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New Citroen C3 aims for comfort and happiness. Good

Extra connectivity, built in dashcam and Cactus 'spirit' for French supermini

Citroen has promised to bring a little Cactus into all its cars. Here’s the first evidence, the new C3. It emerged into the public gaze at the Paris Motor Show, just across the aisle from another new supermini, the Nissan Micra.

The “spirit of Cactus”, as Citroen calls it, isn’t just about the floating roof design, the airbump side protection, the big square seats or the split-level headlamps, either. It’s about an emphasis on comfort, and straightforward good cheer.

It comes as a five-door only, but there’s plenty of decoration choice beyond that. The configurator will have a palette of colours and patterns for several parts – roof, mirrors, and the bezels on the airbump and foglamp. In the interior too: the trims for dash, doors and steering wheel are all selectable.

The flat seats and wide dash obey the same logic as the Cactus’s do. Design inspiration comes from luggage and travel accessories. It’s not about a driver’s cockpit or body-clenching seats. It’s built for comfort, not speed.

After some stumbling early steps with the connected apps on the Cactus, Citroen says it is serious about connectivity this time.

One world-first is a built-in HD dashcam that can be used for real-time social sharing of forward-facing stills via an app. Plus it activates video recording automatically if there’s a crash.

The C3’s platform is a development of what’s under the Peugeot 208, so nothing unexpected there. The Group’s sweet three-cylinder petrol engine features strongly, at 68, 82 and 110bhp. Diesels are 75 and 100bhp. No rocket then, but given the starting weight is below 1000kg, it isn’t too lardy.

The 110bhp three-cylinder petrol engine has a handy performance-to-CO2 balance, at 9.3sec 0-62 and 103g/km.

As with the Cactus, most interior switches have given way to functions on the touchscreen. But this one is slicker-acting and has better graphics than that clunky effort. The interior materials are better too.

I asked Xavier Peugeot, Citroen’s product planning chief, why the Cactus (to be facelifted next year) began life with such a poor interface and cheap cabin materials. He surprised me by openly acknowledging the problem, and said in some ways the mainstream Citroens had been deliberately held back to make the Citroen DSs look better. Now that the two nameplates are separated, he said Citroen could stand up for itself.

Citroen boss Linda Jackson said the well-being of buying a Citroen isn’t just about the car itself. It’s about the process of buying and running it too. The company recently launched the Citroen Advisor website, where customers post reviews of their Citroen dealers and, soon, cars. The car’s software allows pay-per-mile insurance, and gives drivers feedback on their driving style to save fuel and reduce maintenance.

We’ll have a drive of the C3 next week.

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