17 December 2003

Citroën has sent its supermini to boot camp to take on Rover’s Streetwise. The C3 X-treme ‘city SUV’ concept surprised last week’s Bologna Motor Show, and points to a new, more rugged C3.

Like the Rover (pictured right) – and the forthcoming Volkswagen Polo Trek – the X-treme is based on a standard C3 hatch, with bigger bumpers, side skirts, roof rails and matt-black trim.

Ride height is raised by 30mm, and the Citroën sits on 15-inch alloy wheels with chunky tyres. At the front end, big bumpers meet an extended sump-guard to protect the engine during those extreme off-road excursions, or errant kerbs in supermarket car parks.

However, unlike its Rover and VW rivals, the C3 does have genuine off-road pretensions. On loose or muddy surfaces, a limited-slip differential transfers the power from standard C3 power units to the front wheel with the most grip.

Use of lightweight materials means the C3’s weight is maintained, and Citroën claims that its ride and handling are unchanged despite the boost in ride height.

Citroën sources stress that the X-treme is only a concept at this stage, but the ‘city SUV’ niche is already attracting strong sales – the Streetwise alone managed nearly 400 registrations last month – and insiders refuse to rule out the supersoft-roader.

But there are still no plans for the X-treme to join Citoren’s British line-up. ‘There are no plans at the moment for it to come to the UK,’ said our source, ‘but if there is a positive reaction, we may well look into it.’

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