Roomy and versatile. Well priced and well specified. Good engines
Not as comfortable as it ought to be
What is it?
Most small ‘B’ SUVs are born from superminis – the Ford Puma is essentially an embiggened Fiesta, the Seat Arona is a scaled-up Ibiza, the Renault Captur is an enlarged Clio, and so on. But though it too is based on a supermini, the Citroen C3 Aircross has altogether more practical origins.
Back in 2017 the Aircross was conceived as a replacement for the C3 Picasso – a kind of small MPV that owes its extinction to the astonishing popularity of small SUVs and crossovers. And because Citroen didn’t want to totally alienate its existing MPV-loving customers, the C3 Aircross is uncommonly versatile for a car of this type. Step inside and its people-mover origins are immediately apparent.
The company says the crossover, its third best-selling car in the UK behind the C3 hatchback and bigger C5 Aircross, combines “the commanding presence and seating position of an SUV…with the modularity of a more versatile MPV”. Read on to see if its claims ring true.
SO WHAT’S NEW?
The C3 Aircross has just got its first major update after four years on sale. And for once spotting new from old is easy because for 2021 Citroen totally restyled the mini-SUV’s front-end. The old car’s friendly face has made way for a more assertive design incorporating standard-fit LED headlights, toothy grilles and an aluminium-look skid plate.
You might love the way it looks, but we’re not convinced. The old Aircross was hardly pretty, but at least its soft-edged front-end matched its character. The new car’s face is entirely too aggressive for a car that just isn’t. Not even slightly. At least C3 looks the same as before from the A-pillar backwards.
Elsewhere there’s a redesigned centre console with more storage, new seats with 15mm of extra padding and a faster-reacting, more user-friendly nine-inch touchscreen. Pretty much everything else is carried over from the old car, including the tried-and-tested range of engines.
TELL US ABOUT THE ENGINES.
The big seller is the 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It has 110bhp, hits 62mph from a standstill in a shade over ten seconds and manages up to 51.5mpg. Go for the six-speed automatic and you get slightly more power and speed – 130bhp, 0-61mph in 9.2 seconds – from the exact same engine, but only up to 47mpg.
There’s a diesel too, but almost nobody buys it. For reference, it’s a 110bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder that claims up to 67.2mpg and 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds.
There is no all-wheel drive option – as is often the way with tiny crossovers – but you can option something called ‘Grip Control’ that gives you a few different drive modes (for different surfaces) and hill descent control. No engine is electrified in any way, nor is there a plug-in hybrid or all-electric option. At least not for now.
IS IT GOOD VALUE?
Yes – the updated Aircross costs basically the same as the old one, which is very competitive. Prices start from £17,320, which is less than any direct competitor, and all cars get LED headlights, rear parking sensors, CarPlay, lane departure warning, traffic sign & speed limit recognition and cruise control as standard.
As of July 2021, you can get the cheapest ‘C-Series’ model for £265/month on PCP with no deposit to pay. But a whopping three quarters of C3 Aircross buyers actually go for the top-spec ‘Shine Plus’ model, which costs a very reasonable £21,500 – less than an entry-level Ford Puma.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
As a small family car for urban and suburban use, the Aircross makes a decent case for itself. It's got loads of space in a short overall footprint, and great outward visibility for kids. Rear seat and boot space are well above class norms, and it's versatile too. It also compares favourably when it comes to specs and prices. The looks are a matter of personal taste – personally, we think the aggressively styled facelift is a step backwards – but the styling at least gets away from the small crossover norms.
That said, it’s not brilliant to drive, though admittedly few small crossovers are. You can’t kick the Aircross for not being much fun, because that’s hardly the point, but you can kick it for not being very comfortable. Sure the new seats are soft and lovely, but the Aircross simply doesn’t ride properly, and that’s a problem.