Is Citroen’s high-riding supermini good to live with and to look at? We’re about to find out
Why we’re running it: To see if this quirkiest of compact crossovers has more to offer than its head-turning styling
Life with a Citroen C3 Aircross: Month 1
Welcoming the C3 Aircross to the fleet – 12th September 2018
There’s really no escaping the charm of the compact crossover, is there?
Take the humble hatchback, jack it up like it’s on stilts and apply some off-road-inspired design cues. Job done. The great British public has gone mad for SUV-themed superminis, and so manufacturers are sure to keep them coming to satisfy our thirst.
It’s an increasingly crowded corner of the market, so it pays to stand out, which is something the Citroën C3 Aircross has no trouble doing. The Aircross replaces the MPV-inspired C3 Picasso in Citroën’s line-up with the SUV styling du jour, resulting in a crossover that oozes quirky French charm inside and out. It gets Citroën’s trademark focus on comfort, albeit in distilled form, and practicality that’s on par with the best in the class.
This might not be the most dynamic, most luxurious or most affordable car of its kind, but we reckon it’s probably the most interesting. And seeing how it’s already the company’s second-best-selling vehicle behind the C3 hatchback, after a little under ten months on sale, it would seem customers agree.
We called the design “instantly likeable” when we road tested the C3 Aircross, even if we determined it “wasn’t quite a match for the Seat Arona on performance or handling sophistication”. To find out if that matters for day-in, day-out driving, and to discover whether there’s more to like about the Aircross than its standout styling, we’ll be running one for the next six months.
Our long-term test car is powered by the PSA Group’s near-ubiquitous 1.2-litre turbocharged three-pot petrol. It’s an engine that can be found in everything from a crossover like this C3 Aircross all the way up to Peugeot’s 5008 SUV, and is seen here in its most potent form. Power and torque outputs of 128bhp and 170lb ft should be well-suited to a compact crossover, while the six-speed manual gearbox will hopefully be a better match for the short-geared, rev-happy motor than the five-speed ’box fitted to our road test car.
Combined fuel economy is quoted at 54.3mpg (NEDC), and while that figure would put it firmly among its peers, we’re expecting inner-city life and all the slow-speed driving that entails to make achieving such a target something of a struggle.
More than half of UK buyers opt for the top-spec Flair trim, so we’ve done the same. It builds on mid-spec Feel variants by adding 17in alloy wheels, along with keyless entry and start, a sliding rear bench for a temporary boost to boot space, climate control, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. It also upgrades the 7.0in infotainment touchscreen with Citroën Connect Navigation, although with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay both included as standard, Citroën’s offering will need to impress if it is to replace the Waze app as our sat-nav system of choice.
We avoided loading our car with options, choosing only the blue paint and contrasting white roof (£520). The silver colour pack, a no-cost option, then added a further splash of colour to the wing mirrors, headlight surrounds and roof rails.
You can buy a C3 Aircross with Grip Control, a £400 option that uses electronics to adjust the traction control in place of four-wheel drive for all-terrain driving, but seeing how few customers feel the need for it, we decided we could live without as well.
With no child seats to fit (in the immediate future, at any rate), we also declined to add the Family Pack (£490) and its fold-flat front passenger seat. We’ll have to wait and see if we’ll regret not ticking the box for the £650 Techno HiFi pack, which adds wireless smartphone charging, a 3.5in colour instrument panel, uprated speaker system and colour heads-up display. As is, the instrument panel makes do with monochrome.
This brought the total cost to £20,105, which is on par with a Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 115 in FR trim – in our view, still the best all-round compact crossover available today. The thing is, while the Seat may offer a better drive, it has a tenth of the Citroën’s personality. That certainly translates into the cabin. Our test car’s mica grey interior is the most subdued colour option available, but the old-school dials and quirky shapes still make a good first impression.
Initial thoughts? The thrummy three-pot has a pleasant amount of shove around town, the high driving position gives a decent view of the road ahead, and there’s no shortage of space in the cabin. With the back seats in place there’s plenty of boot storage, but once the bench is folded flat there’s more room here than you’d find in a VW Golf. That should come in handy for a few of the road trips we have planned for the car.
It’s not all good news, though. The seats don’t have the high-density foam padding of those in the C4 Cactus (in which they’re part of Citroën’s advanced comfort ethos). It might be an issue on longer journeys. Having the climate controls relegated to the touchscreen, instead of on dedicated buttons, makes changing temperatures on the move a bit fiddly, and the square gearknob is overly chunky and awkward to grip too.
Our time with the Aircross so far has mostly been spent in London’s stop-start traffic, where fuel economy has hovered in the mid-30mpg region. Our car won’t be resigned to the city life for long, though: it already has a spot on the Eurotunnel booked for later in the year to see how it performs as a long-distance tourer.
Driving the C3 Aircross straight after a C4 Cactus, I was disappointed to note the smaller car is more crashy around town. It smooths out at speed, but the Cactus’s hydraulic bump stops are sorely missed here. Another bugbear was the speed camera warning ‘bong’ interrupting the radio, taking a bit of the shine off an otherwise likeable car.
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Citroen C3 Aircross Flair 130 Puretech specifications
Specs: Price New £19,585 Price as tested: £20,105 Options: Breathing Blue paint £520, silver colour pack £0
Test Data: Engine 1,199cc, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol Power 128bhp Torque 170lb ft Top speed 124mph 0-62mph 10.4sec Claimed fuel economy 54.3mpg Test fuel economy 34.1mpg CO2 119g/km Faults None Expenses None
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