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SMALL AND SENSIBLE
Published on Thursday 20 June 2013 11:37
Ten Second Review
Citroen's take on the supermini genre is practical, roomy and smarter in facelifted guise. Most importantly, it gets a pair of efficient Pure Tech three cylinder petrol engines to enhance its eco credibility - and a frugal e-HDi diesel if you'd rather fuel from the black pump. As before, there's the clever Zenith windscreen with glasswork that sweeps up beyond the heads of front seat passengers. It's all enough to keep this C3 current in the face of more recently introduced rivals.
The C3 supermini is one of Citroen's most important models, with almost 3 million examples sold since its original launch in 2002. Most of those however, were of the original and rather unusually styled egg-shaped model. That car's successor, the second generation version launched in 2009, had less about it that stood out, despite the inclusion of a clever 'Zenith' roof that considerably increased the upward field of vision for front seat passengers. Citroen needed to do more.
So they have. We're looking here at the facelifted version that, as well as the expected smarter front end, features wide-ranging changes beneath the bonnet that bring this car right up to date in terms of the latest supermini technology. Citroen's membership of the giant PSA Group means it's able to borrow the clever 1.0 and 1.2-litre three cylinder petrol engines that are such a strong incentive for Peugeot 208 ownership. Plus there's the introduction of the latest e-HDi diesel technology. Enough to make this French challenger worth more than a second look? Let's find out.
It used to be the case that you were much better off choosing a diesel engine in a Citroen C3. The introduction of the 1.0 and 1.2-litre 68 and 82PS Pure Tech petrol units though, now make the choice more difficult. Free-revving and fun to use, these develop 15% more power than their predecessors and will suit lower mileage customers better - but diesel still remains a strong option. The entry-level HDi 70 gets the option of frugal 'e-HDi' technology that's standard on the top e-HDi 115 model. In between sits an HDi 90 model.
And on the road? Well, it's in urban areas where the C3 gives the best account itself from a driving perspective. At low speeds, the suspension masks the assorted humps, cracks and potholes with finesse and the engines remain unobtrusive. Citroen's efforts to reduce noise levels in the car with more insulating material in the engine bay and improved joints around the doors pay off. The light steering and 10.2m turning circle will help owners out of many a tight spot, as will a good field of vision around the car, especially if you opt for the clever Zenith roof.
Design and Build
As before with the C3, there's an aesthetic combination of soft curves and dynamic taut lines. A restyled front end creates a fresh 'face' with updated chevrons and bumper-mounted LED daytime running lights. There are smarter tail light clusters too, combined with neat reflectors set underneath the rear bumper.
Inside, the cabin's a little smarter too with its chrome detailing and thermo-coated soft-touch dashboard. This can be underlined with avant garde dashboard strips in matt black, a warm brown or Moondust grey, which coordinate with the updated upholstery. The instrument cluster is also backlit in white for a contemporary look and easier-to-read driving information. The centre console controls are neat and easy to operate, the steering wheel is well shaped and there are quite a few small storage areas dotted around. Plus although the door-pockets are a little truncated, the glovebox is surprisingly large.
Out back, this car boasts one of the biggest boots of any supermini at 300-litres and on the rear bench there's room for four adults. Six-footers will struggle for headroom here but legroom behind the front seats is good for a supermini.
Market and Model
The C3 range isn't unduly complicated. The five-door-only range is centred upon the two Pure Tech three cylinder petrol units - 1.0 and 1.2-litres in size. And four diesel engines - HDi 70, e-HDi 70, HDi 90 and e-HDi 115. There's the option of the clever EGS semi-automatic transmission. And pricing is little different from before, sitting in the £11,000 to £17,000 bracket common to superminis of this kind.
Most models get this car's signature feature - the huge elongated Zenith windscreen that extends in an unbroken sweep right back over the driver's head and allows loads of light in to the car. It gives the C3 cabin an unusual feel but on sunny days, most owners will have to pull the shade forward as the tinted top section lets too much light through.
Other neat features include an integrated air freshener that gives all occupants a real sense of well-being. And for added user convenience, the car is also available with a reversing camera and parking sensors, together with equipment such as an RD4 MP3 audio system, a 'Connecting Box' (which includes a Bluetooth(r) hands-free kit, jack plug and USB socket), eMyWay navigation and a powerful HiFi System.
Cost of Ownership
The work Citroen designers undertook to keep the C3's weight in check is felt in its low running costs, further aided by the impressively light Pure Tech petrol units. In fact, some 52 patents were filed in the development of these engines to help bring down weight and bulk, optimise combustion and reduce friction with the aim of improving fuel and CO2 efficiency by around 25%.
As a result, the VTi 68 and VTi 82 PureTech engines achieve very low fuel consumption, between 62.8 and 65.7mpg, and CO2 emissions between 99 and 104g/km. A VTi 120 engine is also available with a manual or automatic gearbox.
Then there are the four diesel engines - HDi 70, e-HDi 70, HDi 90 and e-HDi 115. Three of these have the brand's micro-hybrid e-HDi technology and so boast the most efficient Stop & Start system on the market with some of the best fuel efficiency and lowest CO2 emissions in the class - from as low as 87 g/km.
If all you want to do is to get from A to B as comfortably and as cheaply as possible, Citroen's C3 remains appealing, especially in this improved smarter form. It's a supermini that offers sensible, no-nonsense family transport, but with a little design flair too.
It's no longer one of the larger cars in its sector but practically-minded buyers will appreciate an economical engine range boosted by the introduction of Pure Tech three cylinder petrol and e-HDi diesel technology. Plus, once you've finished with your Citroen dealer, you're likely to end up with highly competitive pricing. True, there are more recently introduced choices you could make in this sector. But this C3 should still be somewhere on your supermini shortlist.