us.