"The Citroen C3 is one of the most comfortable cars in the supermini class. It's well built and stylish, too – and relaxing on long journeys."
The Citroen C3 supermini is not only great to look at but also very comfy on the inside and a worthy rival to the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Suzuki Swift and Kia Rio. Virtually every model has a massive panoramic windscreen that really sets it apart from its competitors – but be aware than any damage to it is very costly to repair or replace, and that it doesn’t offer any true practical benefits. The C3 is available in four main specifications – entry-level VT, mid-range VTR+, Selection, and top-of-the-range Exclusive. The engine range is wide, made up of petrol and HDi diesel engines, with the diesels having the better mix of performance and fuel efficiency. In 2013, Citroen introduced a new range of more economical engines, including three-cylinder 1.0-litre and 1.2-litre petrol PureTech engines. If you do need more room than you find in the standard five-door hatchback C3 – and you might – then the bigger Citroen C3 Picasso is probably a better bet, or, for that extra burst of speed, you could go for the Citroen DS3 supermini. The full range is completed by the convertible DS3 Cabrio, for drivers who want wind-in-the-hair thrills.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The current C3 is the most efficient version yet produced, with the 67bhp 1.0-litre VTi PureTech returning 65.7mpg in combined fuel economy and the 81bhp 1.2-litre VTi PureTech also managing a similar 62.8mpg. Even the older 1.2-litre VTi manages to return 48mpg and emit 136g/km of CO2. But as in the previous model, the diesel Airdream engines offer the best economy, with the 1.4-litre eHDi Airdream returning 83.1mpg and emitting a tax-free 87g/km of CO2. Meanwhile, the 1.6-litre eHDi Airdream still returns 74.3mpg and also stays below the free road tax-threshold with 99g/km of CO2 emissions.
Interior & comfort
The C3 is a very comfortable supermini with soft suspensions that absorbs pretty much every pothole or bump that you may encounter on the UK's rough roads. It also feels solid and serene on motorway journeys, with noise from the outside kept dampened down to a bare minimum. There's also a good level of equipment and accessories available in all but the entry-level model. The seats are supportive and comfortable, including for passengers, and the car's height means there is plenty of leg and headroom for everyone. The back has enough space for three children to sit with lots of extra room, but adults may find it a bit more cramped, especially on long drives, so it's really only good for short spells for anyone over five-foot.
Practicality & boot space
There's a surprising amount of space inside the C3's supermini dimensions, with as much room as you’ll find inside some of the bigger family hatchbacks, such as the Ford Focus. The 300-litre boot is about what you’d expect from other cars in this class, which is enough to carry a pushchair or one large suitcase, but the opening is a big tight and has a high load lip that makes loading big items too unwieldy. Dropping the standard-fit 60:40 split-folding rear seats expands the luggage capacity to 1,121 litres, though, and you also get some added storage beneath the boot floor where you can also store the parcel shelf. Inside, the front seats offer loads of adjustment and have plenty of leg and headroom, even with the huge panoramic windscreen. There are also lots of handy storage cubbies dotted about the interior, but the glove compartment is small because Citroen don’t like moving fuse boxes when they convert to right-hand drive. The C3 only comes as a five-door, but that does mean that access to the back seats is easy, even when your arms are loaded with shopping.
Reliability & safety
The C3 didn’t manage to rank in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's top 100 cars – but its larger sibling, the C3 Picasso supermini MPV placed 63rd, so you can expect a similar of reliability from both. Citroen placed 22nd in the 2012 survey but fell two spots to 24th (out of 32) in the manufacturer rankings – well in the bottom part of the table. That's especially disappointing because Citroen has been really concentrating on making its cars more durable, to counter the reputation that it makes unreliable vehicles. However, the controls inside the C3 feel light and flimsy, offering hardly any feedback to the driver through the steering wheel. Plus, it could only manage to secure a lacklustre four-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, losing valuable marks in the safety assist category because only top-spec cars come with electronic stability control (ESP) as an option, let alone fitted as standard as it is in most modern car. To add to that, only top-of-the-range models coming equipped with six airbags. That's really not good enough for a family car. But the C3 hasn’t been recalled or suffered any major problems, although its predecessor had quite a few issues and recalls, all of which Citroen claim to have solved in the current car.
Engines, drive & performance
The C3 is best suited to town driving, like many other superminis, with its light steering, soft suspension and good visibility. It's simple to negotiate through busy traffic, narrow city streets and into narrow parking spaces. And most of the bumps and jolts in the road are also easily absorbed. The flipside of that is that the C3's performance isn’t especially impressive – although it's reasonable while driving on the motorway and is certainly calm enough for longer drives. The car's lower weight and improved efficiency is down to the new PureTech engines, but they also need to be worked pretty hard if you want to get any decent performance. But if performance is what you’re after, we’d suggest going for the more stylish DS3. The diesel engines offer better fuel economy and are more responsive, but you’ll need to clock up a lot of miles to see any real savings to balance out the hefty extra money you’ll end up paying to buy one.
Price, value for money & options
Once you move above the entry-level VT model, the C3 does come with a lot of equipment for your money. Panoramic windscreen, air-conditioning, alloy wheels and cruise control are all fitted as standard, and base mode VT does still get front electric windows and MP3 connectivity, just no air-conditioning – not even as an optional extra. As such, we’d suggest ignoring it and thinking of the mid-spec VTR+ as the best place to start, which does have air-conditioning as standard, plus 15-inch alloy wheels and body-coloured bumpers. The whole range does come fitted with side, driver and passenger airbags, while top-of-the-range Exclusiv cars also come with a pair of curtain airbags, as well. Surprisingly, although electric front windows are fitted across the range, only Exclusive versions come with electric rear windows. However, as is the case with most Citroens, you’ll find discounts are easily available, so be prepared to haggle with dealers to get the best price. Servicing is very reasonable and there are some great pre-paid deals to be had, but resale values in the used car market are among the weakest for any manufacturer – all the more reason to haggle for that discount, to make sure you get the most back on your second-hand deal when you come round to selling it on.