“If only I’d had a camera,” as no one has said while stuttering around the M25 on a wet Thursday afternoon in winter, but which someone might well have said on other, happier roads at other, happier times. And Citroën heard their cry, which is why — in what is, among other things, a new high-tide mark for the desire of modern cars to become as much like mobile phones as possible — the latest edition of the C3 comes with its own stills and video camera.
Never mind the driveshaft, feel the megapixels. Just one touch on the stem of the rear-view mirror in Citroën’s forward-thinking, mass-selling hatchback, and you’re ready to record the view from the windscreen and share the footage with your lucky and enthralled friends — or play your part in adding yet more to our age’s already immeasurable mountain of unlooked-at digital images.
Fun times, clearly, though we did note a fairly serious drawback. Being fixed and forward-pointing, the camera is mechanically rigged against the taking of selfies — unless you run in front of your own oncoming car, which nobody at Citroën is seriously suggesting you should, and no matter how many friends you think the resulting footage might earn you on Instagram.
Nor can you swivel the lens to focus on the cabin and thereby periodically turn out your own budget version of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke, which might have been fun and would have brightened the odd commute.
“It was a source of some comfort to me to know that, had things not happened as desired on the launch drive, my last moments would not have gone unrecorded”
Altogether, then, one can only conclude from the positioning of this camera that Citroën rather sweetly continues to believe people are interested in taking pictures of things — whereas, of course, all the latest evidence indicates that people are interested only in taking pictures of themselves in front of things, and perhaps mostly of themselves not even in front of things. The C3’s camera may already be obsolete.
Here’s something, though: in the event of extreme braking or impact, the camera automatically goes into video mode. Having received this news, I suppose it was a source of some comfort to me to know that, had things not happened as desired during the launch drive for this car, parts of which took place on a rain-slicked Spanish motorway amid many Spanish lorries, my last moments would not have gone unrecorded. This fact might have also been of some consolation to my family and my insurers, as well as, perhaps, the police.
Of course, the new C3 is not just a camera with a steering wheel. It’s a camera with a whole five-seat family car attached and, moreover, one that draws its styling cues from Citroën’s endearingly eccentric Cactus SUV. This includes the optional use of the French company’s Airbump side panels. These act as a kind of inflated Elastoplast, designed to protect your paintwork from minor injuries and ready to repel loose supermarket trolleys, which simply bounce off rather than leave you with a £400 retouching bill.
This has got to be a boon if you don’t mind your car looking as though it has been patchily swaddled in bubble wrap. That said, Citroën has boldly reshaped and even coloured in some of the bumps for the C3, capitalising on the device’s possibilities as a design feature and general conversation piece. Or not.
You also get leather door-straps, a nicely planed-down, flat and simple dashboard, a comfy seat and light-touch steering. We tried the 108bhp petrol version with an automatic gearbox and the noisier 80bhp petrol version with a manual, and marginally preferred the latter (despite the noise) for its pluckiness and the somehow entirely suitable pleasure of throwing its gears around.
Significantly, no diesel versions of the C3 were present at the launch, although you can still insist on having one. Diesel is so about-to-be-over. Who’ll be taking pictures from a diesel car in the world of tomorrow? It’s going the way of the Instamatic.