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The Top Gear car review:Citroen C3 Aircross
For:Roomy, versatile and comfy. We like the striking, unaggressive style. Well priced
Against:Not that great to drive, but few of its rivals are. Could have more standard-fit safety kit
What is it?
Citroen has so far done without a rival to French small crossovers including the Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008, or Italy’s Fiat 500X, all of which have been selling big numbers for a while. Instead Citroen has stuck with its Picasso line of people carriers. Until now; it’s replaced the C3 Picasso with the C3 Aircross, and joined the crossover party – just in time to meet new rivals including the Seat Arona, Kia Stonic and Hyundai Kona.
Picasso-type people-carriers are the sheep of the car world: multi-purpose (chops and wool and glove-leather) but low on star quality. Instead these days everyone wants crossovers for their reputedly adventuresome lone-wolf spirit. But to keep the former Picasso drivers on board, the Aircross still has a lot of space and versatility in its cabin. A sheep in wolf’s clothing.
Wolf? Well, kinda. Not the teeth-gnashing sort. It’s all done in Citroen’s deliberately unaggressive design idiom of softly rounded geometric shapes on the outside and within. Delving into the options list finds you palettes of cheery contrasting colours and textures.
The C3 Aircross is based on the C3 supermini, though it has the longer wheelbase of the C4 Cactus. It’s front-wheel drive only, but can be had with a ‘grip control’ pack of all-season tyres and driver-assists to get a better hold on slippery surfaces.
The Aircross is built at an Opel factory in Spain, because some years ago Citroen-Peugeot and Opel-Vauxhall agreed to co-operate on small crossovers. Thus the Vauxhall Crossland X is the same as the Aircross underneath, with the same engines. But the styling, inside and out, is very different, and there’s almost none of the shared switchgear that usually gives the game away with joint ventures.
And as we’ll see, apart from the same engines, the two have been made to drive very differently – the Citroen like a Citroen, the Vauxhall like a Vauxhall. Since that joint-venture, PSA has taken over Opel-Vauxhall entirely, so we’ll see a whole lot more of this arrangement in future.