Majors on space, comfort and value - but not driving pleasure

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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zoomzoom 23 November 2009

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

I'd rather wait a few months until the beautiful Citroen DS3 comes out. Now THAT is Citroen styling at its best!

Lee23404 20 November 2009

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

Mini1 wrote:
CAR have done exactly the same thing in their review so it's not just Autocar

Yes but CAR always seem to get that Anthony FFFfrench Constant to test Citroens and he is as anti-Citroen as Autocar is pro-Ford. If I ever see a road test by him I just skip past it. The man's a complete ***.

DavidMR 19 November 2009

Re: Citroen C3 1.4 VTR+

Vicky Parrott wrote:
For instance, the self-centering action on the steering is so springy and strong that it can catch you out if you let the steering wheel feed through your hands on exiting a junction.
come off it vicky, the strength of the self-centering is irrelevant. this will only be an issue if you let the wheel slide through your hands - which of course you shouldn't do, as you're not in proper control of the car.