Vicky Parrott
17 November 2009

What is it?

This is the new Citroen C3, complete with 94bhp 1.4-litre naturally aspirated engine. Our pre-production test car came in VTR+ spec, which includes 15-inch alloys, air-con, auxiliary input, wheel-mounted audio controls and a panoramic windscreen that stretches back to above the driver’s head and is standard on the entire model range.

What’s it like?

Spacious, bright and undeniably a huge step on from the outgoing C3. The friendly looks are still there, as are the high roofline and practical interior, but the higher-quality cabin materials and sharper design add a lot more appeal.

Driving the Citroen C3 on UK roads is a pleasant, if not particularly involving experience. Ride quality is among the best in class; even very rutted surfaces are absorbed by the soft springs and body movement remains restrained over even severe undulations in the road surface.

The forgiving suspension does result in some nose diving under heavy braking and body roll under sharp turns but otherwise the ride quality is one of the C3’s most appealing elements.

Unfortunately, the cabin itself is not as comfortable as it should be for the driver. An almost complete lack of lateral support in the seats combines with a seating position that never quite seems to sit comfortably with the steering wheel, despite rake-reach adjustment. Offset pedals, squeezed into a small footwell next to a footrest that is too close to the clutch pedal, also make it difficult to get comfortable.

Other niggling faults include the sliding ceiling. It is very clever in that it is simple to move backwards and forwards, but having such expansive areas of glass and sun visors that are not hinged and therefore can’t be used to shade the side window is frustrating.

The handling is perfectly adequate for the C3’s purposes, but is short on flair and the steering is particularly lacklustre. It is too springy, has a too-strong self-centering action and the speed-sensitive action is inconsistent; it is fine at low speeds, but too sensitive and lacking resistance immediately off centre at motorway speeds.

The 1.4-litre 94bhp engine is short on low-down acceleration, which is typical of a small naturally aspirated engine, but it is perfectly usable for everyday driving. The standard five-speed ‘box needs to be worked to keep it in the higher rev range, where there is a lot more response than you get anywhere south of 2500rpm, but ultimately it’s a frugal engine that suits the needs of low-mileage buyers.

Should I buy one?

The Citroen C3 is a well packaged supermini that majors on space, comfort and value. It is not the best car in the class to drive, but ultimately it is one of the most practical compact family hatches and it has plenty of appealing elements. If that is what you are looking for, then the C3 should be on your shortlist.

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Join the debate

Comments
16

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

5 years 1 week ago

"The 1.4-litre 94bhp engine is short on low-down acceleration, which is typical of a small naturally aspirated engine, but it is perfectly usable for everyday driving."

Personally, I'd much rather have the normally aspirated engine.

It is good to see Citroen buck the trend against the firmly sprung and "sporting" suspension settings. I can see this car winning a lot of friends because of it.

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

5 years 1 week ago

13k+ for a small Citroen?!

Personally, I cannot wait for the scrappage scheme to end and a return to sensible pricing.

Anyone else p'd off with adverts showing the price of a new car minus scrappage without really identifying this being the case unless you get a magnifying glass out?

Where has all Japanese design went to?

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

5 years 1 week ago

Hope they manage to sort out the driving position for the right-hand drive Ghia, I mean, DS3 version...

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

5 years 1 week ago

Zeddy wrote:
Personally, I cannot wait for the scrappage scheme to end and a return to sensible pricing.

Nohting to do with scrappage. Go look at the sterling:euro exchange rate. The pound is worth far less than it was, and all the pre-recession surplus stock in the supply chain has been sold. The era of cheap cars in the UK is over.

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

5 years 1 week ago

Maybe, but watch the sales dry up and the manufacturers and dealers panic.

Funny how you can get a lot more than £1k scrappage from the manufacturers. Capacity for big discount?

Where has all Japanese design went to?

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

5 years 1 week ago

Actually, a lot of it is down to scrappage I reckon. Nissan put the price of the Pixo up from £5995 to £6995 because scrappage would've made it too cheap. And yes, I do get annoyed when they display scrappage prices and don't make it obvious. £13,000 for the C3 is expensive, but then £15,000 for a Fiesta is ridiculous too. The Polo seems to be the most sensibly priced at the moment. As for the 'driving pleasure' being a downside - I'm fed up of Autocar making this out to be such a downside to a car. Citroens have never tried to be sporty to drive, with the exception of the Saxo (but that was a Peugeot anyway), and their motto has always been about comfort. The i20, Polo and 207 aren't as sporty as the Fiesta, but magazines don't highlight that as much as they have done with both the C3 Picasso and this new C3. Not everyone wants to speed around corners - buy something purposely sporty if you want that, like the Fiesta or MINI. The C3 will win fans because of its comfort, its frankly amazing quality, gorgeous design details and brilliant glass roof. I'd much rather have one than a Fiesta, personally.

"The creative adult is the child who survived."

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

5 years 1 week ago

Have you seen just what £13.000 can buy on the second hand market. You must need your head testing to pay anything like that sum for a small car. Jesus H I must be getting old, in my day you could buy a new fiesta for less than £5500 and they were still bloody expensive then!

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

5 years 1 week ago

qpgkx the unpronounceable wrote:
Have you seen just what £13.000 can buy on the second hand market. You must need your head testing to pay anything like that sum for a small car. Jesus H I must be getting old, in my day you could buy a new fiestJa for less than £5500 and they were still bloody expensive then!
it's nothing we all know that we can get a much better car 2nd hand and at a lower cost. But in this instance I agree with u 13k for this type car to much mabye 9k. However most people buy this sort of car on 0%apr and split payments over 4 yrs somthing which is not always doable with 2nd cars

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

5 years 1 week ago

Zeddy wrote:
Maybe, but watch the sales dry up and the manufacturers and dealers panic.

Now the surplus stocks are cleared it's worse for manufacturers to sell at a loss than to cut down production drastically. And that's what's happening.

Some manufacturers will go bust. In fact some are doing - haven't you noticed? The survivors will be those who take out volume aggressively - meaning plant closures and layoffs - reducing the scale of their operations to match the lower level of demand that exists at the prices needed to cover the costs of manufacture and make a sensible return on the capital that remains employed in the new smaller business.

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

5 years 1 week ago

Mini1 wrote:
I'm fed up of Autocar making this out to be such a downside to a car. Citroens have never tried to be sporty to drive, with the exception of the Saxo (but that was a Peugeot anyway), and their motto has always been about comfort. The i20, Polo and 207 aren't as sporty as the Fiesta, but magazines don't highlight that as much as they have done with both the C3 Picasso and this new C3. Not everyone wants to speed around corners - buy something purposely sporty if you want that, like the Fiesta or MINI

I agree with you on this if you want to go fast get something overtly sporty ! Doh ! If the testers are driving a run of the mill albeit left of field refreshingly alternative superminii then its ability to go fast around corners is less important and should not factor so heavily in the write up.

What might be a good idea is to get the younger (er more enthusiastic driving ? ) roadtesters drive and reveiw the sexy sporty stuff and for more mature testers to drive the more pedestrian stuff. Though I suspect seniority among journalists may play a role to produce exactly the opposite .

It has been pointed out to me that performance cars are Autocars remit and yes that is true to a point but they still test a good %age of humdrum stuff so should keep the tests in context with the probabvle end user.

And yes it is possible to be a car enthusiast without driving flat out every time you get in a car.

Oops see how many young feathers I will ruffle now !

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Our Verdict

The Citroën C3 is a competent and interesting supermini, but it doesn’t hit any high notes

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