Comfortable, stylish, versatile. Offers something different to competitors
Sedate in most guises, touchscreen controls can be irritating, options quickly add up
What is it?
Since the launch of the third-generation model in 2016, the C3 has gone on to become something of a success story for Citroen. The brand’s best-seller, in fact, with more than 780,000 sales globally. This mid-life update, unsurprisingly, focuses on refinement rather than revolution, with style changes, an updated interior, and the latest petrol and diesel engines.
“No other cars in the segment offer so much scope for personalisation,” says Citroen, with a whopping 97 different exterior colour combinations, up from 36 on the previous car. That includes seven exterior body colours, four bi-tone roof colours (and matching mirrors and rear quarter panel trim), plus four colour packs that determine such essentials as the fog light surround and Airbump panel insert colour. Good luck speccing one, especially as there are currently several special editions knocking about that aggregate various colourways into new and vaguely exciting rainbows, direct from the manufacturer.
That said, the ‘Saint James’ version we tried recently looked pretty good, despite apparently being ‘inspired by the Saint James universe’ which we like to think of as a little-known corner of Marvel, and not a French fashion brand.
Has much changed on the C3?
There’s been a decent amount of surgery, with the C3 now resembling the Citroen overarching design ethos in no uncertain terms - just photocopied at 75 per cent. The front end has been reprofiled, with new LED headlights and a revised look giving it that family resemblance to the new C4 and e-C4. Add to that new 17-inch alloy wheels (on some better-specced trims) and a refreshed Airbump design – not to everyone’s taste, but they’re certainly helpful in protecting against frustrating car park dings and scrapes – and you’ve got a characterful-looking little car.
And the interior?
Inside, the C3 is all about comfort: take the optional (part of a £400 pack) squidgy armchair-like front seats, standard on all top-spec and the more expensive models. Part of Citroen’s 'Advanced Comfort' programme, the seats offer plush perches for your bottom, and actually work. In fact, the whole cabin has been designed to insulate passengers from the vagaries of the outside world, with yet more spec choice available with three different dashboard finishes and matching seat detailing. Yep, this one isn't about sportiness. Though it’s also not for people who suffer from choice paralysis.
Go on, give me the low-down…
There are six trim levels currently available on the Citroen website: cheapest is You! (Yes, it has an exclamation mark, along with the 83bhp and manual ‘box) at £12,995 OTR, then there’s the Shine at £16,995 (110bhp) and the Sense at £16,630 (but with the less powerful engine). Beyond that you’ve got the C-Series Edition at £17,330, the Elle at £18,480 and the Shine Plus everything-with-cheese at a wince-inducing £19,280.
Oh, and the aforementioned specials. Standard equipment across most trims is generous enough to include a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (which works well), automatic air con and cruise control, but you have to dig into the spec sheets to work out which combination works best for you.
Sounds complicated. That bucks the trend right?
It does: most manufacturers are doing everything they can to simplify these days, in part because the much talked about semiconductor shortage is forcing them to limit choice. But not at Citroen, apparently.
Powertrain options include two PureTech petrol engines, available with 83 or 110bhp, or a BlueHDi diesel with 100bhp. In terms of gearboxes, the lesser powered petrol and diesel come with five-speed manual gearboxes, while the 110bhp petrol is available with a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed auto.
Our choice would be the 110bhp engine and six-speed manual for cost/ease of use, unless you’ve got a particular hatred for clutch pedals. The 83bhp manual is fine, but glacial. For company car drivers, all engines are exempt from the 4 per cent surcharge in Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) rates, just possibly not the questionable glances from your colleagues depending on your chosen colour combinations.
What are its rivals?
Depends on your budget, as there’s very little else you can get for C3 money these days. Heck, even the cheapest Dacia Sandero barely undercuts it at £12.5k. Look at mainstream superminis like the Peugeot 208, Renault Clio or Hyundai i20 if cuddly-but-pedestrian isn’t your bag.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
We were fans of the C3 pre-facelift, so it’s a relief that this one has come out with minor tweaks rather than a major overhaul, because as a small hatchback the C3 makes a strong case for itself. Ordinary is boring, and the C3 is anything but that. With its 97 different exterior colour combinations, you’re unlikely to ever see one the same, or lose yours in a crowded car park.
As an everyday car you’ll appreciate its comfort more than the performance and handling of a competitor, we'd wager. It offers something a little different to the majority of its rivals out there, and that’s no bad thing. It’s a likeable car to live with, and has a good dose of character too, although it’s never going to win you over for a backroad blast.