The same, but different

Citroën has been busy matching engines and transmissions with its C2 and C3 ranges lately, to produce a 70bhp diesel C2 Furio with Sensodrive paddle-shift transmission, and a Pluriel with the same engine and a manual gearbox. The result is two cars from the same platform with quite different characters.

The Furio comes with war paint and sports seats, though with just 70bhp this car is not going to buckle blacktop, even with 111lb ft of torque. But its low group 3 insurance should make it a realistic prospect for younger drivers.

Sink the ‘auto’ button just aft of the gearlever, and the Furio switches gears on its own. If you’re in no hurry, it gets along adequately. Use more power, and the lottery timing of gearchanges produces head-nodding pauses in power delivery, the Furio feeling like it has driven into a vat of chewing gum. Like most sequential transmissions, this is no substitute for a full auto and occasionally it fails to deliver a clean getaway from rest.

Worse still, the need for sudden acceleration often prompts a pause, caused by the transmission’s ponderings. In city traffic this soon gets frustrating – before long, you’ll find that ‘Furio’ more accurately describes your state of mind rather than the C2’s performance. And another thing, though we suspect this is a rare occurrence: approach a roundabout contemplating a swift burst past the bows of an advancing car, and you have the potential for disaster.

Twice we found the C2 coasting to a halt following sudden application of full throttle, presumably because it was caught between gears, not wanting to engage another while the engine was delivering full power.

Otherwise, the C2 is much like others of the breed. Funkily, if a bit cheaply, finished inside and out, spacious up front, and difficult to get comfortable in because of the coarse steps of the reclining seat backrest.

Dynamically it’s grippy and corners like a startled ant, but you don’t enjoy the subtle telegraphings that the Saxo VTR broadcast. The C2 will suit those who want a car that looks sporty, but aren’t seriously interested in driving – it fails to satisfy either as a fizzing pocket racer, or as a flash urban cruiser.

The Pluriel is a better proposition, and offers keen value for money. After Sensodrive, it’s a pleasure to grasp the gearstick and feel that you’re in charge. And the HDi’s honest enthusiasm, with the conventional transmission, make this Pluriel a game device. There’s enough urge for most circumstances, and certainly enough to suit the less frenetic progress that the Pluriel’s alfresco roofing encourages. Of the three Pluriel drivetrains, this suits its character best. And, as with the C2 Furio, you can expect well over 60mpg.

Yes, the Pluriel has flaws – body flex and the tight rear seat are just two – but it has more to offer than the Furio, not least because it’s such an unusual proposition. Its quiet charm is hard to resist on a sunny day – and harder still for the price.

Richard Bremner

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