Citroën’s marketing material for the C3 Aircross makes plenty of references to comfort and practicality, as you might expect. But fun? Not a mention, and that’s a bit regrettable. It’s also no Greek tragedy because, while the Arona (that car, again) features a chassis of impressive composure and precision, nothing in this class is the stuff of Sunday morning dreams, and neither do owners prioritise that.
What they might feel entitled to is a ride of reasonable fluency and refinement, which is something this cheerful French crossover by and large fails to deliver. Everything it does, on every type of road, is underscored by the pitter-patter of road-surface crenulations, which bubble up through the chassis. You could convincingly argue that the same is true of every car in this class to some extent, but the jarring impacts that larger, sharper road imperfections send into the cabin are felt more acutely here than in many rivals.
Given that this softly sprung car’s primary ride is reasonably settled at speed and far better controlled than in the lower-riding C3 – owing to an increase in roll stiffness – this comes as a disappointment because, overall, far from being embarrassed by its peers, the C3 Aircross feels like it might have challenged its rivals on ride and handling if Citroën had paid closer attention to the dynamic details.
The C3 Aircross doesn’t wilt at the edge of its dynamic envelope. Alas, that’s not because Citroën’s engineers have so beautifully judged roll stiffness, camber setting and suchlike, but rather because the ESP system never allows the car to wander far from its comfort zone. The electronics can be disabled, but doing so is intended for low-speed manoeuvring on low-friction surfaces, and all systems are re-engaged once you’re properly up and running. They’re well-calibrated, mind, and even if you’re aggressive with the throttle, they keep the C3 Aircross locked on line with few judders and jolts.
The car’s dry tarmac grip levels are somewhat modest on those ‘all-season’ tyres, but you don’t have to have those. Vertical and lateral body movements, meanwhile, are cushioned with greater panache than you might expect, but fast driving is never a truly comfortable experience with such remoteness of feel between front tyres and steering wheel.
Driven with any form of commitment, the car is resolutely stable and inert. Compared with the Arona and Hyundai Kona in particular, the C3 Aircross’s steering feels light and numb, and the impression is that there exists some form of extended relay between any input you might make and the chubby nose of the C3 Aircross responding in kind.