The Citroen C3 Picasso lived a long and popular life, but it’s now dead, as buyers crave the style of SUVs as opposed to MPVs. Because of this, the new Citroen C3 Aircross has been born. It’s got a quirky, cheery face, but is its charm able to rub off on those that occupy it?
Design and Styling
A while back, I had a quick spin in a friend’s C3 hatchback and I rather liked it. Both the inside and the outside had bold looks, making it an appealing choice – especially if personalisation is important for you. The Aircross variant is no different, and in fact there are no less than 85 colour combinations. Thank God the choice of trim levels aren’t as high, otherwise you’d be at the dealer long after the doors have closed for business.
The model tested here is the range-topping Flair, meaning that you get 17″ alloys, roof rails and a two tone roof as standard. Step inside and you’d normally find cloth interior, but the model tested here has been treated with the optional ‘Hype Colorado’ interior pack. This means you get tan leather, which is contrasted with fabric finished in a dogtooth design.
I have to say, it certainly looks good, but I’m not sure I’d pay the asking price for it. Still, at least it helps to divert your eyes from the large surfaces, which are dressed in hard black plastic. I’d understand if this was the base model, but it’s not, so I’m less forgiving for such a quantity of hard plastics. However, most of it feels well put together, apart from the glovebox which had a panel gap in it.
Rating: (4 / 5)
As mentioned earlier, the trim level for the C3 Aircross is rather simple as just three trim levels are available; Touch, Feel, and Flair. Touch is priced from £14,350, and offers features such as DAB radio, Bluetooth, automatic lights, air con, lane departure warning and cruise control. The mid-range Feel starts at £15,455, adding features such as 7″ touchscreen, fog lights with cornering function, smartphone connectivity, and front & rear aluminium effect bumper protectors.
The model on test here is the range-topping Flair, which starts at £17,345. Select this trim and you’ll enjoy a two-tone roof, climate control, navigation, keyless entry and start as well as Citroën Connect Box emergency and assistance system. This model has got the optional Ink Black paint (£520), Hype Colorado interior (£750) and the Techno Hi-Fi pack (£650).
Standard safety features aren’t too shabby, helping the C3 Aircross receive 5 stars from Euro NCAP. Blind assist and front parking sensors are options even on the top of the range model, plus there is no reversing camera, which I find a little disappointing.
There’s no four wheel drive available either, but like Peugeot and Vauxhall SUVs, you can opt to have Grip Control, which adds mud and snow tyres, as well as different driving modes and hill descent. Seeing as most SUV buyers opt for front wheel drive, I doubt this will be enough to put people off.
Rating: (3.5 / 5)
Space and Comfort
Anyone looking for an SUV is most likely looking for more space than what a traditional hatchback would offer, and this is where the Aircross does well. There’s plenty of space to be had in the front with a decent amount of storage areas, plus this model had an armrest on the driver’s seat, which is welcome on longer journeys. Speaking of longer journeys, the seats are most definitely comfortable – albeit with firm headrests – but I would want a bit more lumbar support for an extended drive.
Space in the back is also good; even for my height (6’2″), I have a good amount of headroom and legroom when I was sat behind the driver’s seat, which had been altered for me. There should be little problem getting three adults in the back, plus the rear seats slide and recline to better aid comfort. The sliding rear seats only come as standard on the Flair model, so bear that in mind if that’s important to you.
The boot also offers a decent amount of space as you’ll be able to enjoy up to 520 litres with the rear seats up and slid forward – fold them down completely and you’ll have almost 1,300 litres to play with. Without the sliding rear seats you’ll have 410, which, if you’re any good with maths, is over a 100 less. Despite this deficit it’s still one of the strongest in class.
Rating: (5 / 5)
What’s It Like To Drive?
There’s a choice of five engines; three petrol and two diesel. The engine on test here is the 1.6 litre diesel, which, thanks to a turbo, is able to offer 118bhp with 300Nm of torque. If you’re reading this review then there’s a chance you’re not too fussed about how fast it hits 62mph, but in case you are, it’ll do it 10.7 seconds and continue to a top speed of 114mph.
This power is fed to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox, which is not overly pleasing to use. The gear lever is a bit of a odd shape – although I kind of like it – and the changes are notchy, even when you concentrate with the same amount of levels as a teenager taking their GCSEs. Like other PSA Group SUVs I’ve tested, the biting point of the clutch is high and the pedal is rather springy, meaning that you’re changes are likely to be a bit jolty to begin with.
The gearbox may not be much cop, but the engine is pleasant enough to use. There’s a good level of performance and even in 6th gear I had enough pulling power to overtake on the motorway with confidence. The engine feels pretty refined too and when you’re cruising it works away at a hushed level. There is a bit of tyre noise produced by the 17″ alloys, but nothing that is going to ruin your journey. Wind noise is predictable from a high riding car such as this though.
The ride is a funny one, and in truth I’ve spent most of the week trying to decide what I think of it. At low speeds it’s rather jiggly, but it does sort itself at higher speeds. Citroen prides itself on making comfortable cars, and the C3 Aircross is no different. However, you can feel your torso bobbing about as you go along, and it feels a little boat-like. It’s not a complaint, more of an observation. It is a comfortable car, but I just wish the ride was a bit more settled and smoother.
The somewhat wallowy ride should serve as a warning that this car will not be as sharp in the corners as let’s say, a SEAT Arona, and that rings truer than a group of professional bell ringers. There is a predictable amount of body lean, but on the plus side the grip is pretty decent and the brakes are pretty sharp too. The biggest let down, is the steering. Its weight is too light and there is almost no communication between driver and car.
Turn in and you’ll almost have no idea whatsoever what the front wheels are doing, which can be disconcerting when your threading this down a country lane at a bit of speed. I should know, I’ve tried – it was genuinely a bit daunting. The car has a tardis effect, which is great for space, but I found the car felt bigger than it actually was, which caused me to look like a bit of a pillock at some width restrictions.
Let’s be honest though, this is a car that will spend a lot of its time in town, and in this environment it works just fine. This is where the light steering is a blessing rather than a curse, as it means that low speed manoeuvres are about as easy as stealing candy from a baby. Visibility is good as well, so that’s a massive tick in that box when it comes to everyday driving. I just wish the touchscreen was easier to operate on the move though…
Rating: (3 / 5)
Like space, cost and practicality, fuel economy is an area that is likely to be important to buyers, and I’m happy to report that the C3 Aircross should meet your needs – at least with the 1.6 litre diesel used here. On a combined run it should offer up to 68.9mpg, and in my experience I was getting around 66 – impressive stuff. 107g/km is emitted from its quirky looking backside, meaning that for the first year in VED you’ll pay £165 for the first year and then £140 each year there afterwards.
If it’s a petrol you’re seeking, then your best bet is the 108bhp 1.2 litre petrol (manual), which offers 56.5mpg on a combined run, although if truth be told, the other petrols aren’t too far behind. The 81bhp 1.2 litre unit offers 55.4mpg whilst the 128bhp unit offers 53.3. Emissions are similar too, with respective figures of 115, 116 and 119g/km. The 108bhp unit is also available with an automatic gearbox, but this choice will see you trade convenience for less economy.
Let’s not forget the other 1.6 litre diesel, which is able to offer 70.6mpg on a combined run with CO2 emissions coming in at 104g/km – the least out of all five engines. You may be wondering why this isn’t as frugal as the more powerful diesel, well that’s because this engine doesn’t have stop/start technology whereas the more powerful unit does.
Rating: (5 / 5)
If you’re looking for a bold looking SUV that offers high levels of practicality, space and comfort, then I don’t think you can do much better in this part of the market. If, however, you’re looking for something that is more dynamic and more likely to excite your tingly parts, then you may need to look elsewhere. Overall though, the C3 Aircross should more than capable for your family’s needs when purchasing a car.
Car Obsession Rating: (4 / 5)
- Plenty of colour choices
- Good safety ratings
- Should serve as a great family car
- Bold, funky looks
- Not fun to drive
- Notchy gearbox
- Vague steering
- Autonomous Emergency Braking only standard on range-topping model
Already mentioned in this review, the Arona will be a better choice for you if you’re looking for a more rewarding drive. Yes, it’s boot isn’t quite as big, it doesn’t offer the same amount of personalisation, but it’s a stunning looking car that’s got plenty to offer.
So, you like all things quirky do you? No doubt the C3 Aircross can satisfy that itch, but just in case it can’t, how about the Kia Soul? Ok, so it doesn’t offer the same amount of space and it’s a bit more money, but it’s more satisfying to drive, and let’s not forget about that seven year warranty…
The CX-3 is another bold looking SUV, especially if you opt for Mazda’s three-layer Soul Red finish. You will find it has a firmer ride than the C3 Aircross, and it has nowhere near the amount of personalisation but it offers an accomplished drive. The boot is noticably smaller though, but the gap is reduced when you compare the two with the seats down.