What is the Citroën C3 Mk 2?
The Citroën C3 is a five-door supermini that competes with excellent cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. It can’t come close to matching their driving experience and feelgood factor, but for frugal motoring – both in terms of impressive fuel economy and the discounts Citroën dealers are prepared to strike – it may prove tempting to those buyers hunting for a bargain.
However, our advice is to drive a harder bargain on a better car – you won’t regret it. A Fiesta or Polo are only slightly less frugal, but you’ll enjoy living with them more.
The engine range begins with a 1-litre petrol, which is a little underpowered for a car of this size and weight (1048kg). There is also a pair of larger capacity petrol engines, of 1.2 and 1.6 litres. However, our pick would be the diesel motors. These begin with a 69bhp 1.4-litre, but the best buy in the range is the 1.6-litre with 89bhp. It provides sufficient performance with outstanding fuel economy, and is cheaper than the more powerful 113bhp 1.6-litre engine elsewhere in the line-up.
Of the trim levels, the mid-range VTR+ offers the best value for money. It includes air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth hands-free and music streaming, electronic stability control and curtain airbags that offer protection along the length of the window area. All cars come with a pair of ISOFIX child-seat mounting points while Exclusive trim adds luxuries such as a panoramic glass roof, automatic climate control, heated mirrors that fold electrically and – for those few fans of in-car air fresheners – a scent dispenser set in the dashboard. The optional eMyWay sat nav and infotainment system is a pain to operate and distracting, too, so not worth adding.
When a car company resorts to adding air fresheners to its product, you know it’s struggling to win over consumers. We test drove the 113bhp 1.6-litre HDi in Exclusive trim, and the experience left our testers unimpressed.
From the moment you move away the gearchange feels clunky and clumsy, the steering is stodgy and the suspension fails to blend ride comfort with taut roadholding. It’s as if Citroën’s engineers went for a long lunch, one thing led to another and they never finished the task at hand.
The levels of engine and road noise are good, and making smooth and swift progress is effortless thanks to the engine’s abundance of torque, but everything else lets the side down. Tackle a winding road, or a plain old roundabout for that matter, and the C3 displays all the enthusiasm of a five-year old being told to eat their greens. The steering feels slow to respond, the body rolls and the nose runs out of grip too easily. A Fiesta would run rings around the C3.
The eager performance and frugal nature of the engine are the C3’s only noteworthy points. Our car’s 1.6-litre, 113bhp motor is claimed to return up to 74mpg, which we couldn’t get close to, but 60mpg is achievable and with 99g of CO2, it (and other versions of the C3) is exempt from road tax.
A defining feature of the C3 Exclusive is its windscreen, which arches back over the front seats so that, when you choose to, you can flood the front of the cabin with light. Citroën calls it the Zenith windscreen, and you can option it on the VTR+ versions, too. It’s a great way to brush up on cloud formations but doesn’t open for fresh air. And beware, window cleaners lying in wait at the traffic lights will try charging double the price for cleaning such an expanse of glass.
Quality, and fit and finish are respectable for the class and price of car, but the layout is not clear, and the controls are not great to use. The high-set driving position will leave tall drivers feeling the pinch.
The C3’s interior has two serious flaws. The first is a lack of kneeroom in the back seats. Adults will find their knees pressed uncomfortably into the backs of the front chairs. It’s not the sort of problem you’ll encounter in a Ford Fiesta or VW Polo. And parents trying to lean across a child seat to help fit a seatbelt will find it’s a tight squeeze.
The second issue concerns the optional eMyWay infotainment system. If there is a more cumbersome operating system with worse ergonomics and more obscure language, we’ve yet to try it. With no buttons on the steering wheel to act as shortcuts, no voice control system and being set at the lowest point in the dashboard, the interface between man and machine is poor. Buyers would do better to invest in a portable navigation device instead.
As for the boot, it’s actually surprisingly spacious, being deep and wide and offering 300 litres of luggage capacity, which is more than the norm in this class of car. It can be increased further still using the split/fold rear seats.
The one to buy
Citroën C3 VTR+ e-HDI 90 Airdream
- 1560cc, 4-cylinder diesel
- 89hp @ 4000rpm
- 170lb ft @ 1750rpm
- 5-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 11.5sec
- Top speed:
- 95g/km combined
- Road tax band:
- L 3941mm, W 1728mm, H 1538mm
Citroën C3 Mk 2 used car rivals for similar money