Compact, practical and affordable cars have become the cornerstone of Citroën’s business in the UK.

Its previous homage to a Parisian brand of style and glamour has been assimilated by DS, while saloons and SUVs are left to PSA Group sister firm Peugeot.

MPVs now dominate the more expensive end of Citroën’s line-up, with the C3 Picasso and C4 Cactus somewhere in the middle and the C1 propping things up at the bottom. And if the hole that leaves for the C3 is a fairly unmistakable one, then so too is the pressure on it to generate a large share of sales volume.

In the past, Citroën has succeeded by making its supermini conspicuously spacious and, because the DS 3 has become the desirable three-door variant by substitution, doggedly innocuous to look at.

The approach has resulted in 3.6 million European sales since 2002. That’s behind the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo, of course, but healthy enough nonetheless.

Which makes the styling direction of this new model all the more interesting. Its predecessor looked rather like the forgettable car it replaced; the follow-up, while closely related underneath, is outwardly quite different.

Not only does it enlarge the C1’s cutesy front end but it also adopts the C4 Cactus’s Airbump flanks. Throw in two-tone paint and it’s readily apparent that Citroën is actively seeking a more style-conscious sort of customer.

No matter what you make of the C3’s new appearance, this approach is to be encouraged. Fun, affordable small models are at the cornerstone of our enthusiasm for the car as a means of transport.

Citroën has apparently followed the same progressive line of thinking underneath, eschewing the Fiesta/Mini brand of knife-edge handling for something softer and kinder from a revised chassis.

There’s considerably more technology aboard, too, and the inclusion of a social media-friendly dash cam probably reveals most of what you need to know about the C3’s market placement.

So, is it daringly different or a tarted-up reheat?

Top 5 Superminis

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2017 Volkswagen e-Up review
    First Drive
    24 January 2017
    The VW e-Up is a compelling, if pricey, electric city car but it still requires owners to make some compromises
  • Range Rover SVAutobiography Dynamic
    First Drive
    24 January 2017
    Full-size Range Rover visits SVO to receive JLR's full-fat 542bhp V8 plus chassis revisions, and the result is nothing short of extraordinary
  • 2017 Ford Kuga 2.0 TDCi 180 ST-Line Powershift AWD
    First Drive
    23 January 2017
    A UK drive of the new Ford Kuga proves the latest updates and a new ST-Line trim broaden its appeal, but don't quash the challenge of newer rivals
  • 2017 Tesla Model S P100D
    First Drive
    23 January 2017
    The additional driving range is welcome, but the range-topping Model S's increase in performance is overkill, even if it is very entertaining
  • 2017 Mitsubishi ASX 2.2 DOHC Auto AWD 5 review
    First Drive
    23 January 2017
    Mitsubishi's small SUV is no-nonsense and functional, but still trails its rivals in most areas and this range-topping version looks expensive