Citroen C3 Review- Has the vibe but does the job?

The French have been known to be the quirky lot and that largely holds true in their cars as well. But this isn’t always so terrible. Their cars can be weird, out of the ordinary, sometimes even strange but never boring or run-of-the-mill. The C3 is just another example of that. Right off the bat, you see it and think to yourself “THAT is not subtle”, yet it has a sort of a likeability to it. It stands out among a sea of generic hatchbacks, it adds the spice to a segment mostly known for churning yet another car every month. But is it all show and no go? Let’s find out.

Design

Let’s start by how it looks, head on. The new C3 has a very flamboyant front end where the center stage is taken by the classic Citroen double Chevron logo which is, in their signature way integrated into the grille made up of two chrome slats. The grille merges with what Citroen calls twin-DRLs because one is never enough, right? The top DRL also acts as the turn signal when engaged. The botton DRLs are flanked by a pair of halogen reflector headlamps which are an oddity in today’s world of everybody offering LEDs and Projector headlamps in their cars.

Below the grille, is the large octagonal airdam which helps give the car some character which is much needed given its small size. It also holds the registration plate and just as seamlessly blends in to the faux silver skid plate just below. Flanking the skid plate are a pair of foglamps which get funky orange inserts and some cladding around to make the C3 appear adventurous.

Moving on towards the side profile, you can now see how well proportioned the car looks despite all the quirky elements. The window line remains low all until the rear door handles, which are the decade old flap-type ones(come on Citroen, its 2022!) before curving up sharply. The alloy wheels (which are optional) make the car stand out and have a really cool design. The A and B Pillars have been blacked out to give the car a more sportier effect. An interesting design choice was the small orange insert in the door cladding, resembling the one from its elder sibling, the C5 Aircross.

The rear of the C3 comes across as a more simpler design, although still with its share of quirkiness. The taillamps have a nice 3D shape, while the thick bumper cladding keeps reminding you of its “SUVness”. A shocking omission here is the absence of a rear wiper and defogger which we feel is quite an essential safety feature. Another remarkable detail is the subtle and classy badging done by Citroen. The double chevron logo adorns the hatch with a tasteful and subtle “Citroen” badge just underneath along with a small C3 badge. There is no variant badging available, however the Turbo engined variants also receive a PureTech badge on the hatch.

Performance

The C3 gets powered by either a 1.2L 3 cylinder NA petrol mated with a 5 speed MT or, the 1.2L Turbo 3 cylinder petrol mated to a 6 speed MT. A very big miss on the part of Citroen is not offering any automatic transmission given the rapid rise in its popularity today, especially when nearly all rivals also offer one. We got to drive the Turbo MT and here are our thoughts.

As you climb inside, depress the clutch and turn the key, you are greeted to a nice silent thrum of the engine. NVH levels at idle are surprisingly good and unlike most engines, you don’t feel many vibrations akin to 3 cylinder engines. As you slot it into the first gear, you notice the clutch which though smooth, feels a tad heavier than you would expect. The clutch also has a bit of a snappy action which one might have to get used to. While sitting inside, you can also very clearly see the bonnet edges making it a stress free experience to drive. The engine here produces a healthy 110PS of power at 5500rpm and a torque of 190NM at a low 1750rpm which makes it the most powerful hatch in its segment.

On the move, the engine feels decently peppy enough at low RPMs although it becomes a different animal when the turbo kicks in! It gains speed so violently you have to convince yourself that this is still a small hatchback. The power doesn’t taper off until almost the redline. However, push it too much and the engine starts to sound coarse and gets louder. This is no K12. A special mention to the gearbox here- 6 cogs is something unheard of in this segment and should help it cruise very nicely and quietly on the highways. The throws are not too long and it does not feel overly notchy or hesitant either. The tall and funky gear lever also makes it very easy to reach with your left hand. A peculiar complaint we have with it though, is the very tall second gear which forces you to downshift to first while going over potholes or speed breakers for the fear of stalling.

Coming on to the ride quality, it is simply fantastic to say the least. A trait of the C5 Aircross, it rides beautifully over bad roads and only makes any noises when pushed to the extreme. A tad softer tune also makes sure that this is easily the most comfortable car to ride in. The suspension also facilitates the excellent handling characteristics and the C3 never breaks a sweat. The steering is also calibrated quite well to be extremely light at city speeds and gradually weighs up as you speed up.

Interiors

Open the doors and sit inside and you notice how easy ingress and egress is. It is almost like walking in and not sitting down. As you sit, you are greeted by a funky dashboard with a huge slab of orange going across the dashboard. Not the most subtle touch, eh? (Don’t worry though, few colour options get a much more sober grey insert here). The steering looks upmarket and there are interesting bits like the quirky AC vents, the nice and large touchscreen and the tweeters(which are actually dummies, lol).

Another observation you make is simply the amount of space there is on offer. Tall and wide people will also do decently here. Talking of the plastic quality, it is mostly hard and scratchy plastics you will see here. Some areas like the AC control knobs feel especially budget-grade and are a sore point in the interior.

The interiors are also where you start seeing some very shocking omissions like the IRVM which doesn’t even have a day-night switch! Come on Citroen, this is 2022. Also, hunt for the tachometer in the cheap-looking digital cluster and you realise there isn’t one! There is no auto climate control, or leather seats, auto folding or adjustable ORVMs or even a rear defogger and wiper either! This is unacceptable in an era where rivals are offering gizmos like wireless charging and keyless entry. You also get ancient flap type door handles outside which isn’t expected.

On the tech side of things, despite all the cost cutting, Citroen has managed to offer Wireless Android Auto and Apple Carplay functionality on the 10 inch touchscreen infotainment system. The display has a high resolution display and is quick to respond. Sound quality from the 4 speakers can be termed as at-par for the segment. It is nothing great but does its job well. The screen can also be turned off to avoid distractions at night.

At the rear, the seats, though basic, are quite comfortable. There is ample legroom, headroom and underthigh support. The seats are also at a higher level than the front ones which helps give a nice view out and prevents one from feeling claustrophobic. You can also see that the bench is quite flat and lacks contours but is what helps seat 3 people comfortably. An ergonomic blunder here, is the placement of power window switches which are placed in the centre console. This means anytime you need to open or close the window, you have to stretch out all the way. A lack of rear AC vents might also be felt. There are no adjustable headrests at the rear either and the fixed ones can be an obstruction for taller folks.

The thick C Pillars and absence of a quarter glass can make things feel a bit hemmed in though. It also means reversing is a bit of a task without a rear camera (which can be opted for as an accessory though) and only 2 parking sensors.

Verdict

So, then the C3 does have its fundamentals sorted- good powertrain, fabulous ride quality, easy to drive and spacious. But, is it enough? There are a lot of compromises as well, like the lack of AT or the absence of many a features considered absolutely essential in today’s times. Then you also have to deal with Citroen’s very tiny service network and an unknown reputation in India and it gets quite difficult to make a sure shot decision. It all depends upon the pricing then which should be revealed soon enough. Citroen needs an absolutely jaw-dropping pricing to drive any customers into their showrooms to have a chance in this fiercely competitive segment dominated by industry heavyweights. So, does it do the job? Yes. But will it set the sales chart on fire? That remains to be seen.

If you liked reading this review, do check out our Road Test Reviews section for more!

 

 

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