Citroën C3 hatchback
Price £11,075 - £16,860
- Very comfortable
- Quiet and spacious
- Decent interior
- Not great to drive
- Entry-level models poorly equipped
- Four-star Euro NCAP safety rating
At a glance
"The Citroen C3 has low running costs and a practical interior, and thanks to its soft suspension it's one of the most comfortable superminis on the market."
While many superminis are billed as being ‘sporty’, the Citroen C3 has bucked the trend and instead offers the most comfortable ride in its class and an impressively quiet interior. If you want a small car which feels grown-up on the motorway the C3 scores highly, but if you want a fun car to drive, the stylish Citroen DS3 or Ford Fiesta will suit you much better.
With five doors, access to the roomy rear seats is easy and the C3 also has a rather large 300-litre boot. It's one of the most spacious small cars on offer, with just the tall Honda Jazz offering significantly more room.
Avoid the 1.6-litre petrol and all the engines are highly economical, with every diesel version topping 70mpg and most being tax-exempt. Performance is a little sluggish, but most versions are similar to rivals and feel quick enough for town driving and longer trips.
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MPG, running costs & CO2
Most Citroen C3 models return impressive fuel economy, just avoid the 1.6-litre petrol
Every diesel version of the Citroen C3 is extremely economical, returning more than 72mpg. In fact, emissions are so low, only the HDi 70 in the VTR+ trim level incurs road tax, setting you back £20 each year. The e-HDi Airdream with the EGS automatic gearbox is the cleanest, returning 83.1mpg and emitting 87g/km of CO2, but we’d recommend a manual gearbox version, which still have great fuel economy and a better driving experience.
If you’d rather have a petrol, there’s a 1.0-litre VTi 68, a 1.2-litre VTi 82 and a 1.6-litre VTi 120. The smaller engines both return more than 60mpg and are either free or cost £20 to tax making them very cheap to run. But we’d avoid the 1.6-litre as it can only manage 49.6mpg and 132g/km (42.8mpg and 150g/km if the automatic gearbox is fitted), costing £130 annually to tax and making it rather costly to run for a small supermini.
The Citroen comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, while there’s also a servicing package which allows you to pay in advance for the first three years/36,000 miles of vehicle services. The C3 should be cheap to insure with versions ranging from group 8 to 18, but both the Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Fabia include versions in lower groups.
Engines, drive & performance
The Citroen C3 majors on comfort, and rivals are more fun as a result
With such a focus on comfort, the C3 isn’t as fun to drive as the Citroen DS3, Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo, because it has very light and rather vague steering and a tendency to lean through corners. But these characteristics also make the C3 very easy to drive in town and it’s surprisingly comfortable for longer motorway trips, where it is also very quiet.
Our picks from the engine range would be the 1.2-litre VTi 82 petrol and 1.6-litre e-HDi 90 diesel, which offer acceleration from 0-62mph in 12.3 and 11.3 seconds respectively when fitted with a manual gearbox. We’d avoid the EGS automatic, because its slow and jerky gear changes blunt performance. If you really need an automatic supermini, the Polo fitted with a DSG gearbox is far smoother to drive.
The entry-level petrol and diesel engines have around 70bhp and can feel underpowered unless you are just driving around town. The 1.6-litre VTi 120 should feel nippy with 0-62mph achieved in a brisk 8.9 seconds, but it doesn’t feel as quick in reality and sounds rather strained when driven with gusto.
Interior & comfort
The Citroen C3 delivers the comfort of a bigger car and has a pleasant cabin
Developing the Citroen C3 and DS3 alongside each other has allowed the French manufacturer to take two different approaches. While the DS3 is quite sporty, the C3 is unashamedly comfortable, with soft suspension designed to soak up bumps and seats designed for long trips rather than gripping you in the corners.
Material quality on top-of-the-range trim levels is good, with attractive leather highlights which are pleasing to touch. Entry-level models don’t feel as upmarket, but still benefit from a painted dashboard insert which lifts the ambience. The top version even has a removable scented pod which wafts its fragrance through the air vents.
The C3 has tall windows which give you a great view of the road, along with thin pillars either side of the windscreen carefully designed to minimise your blind spots at junctions and roundabouts. The C3 is also available with a ‘Zenith’ windscreen which stretches back over your head to allow more light into the cabin.
Practicality & boot space
A large boot and five doors make the Citroen C3 highly practical
As well as being more comfortable than the Citroen DS3, the C3 is also more practical thanks to its 300-litre boot. This is also larger than you’ll find in a Ford Fiesta (290 litres), Volkswagen Polo (280 litres) and Peugeot 208 (285 litres). In fact, it’s only 16 litres smaller than you’ll find in a Ford Focus. But, it’s not class-leading, that honour goes to the Honda Jazz which has 379 litres of space behind the rear seats.
You get 60:40 split-folding rear seats as standard, with 1,121 litres of space with them pushed forwards. Unfortunately they don’t fold flat, so large items will need to sit at a slight angle. The boot opening itself is rather narrow, with a high loading lip, so large boxes can be a tight squeeze.
Inside the cabin, the glovebox is smaller than it looks as half its space is taken up with a fuse box, but there’s better news elsewhere. The larger door bins and other cubbyholes around the cabin mean there are plenty of places for your phone, snacks and wallet. Unlike the three-door DS3, the C3 is only available with five doors, making getting in and out of the back much easier. A relatively tall roof also means rear space is pretty good, with decent headroom for a small car.
Reliability & safety
Poor customer satisfaction and a four-star crash test result make the Citroen C3 less than desirable
Not enough owners rated the Citroen C3 for it to appear in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction results, but the mechanically similar DS3 performed well, ranked 37th out of 150 models. However, the Citroen brand slipped two places to 26th out of 32 manufacturers, which could be a concern when you need to take your car to a dealership for servicing or repairs. Worryingly, owners scored build quality poorly, with only Alfa Romeo rated worse.
The C3 was also given a sub-par safety score, with four-stars in Euro NCAP crash testing, despite the similar DS3 being given five stars. It was marked down because technology to help prevent skids is not standard across the range, while curtain airbags are also not available with the entry-level trim. A spare wheel is provided as standard.
Price, value for money & options
Entry-level Citroen C3 models don’t get much equipment but mid-spec cars look like good value
The Citroen C3 is available in VT, VTR+ and Exclusive trim levels, with the entry-level trim being very basic. A CD player, remote central locking and trip computer are standard, but you’ll need to upgrade to VTR+ to benefit from air-con, cruise control, Bluetooth and leather touches inside the cabin. The range-topping Exclusive grade brings the panoramic ‘Zenith’ windscreen, air-freshener, climate control, folding door mirrors and ambient lighting. Citroen traditionally offers good discounts, so it’s worth looking out for special deals or haggling to secure a better specification.
Options include rear parking sensors for £270, the ‘Zenith’ windscreen for £300 and a sat-nav system, with reversing camera and parking sensors for £950.
The C3 should perform well come resale time, with a particularly strong demand for the most economical petrol and diesel versions. But it’s unlikely to hold its value as well as the sportier Citroen DS3 or desirable Volkswagen Polo, with its upmarket image and excellent build quality.