So many cars are crammed with unnecessary gadgetry nowadays. I’m no reactionary wedded to the idea that anti-lock brakes or LED lights should be binned, and I don’t hanker for sealed-beam headlights, but do we really need electronic parking brakes or self-closing doors? Occasionally though, a car maker comes up with something so brilliant, you wonder why it’s not already everywhere. Ford’s heated windscreen was introduced at least two decades after heated rear windows became available, while the integrated dashcam, introduced by Citroën on its C3 in 2016, is yet to spread throughout the industry. In fact, only one other car is available with this brilliant piece of technology and that’s the C5 Aircross, so I’ve been learning just how good it is.
More to the point, I’ve been trying to learn, because while the design is neat and the functionality is good (as I eventually discovered), the instructions are, err, less than helpful. The Aircross’s handbook runs to 292 pages, a couple of which explain how the dashcam works, although much of this space is devoted to warnings so drivers don’t crash while trying to operate the driver aid. On one page the instruction comes to press a button on the underside of the dashcam to work it on the move, yet just before this is a panel explaining: “Without exception, any action which the driver takes concerning the camera must be with the vehicle stopped”. So, if you’re in the outside lane of the M40 at 70mph and you need to take a picture or grab a short piece of video, you must stop before you do it. Such muddled instructions were the least of my worries; the hardest bit was working out how to capture any film, then access it. I looked at the Citroën customer website where there’s a short film on how the dash cam works (tinyurl.com/t2ubvtq), but all it did was show me some captions explaining the features and benefits, but with little in the way of instructions or guidance on actually using the system.
In the event, I did what I usually do with new technology, and that’s press buttons to see what happened. And sure enough, I got the app on my phone to talk to the car and I downloaded some 20-second videos as a result, although Citroën claims it’s possible to grab up to two-minute tranches of film at a time. The quality of that footage is okay, although there’s no audio, just video. With a decent set of instructions in the handbook, I reckon I would use it a lot more.
Of course, it will automatically record footage in the event of an accident, and that’s exactly what happened at the UK launch of the Citroën C3 in Worcestershire in December 2016. An unfortunate journalist pal pulled up in a layby to swap with his co-driver, only for a Nissan pick-up to reverse into the front of his C3 test car. Had it not been for the dashcam footage, the driver of the other vehicle could have falsely claimed that my colleague had actually hit him, and in those circumstances it would be hard to argue, but the footage was crystal-clear proof of the true events.
Date arrived 10th July 2019
Fuel economy 48.0-56.3mpg (WLTP combined) 43.7mpg (on test)
The high-beam assist is better than most. It’s responsive to other cars, but not easily fooled by street lighting.
The automatic wipers wipe when they shouldn’t, and don’t wipe when they should.