Citroën C3 – Launch report

Borrowing a few styling cues from the larger C4 Cactus,  Citroën has come up with a brand new C3 supermini. Tim Barnes-Clay was among the first to get behind the wheel.

Citroën is a French brand, so why did we go to Barcelona to test the 2017 C3 out? Well, that’s where the official media drive was taking place, so it seemed impolite to demand a drive closer to home – or to insist on a trip to la République Française.

Rather than a sun-drenched couple of days away, we were met by a two-day downpour, so the 2017 Citroën C3 was tested in conditions that we Brits are au fait with. Anyway, always seeing a silver lining, we made the most of finding out how much traction we could get on the saturated Spanish roads.

The outcome? Well, we’re still here and the 2017 Citroën C3 1.2 Puretech 82 Flair we drove is still unblemished and intact over on the continent. Yes, it has oodles of adhesion to the asphalt – wet, or not. It’s a shame there are no grab-handles above the doors, though, as the new C3’s seats, cossetting though they are, don’t have enough side support to keep you from tipping into your passenger’s lap on corners.

We say ‘new’, but the 2017 C3 is actually assembled on the platform of the departing C3. That’s no issue, however, as everything else is as fresh as a sweet Sunday morning. The Citroën C3 has also been strengthened; therefore, it’s safer, should a collision happen.

Even, though the state-of-the-art Citroën C3 has more grip that ever, the ride is actually more indulgent than before. The French automaker isn’t trying to make the new C3 a sports car, it’s concentrating on quirkiness, charm and comfort.

Citroën makes a big noise about technology in its advertising, so it’s no bombshell that tech plays a large part with the 2017 C3, too. The ‘connected cam’ is a nifty piece of kit, which will possibly have an impact on the insurance sector. The camera, mounted under the rear-view mirror, can take still images and video. It will also record 30 seconds of video footage before, and after, any crash. Of course, accidents aside, there’s a fun factor to this. You can instantly upload road trip images onto social media via an app on your smartphone. The other key piece of technology is the infotainment unit. It’s new, and uncomplicated to operate, but the sat-nav, included as an option in our test car, did suffer from lag. To be honest, it’s just as easy to mirror your sat-nav from your smartphone onto the car’s touch-screen using the C3’s Apple CarPlay or Android Auto features.

The Citroën C3 1.2 Puretech 82 Flair, as tested here, is a fantastic car for urban driving environments. It has a real nippiness about it in town, but it does take its time to get a move on away from metropolitan settings. That said; as long as you don’t mind giving the long legged, five-speed manual transmission a workout, things start rolling quite well up to 70mph. But the car, in 82PS guise, does get wheezy if pushed beyond that.

The 2017 Citroën C3’s biggest aptitude, is, undoubtedly, refinement. Not many superminis come close. Yes, the Fiesta offers a more dynamic drive, but it’s less interesting to look at, and the Skoda Fabia is positively po-faced in comparison.

Parking the new Citroën C3 is a cinch – due to its light steering and size. At speed, the steering becomes a little dead, but it’s not a deal-breaker. The driving position is good and there’s a lot of legroom for the front seat passenger. Rear-seat adult passengers, or lanky teenagers, won’t be so fortunate, due to the sloping roofline and dearth of legroom. However; two young children will be okay seated in the back of the new C3. Additionally, the boot is a decent size – and substantial enough for a toddler’s buggy, or the weekly shop.

Stylistically, Citroën has gone down the ‘less is more’ route with the 2017 C3’s cabin. For instance, rather than the usual interior door pulls, you get leather straps; elementary, but easily visible instrumentation and, instead of soft-touch materials, the doors, dashboard and centre console blatantly show off clinically crafted plastics. They are recycled, though, so you feel vaguely ‘eco-friendly’ driving the new C3.

The Citroën C3 1.2 Puretech 82 Flair comes with an array of roof and body colours, while the Airbumps that first appeared on the Citroën Cactus, are a tick box option. So, the new C3 is far less conservative than many other supermini hatchbacks, and while the 82PS petrol model may not have the muscle to equal some competitors, at over 60mpg, it’ll be economical to run.

In conclusion, the 2017 Citroën C3, while not the most dynamic of drives, is an easy ‘plug and play’ car to operate; it looks funky and it’ll suit new drivers, young drivers – and small families.

You can order the new C3 now, and it will be in Citroën UK dealer showrooms from 3 January 2017.