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Driven: Citroen C3 Flair. Image by Citroen.

Driven: Citroen C3 Flair
Citroen funks up the C3 and comes up with an appealing supermini contender.

   



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Driven: Citroen C3 Flair

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: Extrovert styling, interior quality, value-for-money, composed manners

Not so good: Neither the most exciting thing to steer nor the comfiest car in class...

Key Facts

Model tested: Citroen C3 Flair S&S PureTech 110
Price: C3 range starts from 11,395; Flair 110 from 16,685, car as tested 18,015
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, five-speed manual
Body style: five-door supermini
CO2 emissions: 103/km (140 annually)
Combined economy: 61.4mpg
Top speed: 117mph
0-62mph: 9.3 seconds
Power: 110hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 205Nm at 1,500rpm

Our view:

Distinctive styling has been a hallmark of Citroen for years, but it's probably fair to say that the Citroen C3 has never been particularly striking - until now. This third-generation, Airbump-toting supermini looks fantastic. Some people might not think it's particularly pretty, but it's certainly much more interesting and appealing than anything else in this sector, save for the rejuvenated Nissan Micra or the recently revealed SEAT Ibiza.

While there are plenty of conventional body colours on offer, some others will certainly help you to stand out. If you were to say to someone you were driving around in a green car with black detailing and silver wheels, the whole ensemble teamed up with a brown and grey interior, then they'd probably imagine an abomination unto automotive taste. But the C3 in Almond Green (a no-cost option) looks 'tres chic', and that cabin decor really works well with what has to be one of Citroen's best modern interiors.

In Flair trim it comes wiith toys like voice control, cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel (which can be trimmed in tan leather, a feature repeated on the dash and seat edges, which Citroen calls Hype Colorado Ambience and for which it will relieve you of an additional 380), climate control, a panoramic sunroof (+400) and of course touchscreen infotainment with satnav (+500 for the mapping). It feels properly upmarket and classy in here, even if rear seat space is a bit tight.

So there's a funkiness to the C3 that bodes well, although it does almost invite the question: how much better or more captivating for the fashion-conscious can a DS 3 really be when compared to this sister model? An awkward one, perhaps, which Citroen will surely have an answer to, but for now let's focus on the excellence of the C3.

Our particular car was fitted with the endearing PureTech three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, here in its lowlier PSA Group specification of 110hp and 205Nm. The triple is mated to a five-speed gearbox that has a fine shift action and fairly well-spaced ratios, and the result is a car which feels decently quick for what it is. Any B-segment car with a claimed sub-ten second 0-62mph time is reasonably punchy, but the Citroen feels even quicker than the stats. Naturally, as a three-pot, it has a great soundtrack; it's a little more gravelly than smaller 1.0-litre three-cylinders, due to its increased displacement, and it also feels ever-so-slightly less keen to go spinning round the tacho to the point where peak power is delivered at a redline-defined 5,500rpm. But it is healthily brisk on part-throttle openings and torquey enough to surge forward from 50mph on the motorway without a downshift from fifth.

It's also good on fuel, in reality. Expect around 45mpg if you don't venture near dual-carriageways or motorways, although the Citroen will sit at around 55mpg on a constant 70mph cruise - not bad for something city-prioritised with a small petrol motor. Indeed, on a relatively tight new motor (it had done little more than 3,300 miles by the time we finished with it), we saw 48.6mpg overall at a 40mph average across 512 miles. Our only criticism regarding fuel use is that the small 45-litre fuel tank meant the gauge seemed to move quickly towards empty, no matter how carefully we drove the C3.

The main problem with the Citroen, though, is that it is neither ridiculously comfortable nor wildly thrilling to drive. Cars like the Volkswagen Polo, Hyundai i20 and Honda Jazz all ride better than the French machine, while fun-seeking drivers would be better off plumping for the Ford Fiesta, SEAT Ibiza or Peugeot 208. This is not to say the C3 is bad at either dynamic discipline, as its refinement is good enough to make either urban commuting or long motorway trips using the cruise control easy. The body stays reasonably flat during hard cornering and the steering is actually better than expected, too. It's just that it feels a bit of a jack of all trades and master of none - the chassis is rather inert, the brakes are so-so, the damping proficient but not remarkable. That's a pity.

But falling between the two main stools of sparkling chassis or super-plush ride shouldn't significantly harm its sales. The C3 is very competitively priced, given the range starts at less than 12 grand, and even a high-spec model with optional toys fitted is well shy of the 20,000 barrier that is the point where superminis start to feel ludicrously expensive. It's going to draw enough punters into Citroen dealerships on the strength of its looks alone, and the interior's certainly not going to put anyone off, unless they're looking for acres of rear legroom.

So we like the C3, a lot in fact, but we can't help feeling that if DS is going to be the upmarket, sporty brand - there's a DS 3 Performance but, presumably, no C3 Furio/VTS in the pipeline - then Citroen has missed a trick by not making the C3 the waftiest, most supple-riding thing in class. Perhaps the Advanced Comfort programme, from which the C3 benefits, needs tweaking a few more stages towards 'pillowy dampers'. When Citroen gets there, cars like this excellent and thoroughly likeable C3 will become genuine challengers for class honours.

Alternatives:

Ford Fiesta: There's an all-new model, but the Ford's chassis prowess remains among the best in class. Infotainment, looks and cabin finishing are all a step up from its predecessor, too.

Nissan Micra: Absolutely astonishing turnaround for the MkV, which looks incredible, has a snazzy cabin and drives a little more sharply than the C3 - but will the Micra badge put people off?

Volkswagen Polo: Never exciting to drive and not that alluring to look at outside or in, but the actual quality of the cabin is peerless in the B-segment and the Polo feels extremely mature on the road.


Matt Robinson - 4 Feb 2017



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2017 Citroen C3 drive. Image by Citroen.2017 Citroen C3 drive. Image by Citroen.   







 

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