Dire weather coincided with the UK launch of the new Citroën C3. The Hampshire venue was drenched with heavy rain, as were the cars, and local roads were awash. It was not the most favoured arrival for a supermini that will have to go into battle for customers with the likes of Britain’s best selling car, the Ford Fiesta, and Volkswagen’s Polo – the newly-crowned European Car of the Year.
The C3 certainly faces tough competition, but it has something fresh to offer – distinctive styling, robust build quality and the biggest boot in its class. Not even a winter rain storm could dampen the chirpy personality of Citroën’s latest baby. This C3 is roomier and more characterful than its predecessor, with Gallic charm aplenty and a sunny disposition that will win it plenty of friends. It isn’t cheap though, especially when compared with the keenly-priced Polo. At over £15,000 this high-spec 1.6 HDi model looks expensive. But it is very well equipped, including its light-grabbing, up-and-over ‘zenith’ panoramic windscreen, which proves such a dominant and pleasing feature at the front of the car.
There’s something very appealing about the interior detailing, too. Neat instruments are set into a painted dash, and the meaty, flat-bottomed steering wheel has an upmarket, sporty look. Seat comfort is very good and the cabin design has flair, though there is a slightly cheap look to the door handle trim. It feels airy and uncramped from the inside, and legroom is excellent when you consider the diminutive dimensions.
There is a growly engine note, but it never becomes raucous. The ride is slightly firm, but not uncomfortably so, and you feel adequately insulated from surface dips and bumps. The handling is nimble and secure – it’s not quite in the Fiesta’s league, but it comes fairly close. The C3 feels agile and mannerly, but the fun factor is just a bit more diluted. It’s a great allrounder behind the wheel, though.
That huge windscreen means the rear view mirror is a small island in a sea of glass. The traditional place for an interior light, above the mirror, is absent, so instead there are two, one on either side, mounted above the front doors and there’s a strong roller-blind to pull forward when you want to revert to a more conventional windscreen size, too.
From launch, Citroën will be offering a service package with the C3 that will cover all routine maintenance work for three years for £199. An eco model with features including Stop and Start is coming in 2011, when there will also be two new diesel engines joining the range.
RIVALS: FORD FIESTA TITANIUM 1.6 TDCi, VAUXHALL CORSA SE 1.3 CDTi 16v, VOLKSWAGEN POLO SEL 1.6 TDI
- Engine: 1560cc, 4-cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 5-speed manual
- Max power: 89bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max torque: 159lb ft at 1,750rpm
- Max towing weight: 1,150kg
- Max speed: 112mph
- 0-62mph: 11.3secs
- Combined consumption: 65.7mpg
- CO2 emissions (taxband): 110g/km (B)
- Boot space: 300litres
- Insurance group: 14