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Steering, suspension and ride comfort

An obliging lightness of control weights, a softness of gait and supple ride isolation characterise the way the C3 conducts itself on the road.

In a modern supermini, these things do feel somewhat contrived – and even if they’re perfectly executed, we’re not convinced that they are necessarily the way to make a small car manageable, comfortable and easy to use either in town or out of it.

But it’s an academic point because, here in the new C3, they’re ideals gestured at or grasped for but ultimately only imperfectly delivered.

The car’s suspension feels not only soft but also long of travel on most roads and at most speeds. The set-up deals with bigger, gentler intrusions well, particularly sleeping policemen around town, and also keeps the car’s body fairly level at B-road speeds.

But before long – about as long, in fact, as it takes to hit a shorter and more severe bump in the road – you realise that this is quite a basic kind of comfort and compliance delivered by an absence of damping rather than a clever, progressive interpretation of it.

The ride turns noisy and quite crashy over sharper edges, although wheel control is never bad enough to allow tyres to part company with asphalt at normal speeds.

As you’d expect from a car thus suspended, the chief price to be paid is in terms of handling response. So while the C3 steers with decent overall pace, it takes a while to roll, settle on its outside wheels and really heel into a corner.

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Such sleepiness of directional response feels particularly strange in a small car, and it’s exacerbated here by an over-assisted steering system that makes the car’s handling feel a bit vague as you turn in and imprecise as your speed increases.

High-speed stability is nonetheless better here than it is in the Citroen C4 Cactus, with the C3 declining to adopt the wandering line that its sibling can assume on the motorway and instead tracking much straighter.

But overall, you’d still say the C3’s curious dynamic compromise costs it considerably more than it’s worth.

The C3’s relaxed springing and apparently even more relaxed damping lead you to expect little when you really throw it around, and perhaps that’s why adequacy and creditable security feels like a victory. But whatever the reason, the car could fare worse here.

Yes, there’s lots of roll when you commit to a tight corner at speed, but the extremes of understeer you expect to follow don’t ever materialise. The car stays fairly true to your intended path, although you have to work relatively hard to keep it on line, doing more with the steering wheel as the body leans.

The front tyres will begin to run out of grip as you feed power back in on corner exit, but the car’s stability control system keeps the front end from getting away with a decent level of progressiveness and subtlety. Above 25mph, it’s an always-on ESP set-up — but in this car at least, that’s probably as it should be.