2014 CITROEN C3 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five door hatchback
Price: $25,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 88kW/160Nm 4 cyl petrol | 4spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.0 l/100km | tested: 8.6 l/100km
Citroen’s little C3 is a bit of an enigma in this market. Although reasonably-priced, and with individual lines that set it apart from the crowd, it just hasn't caught on with buyers here.
There are more of the pricier (and, let’s face it, even cooler) DS3 hatches running around, which has us wondering about the C3.
What is it about this car that isn't connecting?
We had the top-specced five-door C3 Exclusive for a week - enough time to put the little Citroen and its Gallic charms under the microscope.
But this C3, which has been with us for a few years now, is a massive improvement over Citroens past.
Fit and finish inside and out is tight and well-constructed, with a good selection of materials and smart design.
There are a couple of lowlights however. The stereo is a single DIN unit that could have come from anywhere, but it’s locked in to the sat-nav and therefore can’t be replaced.
It’s also in the wrong place, too far down in the centre stack.
Comfort: The front seats are very comfortable and trimmed in a very hardy but attractive cloth material. The seats are well bolstered and grippy.
The rear seats are quite flat but are well-positioned to take advantage of high-set front seats and the tall roof, leaving good space for adults.
It’s not a three-adult bench, but three kids will get in just fine.
Equipment: The top of the line Exclusive isn’t lavishly equipped. Standard is climate-control air-con, sat-nav, six-speaker stereo, keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, reversing camera and sensors, bluetooth and leather steering wheel.
The Exclusive also has cruise control with speed limiter, auto headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear vision mirror and mood lighting,
Uniquely, the forward section of the interior headlining slides back to reveal an extra stretch of tinted glass that reaches back behind the front passenger’s heads.
Storage: It’s a fairly tight interior, but there are two different-sized cupholders in the centre console, a small bin under the stereo and small door-pockets in all doors.
Boot volume is 300 litres with the seats up and we’d bank on that figure doubling with the seats down.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Sadly, many of the 88 kiloWatts and 160 Newton-metres leaving the engine seem to get lost on their way through the old-tech four-speed automatic.
The C3 is almost unbearably slow off the mark, which explains why the base engine, the 60kW version, doesn’t have an automatic option.
But, once on the move, the C3 has a very pleasant on-road feel.
The variable-weighted steering has just the right weighting and provides a bit of feel from the front wheels.
This car would be immeasurably better as a manual. Or with a six-speed automatic, such as the one found in the cheaper Barina RS. Or the seven-speed dual-clutch in the Renault Clio.
The four-speed just doesn't cut the mustard.
Refinement: The engine and transmission combination are quiet in normal driving, but a planted right foot will cause an awkward, lurching downshift (the gears are widely spaced) and a vocal protest as the tachometer reaches for the redline.
At other times the cabin is reasonably quiet for a car of its size, but over about 80km/h there’s some noticeable tyre roar and general road noise. Some of the noise might be attributed to the tyres on the attractive 17-inch alloys.
However, in Sydney’s stop-start traffic, its a terrific little car to be stuck in.
Slide the forward section of the roof-lining back and you'll enjoy the bright and airy interior. The ride too is top-notch over Sydney's unusually rough tarmac.
Ride and Handling: The MacPherson-strut front end and 'deformable-beam' rear provide both a good ride and good body control. A hot hatch it isn’t, but it's well-balanced, not overly firm, and handling generally is good.
Braking: The Exclusive picks up rear discs to join the ventilated discs up front to provide a solid braking experience.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars: this model scored 33.38 out of a possible 37
Safety features: Six-airbags, stability and traction control, brake force distribution and brake assist.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Service costs: Citroen does not offer fixed-price servicing for “C-line” cars. Service intervals for the C3 are 12 months/15,000km
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Peugeot 208 Active ($21,490) - While not a super-close relative, the 208 Active has many of the problems the Citroen has, including the engine/transmission combination.
However, the 208’s interior is even better than the C3’s and is highly unlikely to get as hot. It’s also got capped price servicing, $325 every 12 months/15,000km. (see 208 reviews)
Renault Clio 1.2 Expression EDC ($19,790) - The fabulous Clio is a firm favourite, although we do prefer the 3-cylinder version. The 1.2 turbo has more power and torque (88kW/190Nm) than the C3 and a very modern six speed dual-clutch auto transmission.
It’s very different but also much more contemporary. Fixed price servicing is set at $299 every 12 months/15,000km. But it does demand premium unleaded... (see Clio reviews)
Volkswagen Polo 1.4 TFSI DSG ($19,940) - The 1.4 litre DSG Polo is a cracking car, even though it’s getting on. With the problems with the DSG (hopefully) behind it, the car is rarely selling for anywhere near its sticker price.
The interior is solid but dull compared to the French cars but makes up for it with its punchy engine and fun handling. Like the Renault, it only likes premium fuel. (see Polo reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The little C3 five-door is a little behind the times. It’s a simple car for easy transport, but with a dash of French styling flair and some nice touches.
It’s certainly a good-looking car and reasonably well-equipped, it just needs work on the ergonomics and driveline.
If it were priced significantly lower to make up for these deficiencies, there’d be no discussion - but at over $26,000 on the road for the Exclusive model tested here, it’s a stretch.
That said, it's 'cooler' than most and has more than a dollop of individual charm. If that's important, it won’t disappoint.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs except where noted)
- C3 Seduction 1.2 Manual - $19,990 (also drive-away until Dec 31)
- C3 Seduction 1.6 Automatic - $22,990
- C3 Exclusive 1.6 Automatic - $25,990