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2017 Citroen C3 review: Funky, frugal and flawed

3.5

The Good

  • Unique aesthetic
  • Quirky interior
  • Comfortable

The Bad

  • Lacks refinement
  • Noisy engine

The 2017 Citroen C3 is as quirky as superminis come, but is it worth choosing a car with Airbumps over the likes of a Nissan Micra, Ford Fiesta, VW Polo and Kia Rio? We borrowed a BlueHDi 100 diesel for a week to find out.

If 2017 is shaping up to be anything, it is the year of the supermini. And, of course, that video of the news presenter whose kids crashed a live BBC interview.

Ever-increasing motoring costs, road tax changes, ever-congested roads and the launch of various new versions of established offerings such as the Ford Fiesta and Nissan Micra all make a compelling case for keeping your car small.

The Citroen C3 is a supermini newbie, having only been on the scene since 2002, but rarely is age indicative of quality and it has sold in the millions. In any case, more recent Citroens know a thing or two about charm and comfort.

So the question, then, is whether the same can be said of the new Citroen C3 and can it actually compete in a market home to some of the UK's best-selling cars?

2017 Citroen C3: So what's the lowdown?

You are looking at the third-generation Citroen C3, which first arrived in 2002, was updated in 2009 and then again in 2016. It has five doors, whereas the sportier DS3 offers a three-door option, and is based on the same 15-year-old PF 1 chassis and platform as its predecessor.

But while some the mechanicals are the same, there has been enough adjustment to make it noticeably different to look at and have a slightly different personality. The suspension, for instance, has been tweaked to improve comfort while the styling now sees more in common with the C4 Cactus.

That includes the Airbumps on the side, which look ridiculous but add character and may actually save you an expensive repair caused by bad drivers.

There are three trim levels ─ Touch, Feel and Flair ─ and two engines available in a number of power outputs, although the trim has a large bearing on potential engine options. Depending on spec, you get either a five or six-speed manual. An EAT6 auto is yours if you go for the 1.2 PureTech.

It starts from £11,695 for a Citroen C3 Touch, which puts it on a par with some of the cheapest superminis, but you can spend from £17,485 if you go for the Flair spec and aforementioned PureTech 110 S&S EAT6 auto.

2017 Citroen C3: How well does it drive?

The immediate feeling is that the bite point of the accelerator is rather high, which takes a touch of getting used to. The 110hp BlueHDi 100 S&S diesel engine, meanwhile, is loud and vibrates the car, particularly in fifth when travelling at the motorway legal limit.

This particular diesel is also lacking in gusto (0-62mph takes 10.6 seconds) but it has enough to join a busy roundabout without fearing for your life. It can also keep up with traffic, but the pace is never impressive and flat-lines early on.

The overall feel of the car is somewhat unrefined, especially if you have driven the new Nissan Micra or 2017 Kia Rio, but the steering is bright enough to make it almost worth driving faster and its tyres provide the grip to do so. If you really want to, you can squeeze an ounce or two of fun out of it.

The new C3 manages to cope with bad roads fairly well, although the bigger pot-holes and undulations cause it to come unstuck and shake you around. Body roll is, however, manageable. The overall feel is one of comfort.

Less impressive is the throw between gears, which should be measured in light years. It is too soft to be involving and therefore saps away a potential drop of involvement.

The more powerful petrol engines do help reduce the engine noise and add personality, but the diesels are the way to go for frugality providing, of course, you keep them for a while because of the higher initial price and longer payback time.

There is nothing offensive about the way the Citroen C3 moves from A to B, but it lacks the excitement of the Fiesta and the refinement and zest of the latest Rio and Micra.

2017 Citroen C3: So what does it do well?

It looks quirky so it will stand out among the supermini crowd, especially if you go for a contrasting roof colour and the lovely grey interior we had on our test car. There is a whiff of the Fiat 500 about it, which is a big compliment.

Those who want to be different will find the choice of nine paintjobs and three contrasting roof colours provide ample customisation (36 combinations, in fact), while the Airbumps come in two flavours and there are a few alloy wheel choices to be had – including 17-inchers.

The build quality is solid, too, and the infotainment system ─ on the Feel and Flair models ─ has a fairly responsive touchscreen and a display large enough to see what you are pressing. It works well although the navigation element can be fiddly.

The seats are comfortable, even on long journeys, and the upright, slightly raised seating position and big window combination makes the new C3 easy to drive and park. For extra help, the Flair spec comes with rear parking sensors and a rear parking camera.

Speaking of extras, our car came in at a slightly ridiculous £19,245, thanks to a panoramic roof (£400), Citroen Connect Nav 7" touchscreen with Citroen Connect box (£500), keyless entry and start (£250) and 17-inch alloys (£200). That is quite a lot for a supermini.

2017 Citroen C3: How practical are we talking?

You could make a strong case for the level of practicality, with the 300-litre boot (expandable to 900 litres), 60:40 split-folding rear seats and various storage spaces providing competitive levels of space.

Yet it manages to sneak in under four metres in length, which is increasingly rare in supermini land and a bit of a pain for those who want a small car.

Up to four adults can ride in the C3, but only if the front passengers aren't related to giraffes as the rear legroom is hardly plentiful. Head room is better, mind you, and height adjustment on the driver's side is another bonus.

2017 Citroen C3: What about efficiency figures?

The BlueHDi 75 S&S is the must frugal option as it can manage a claimed 80.7mpg (combined) and CO2 as little as 92g/km on 15-inch alloys. The bigger output version of the 1.6-litre we had on loan comes in at 76.3mpg (combined) and 95g/km.

The quieter, more refined nature of the petrol engines is undone somewhat by the fact they are more expensive to run, although the PureTech 68's 60.1mpg combined fuel economy is still good, as is the 108g/km of CO2 spewed out the exhaust. Plus diesels may soon be hit hard by the Government.

The best petrol engine for fuel economy, on paper at least, is the PureTech110 S&S, which offers fuel economy and CO2 of 61.4mpg (combined) and 103g/km, respectively.

These are all very competitive figures whether you go for diesel or petrol, even when you factor in the fact they will be lower in the real-world.

2017 Citroen C3: So should I buy one, then?

Not if you want your supermini to give you an adrenaline rush or hate the idea of standing out because the 2017 C3 is poor at these two things. Meanwhile the price is higher than it once was, but then most cars have seen a pre-Brexit price hike and it still offers reasonable value for money.

It is also noticeably less refined than the latest generation of superminis, which is a reflection of the aging platform below that props everything up. However, it is still a safe car with a 60,000 / three-year warranty and a pleasing design ─ both inside and out.

The Citroen charm goes a long way in forgiving the bad stuff and some of you will already be sold on the fact it is a unique little runaround. The problem is that we cannot shake the fact the supermini bar has been raised and the new Fiesta is looming, neither of which help the C3's case.

Key Specs

  • 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 S&S diesel
  • 98bhp (73kW) at 3,750rpm
  • 187ft/lb (254Nm) at 1,750rpm
  • 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds
  • 95g/km of CO2
  • 76.3mpg (combined)
  • From £17,385 (£19,245 tested)

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