The new Citroën C3 has been spotted testing for the first time ahead of its launch later this summer.
The hatchback has the goal of accelerating the success of the C4 Cactus in reinvigorating the brand and winning customers over with its exaggerated styling and its focus on interior space, comfort and technology.
As such, it will take direct styling cues from the Cactus, including a reworked Airbump design on the side of the car - which is difficult to distinguish in this early prototype - and a distinctive nose design.
Crucially, the C3 is the best-selling Citroën globally and bosses hope the introduction of the new-look, more stylised version of the car will help the brand gain further sales momentum as it bids to transform its image from staid, middle-market car maker to one that wilfully polarises opinion about the car’s look and driving qualities.
“The research suggested that we were ending up third, fourth or fifth on too many buyer’s shortlists,” said Citroën CEO Linda Jackson, talking about the Cactus. “We wanted to make a car that some people would love and that some people would perhaps not love - and be happy with the fact that those who loved it would actually buy one. So far that policy has been a success, and it’s no secret that we intend to learn from that and apply some of the lessons we have learned to other cars in our range.”
The decision to introduce elements of the Cactus’s look throughout the Citroën range reflects a new-found confidence at the brand, kickstarted by an overhaul led by British designer and Autocar’s Sturmey Award winner Mark Lloyd and inspired by an ongoing mission by Citroën’s management - led by Jackson and PSA Group boss Carlos Tavares - to reinvoke some of the qualities that prompted the brand’s past glories.
80,000 Cactus sales
The Cactus was launched in 2014 and last year - its first full year of production - it hit just under 80,000 sales in Europe after manufacturing capacity was increased to meet demand. Crucially, Citroën insiders also say the level of discounts given on the C4 Cactus are substantially smaller than it has historically given on recent cars in its range, significantly raising profitability.
“Our future products are about being different and making the owners feel good,” said Jackson, without specific reference to the C3. “Our key priorities are designing cars that people immediately know are Citroëns, that are the most comfortable cars in their class, from the quality of the seat to the set-up of the suspensions and including everything from having more storage than rivals, more light in the cabin and sometimes features that even improve air quality. The Cactus’s larger glovebox is a great example of that innovative thinking - by putting the airbag in the roof, we have freed up a lot of useful space.