Citroen C3 Aircross 2019 Review
The French must be hoping that third time’s a charm for Citroen’s SUV exploits in this country because, up until now, things haven’t quite gone according to plan.
Citroen’s original Aircross – the dismal C4 (2012-13) – was nothing more than a warmed-over Mitsubishi ASX, built in Japan alongside its Peugeot 4008 doppelganger, and invisible the world over … unlike the quirky all-French C4 Cactus that effectively replaced it (in 2016). Yet the Cactus never hit the mark either, mainly due to the lack of a petrol automatic at launch, but also because Aussies don’t take to unusual cars quite like they used to. Especially anything called Cactus.
So it’s with renewed vigour that the once-legendary French brand prepares for an SUV renaissance, of sorts, starting with the C3 Aircross this week and continuing with the mid-sized C5 Aircross around July. The C3 Aircross brings a good dose of design individuality, supported by a persuasive level of equipment and space, while expanding the variety in the small SUV class.
Is the Citreon C3 Aircross right for me?
The Citroen’s quirky colour combinations, vast interior space, plentiful features and generous warranty should be enough to pique buyer interest in the small-SUV class … if people are willing to choose French over Japanese.
Long gone are the days when the Europeans could claim engineering superiority over their Asian neighbours. At this end of the market, cars like the Citroen C3 Aircross are now playing catch-up.
What does the Citreon C3 Aircross cost?
Citroen is offering just one fully-specced C3 Aircross in Australia, wearing a $32,990 sticker (before on-road costs) and no optional extras besides colour choice.
Those colours were decided in an online poll last year, with Citroen Oz opting for the five most popular combos rather than delving into the baffling plethora of alternatives on offer in the much larger European market. White and sand-coloured cars get black roofs and orange detailing (bumper inserts, roof rails, mirrors, and ‘venetian-blind’ decals on the rear side windows, ala Mazda ‘Shades’ special editions from 30 years ago!). Red cars get a black roof and silver accents; black cars get a sand roof and silver accents; and blue cars get a body-colour roof and white accents.
There will also be a ‘Launch Edition’ C3 Aircross – limited to just 20 cars – that will include a premium ‘Metropolitan Grey’ interior treatment, as well as a panoramic glass sunroof. The Launch Edition will only be available in red and will retail for the same $32,990 (before on-road costs) as the regular car – making it particularly good value.
What is the Citreon C3 Aircross' interior like?
When you enter a Citroen you want to experience something beyond the ordinary, and the C3 Aircross partly delivers. Some of the cabin architecture is shared with the C3 hatch, including a terrific three-spoke steering wheel and lovely large-needle instruments, as well as the all-in-one central touchscreen, though the Aircross does have its own design quirks.
On the surface, there’s oddly styled air vents, a ‘cobra-head’ handbrake that is classic form-over-function, and pleasant mica-grey fabric upholstery with upper striped sections, though it’s disappointing our C3 Aircross isn’t available with the four alternative (and much groovier) interior colour treatments offered in Europe … unless you acquire one of the limited-run ‘Launch Edition’ models.
Its ‘Metropolitan Grey’ cabin (pictured in left-hand-drive form) features thatched light-grey cloth upholstery with an upper colour stripe, a light-grey cloth inlay spanning the entire dashboard width, and coloured accents on the steering wheel and air vents. The Launch Edition also gets a panoramic sunroof which, given the Citroen’s vast headroom, completely opens up the space.
How much space does the Citreon C3 Aircross have?
Seating wise, the C3 Aircross doesn’t inherit the superb seat comfort of a C4 Cactus. Instead, it gets the C3 hatch’s front seats – pretty good, except for the lack of height adjustment for the front passenger (though the view is commanding). Deep windows and a lofty roof height add to the Citroen’s airy feeling up front.
The rear seat isn’t quite so well-resolved. The relatively flat cushion and slightly reclined backrest would make it brilliant for mounting kiddy seats, however adults may find the fixed position less than ideal – despite the acres of leg- and head-room on offer.
The Australian C3 Aircross required a specific rear bench to meet ADR requirements because the European 40/20/40-split seat doesn’t have a top-tether mount in the back of the centre seat (it has a pair of cupholders there for when you flip it down). And no top-tether means it can’t officially be counted as a seat in this country, ridiculous as that may seem when the rear already has three Isofix mountings.
That means we lose the Euro version’s fore-aft and backrest-rake adjustability, and its ability to extend the C3 Aircross’ boot to an astonishing 520 litres. That said, the 410 litres available with the back seat fixed into position is still vast – better than some medium SUVs – and includes under-floor storage, as well as space behind the seat to store the luggage cover, if need be.
A wireless charging pad that sits at the base of the dash’s centre stack takes place of the C3 hatch’s (near-useless) cupholders, though that does mean only one cupholder (at the back of the centre console) for five people. At least the front doors feature bottle holders that can double as take-away coffee mounts.
What's the Citreon C3 Aircross' tech like?
The C3 Aircross gets the latest version of Peugeot-Citroen’s all-in-one 7.0-inch touchscreen, which controls phone and climate-control functions, as well as embedded sat-nav, DAB+ digital radio, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration. In terms of audio quality, there’s good volume, clarity, and thumping bass.
Other standard tech highlights in the C3 Aircross include a head-up instrument display, a 180-degree ‘top view’ rear camera and auto-parking.
How reliable is the 2019 Citreon C3 Aircross?
Based on the brilliant rap given to PSA’s 1.2-litre turbo-petrol triple – it’s been an international engine of the year winner in the 1.0- to 1.4-litre category four years running – and the vast distances covered during its development, there’s every chance this engine could live up to the long-lived reputation of past French fours. And the automatic tranny is a Japanese-made unit from Toyota affiliate Aisin, which bodes well for its reliability too.
The rest of the C3’s underpinnings are from the PF1 family, related to the outgoing Peugeot 208 and a bunch of older models, so proven mechanicals with much commonality.
The Citroen’s interior plastics seem pretty hard-wearing too, as does the trim quality of the seats. The standard Mica grey upholstery is proper high-wear stuff, though the lighter trim in the prettier Launch Edition may not fare so well.
How safe is the Citreon C3 Aircross?
Euro NCAP rated the C3 Aircross at five stars when independently crash-tested in 2017. It received 85 per cent for adult protection, 82 per cent for child protection, 64 per cent for pedestrian protection and 60 per cent for safety systems.
The Australian C3 Aircross boast a fairly comprehensive list of active-safety equipment, including low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB), collision alert, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, speed-sign recognition and driver attention alert.
As for its passive safety, predictable and well-balanced handling combines with strong tyre grip and a nicely planted stance on the road to make driving the C3 Aircross relatively effortless.
What is the Citreon C3 Aircross' warranty like?
Citroen’s warranty coverage has been five years/unlimited kilometres on all passenger cars for some time now, complete with five years’ roadside assistance.
What are the on-going costs of the Citreon C3 Aircross?
Citroen recommends servicing every 12 months or 15,000km for the C3 Aircross, which is just as well because even with capped-price servicing, it’s one of the pricier small SUVs to keep fit.
The five-year servicing total tallies $2727.39, though if you purchase a five-year servicing plan up front, you can lop 10 per cent off that figure (meaning a more respectable $2454.65). That second amount is in the ballpark of what Volkswagen charges for servicing.
The Red Book doesn’t yet quote a projected three-year retained value for the C3 Aircross but you can expect it to be somewhere in the vicinity of 55 per cent, give or take a few points. In comparison, the similarly roomy Honda HR-V VTi-LX’s three-year resale is 65.5 per cent.
Is the 2019 Citreon C3 Aircross value for money?
Given its fairly extensive standard equipment tally, the one-model-suits-all C3 Aircross does a commendable job of appearing good value for money. It’s neither a bargain or overpriced and isn’t alone in the small-SUV class hovering around the $33K mark.
What's under the Citreon C3 Aircross' bonnet?
The revival of three-cylinder engines has continued unabated this decade, but none is more flexible, more likeable or more efficient than Peugeot-Citroen’s award-winning 1.2-litre turbo-petrol triple.
In the C3 Aircross, it produces 81kW and a solid 205Nm from just 1500rpm, tied exclusively to a six-speed automatic in this country. All that torque means it kicks along effortlessly, and while the Aircross doesn’t feel particularly quick, its performance is deceptive. There’s more muscle than meets the eye in this baby Frenchie.
Citroen claims 0-100km/h in 10.6 seconds, though even that number fails to convey how easy it is to maintain momentum in this car. If only its step-off from a standing start was a little sprightlier – there’s often a hesitation, as if it’s starting in second gear before deciding to switch back to first (a trait shared with the C3 hatch).
How much fuel does the Citreon C3 Aircross use?
The by-product of all that easy-going grunt is sensational fuel economy (on 95-octane premium). The Citroen’s combined-cycle fuel figure is just 5.6L/100km, and our real-world testing supports this class-leading efficiency.
What's it like to drive the Citreon C3 Aircross?
The C3 Aircross isn’t the sportiest drive in the small SUV shed but the more you ask of it, the more it delivers. It’s one of those cars that hides its agility under a bushel – it’s not until you’re deep into a corner, feeding in more steering lock, that you realise the C3 Aircross has a latent hunger for clipping apexes and carving up hillsides. It’s a bit like a bride-to-be wearing trainers under her train. Despite appearances, this puffy-looking SUV can be quite the athlete.
What goes some way towards disguising that potential is the Aircross’ steering. It’s light and incredibly accurate but doesn’t load up naturally as cornering forces increase – creating this aloofness to the Citroen’s dynamic demeanour that actually works in its favour when it comes to ride.
Whether driving one-up or carrying a full load, the C3 Aircross is one of the best small SUVs at distancing itself from the turmoil raging beneath. It rises above disturbances that upset so many of its rivals, yet this is no hydropneumatic wonder from Citroen’s past. Despite its best efforts, the C3 Aircross feels utterly conventional.
How does the Citreon C3 Aircross compare to the competition?
In the low- to mid-30-something bracket, the C3 Aircross ($32,990) is facing off some formidable rivals – namely the Honda HR-V VTi-LX ($34,590), Hyundai Kona Highlander 2.0 ($35,500), Mazda CX-3 Akari ($35,500), and Skoda Karoq ($32,290), among others. Alongside those cars it seems reasonably well-priced and certainly isn’t lacking in space.
Strangely (for a Citroen), what it doesn’t provide is more upmarket trim choices to match the cabins of its classiest rivals. It’s all well and good for the outside to pop – especially the diamond-cut 17-inch alloys and funky colour combos – but the Aussie C3 Aircross deserves an interior to match.
The Hype Colorado leather treatment offered in Europe, with ochre-coloured leather on the seats, steering-wheel rim and dashboard fascia, mixed with super-funky houndstooth cloth, screams French chic.
If you’re shopping in the small SUV sector and champion space efficiency, fuel efficiency, a degree of design savvy and a long warranty, then the Citroen C3 Aircross deserves a look in.
It’s an easy-going and eminently likeable small wagon with great vision and enough cross-country lope-ability to channel some of the aura of Citroen’s 100-year heritage. It isn’t quite as funky as the European version and our car’s compromised back seat waters down some of Citroen’s packaging cleverness, but it’s nice to see the French continuing to embrace difference.
Having completed an Arts degree in English Literature and Film, Ponch started out at Hot 4s & Performance Cars magazine in 1997, honing his distaste for bodykits and commercial doof-doof, before editing Australian Volkswagen magazine, then kicking off a 17-year career at ACP/Bauer as Staff Journalist for WHEELS in 2001.