"The Citroen C3 is one of the most comfortable cars in its class. It's well built and stylish, too – and relaxing on long journeys."
Not only is the new Citroen C3 great to look at from the outside, it's also one of the most comfortable superminis on the inside. Nearly all C3 models feature a huge panoramic windscreen which helps set the car apart from its accomplished rivals. However, although it's a nice design touch, they can cost a fortune to replace and don’t bring any real practical benefit. There's a wide range of petrol and diesel engines, with the latter offering a great mix of performance and economy. The lower powered petrol cars struggle with the C3's bulk, but the 1.4-litre petrol and HDi diesels offer impressive value. Super-frugal AirDream+ versions are the most efficient C3s, returning more than 70mpg and emitting less than 100g/km of CO2.
The C3 is in its element in town. The light controls, smooth suspension and good visibility mean it's particularly easy to park, while lumps and bumps are soaked up ease. In terms of performance, no C3 is particularly fast. It's worth opting for the mid-range 1.4-litre petrol cars if you want to keep up with motorway traffic, but even that will take a sluggish 13.2 seconds to hit 60mph. The flagship 1.6-litre petrol fares slightly better, but if you want a higher performance Citroen, you’re better off looking at the stylish DS3. The diesels deliver good fuel economy and feel quite punchy, but you need to cover a lot of miles before your fuel savings will cover the extra purchase cost.
The Citroen C3 is one of the most comfortable superminis on the market. Its suspension soaks up everything the road can throw at it, yet the car still feels stable at motorway speeds. Road and wind noise are kept to a minimum, making the C3 a capable cruiser, while generous standard equipment means the small Citroen is a pleasant place to be. Adding to passenger comfort is a set of supportive front seats, which thanks to the car's tall stance offer plenty of leg and headroom. It's a similar story in the rear, where the back bench is plenty big enough for kids to feel comfortable on longer journeys.
While the controls feel light to the touch, this means they also feel a little flimsy. There's very little feedback through the wheel, and although the car feels stable at motorway speeds, it can feel a little soft on a winding country road. Currently, only flagship models offer electronic stability control, and only top spec models get six airbags – which is disappointing in this family-orientated class. This affects the car's performance in the Euro NCAP test, too, scoring just four stars out of five. In terms of reliability, Citroen is continually improving. The brand came 22nd out of 30 in the 2012 Driver Power Survey, and all cars come with a comprehensive three-year warranty. No widespread problems have been reported with the C3 just yet but the new model's predecessor suffered a series of niggles and recalls, which Citroen claims to have ironed with the current car.
The size of the C3's boot is on a par with most superminis. The 300-litre space is large enough for prams and a single bulky suitcase, but the hatchback opening isn’t the best. There's a large lip in the bodywork above the rear bumper, which hinders access and makes loading trickier, while inside the glovebox is compromised due to the intrusive fusebox. On the upside, there's plenty of adjustment in the front seats and headroom shouldn’t be an issue, even with the large panoramic windscreen. The C3 is only available as a five-door, but this does make rear access with full hands, a doddle.
Value for money
All models in the C3 range – other than the cheapest VT versions – are well equipped, with a panoramic windscreen, air-con, alloy wheels and cruise control as standard. Unfortunately, air-con isn’t even an option on the base spec cars, so if your budget allows then plump for a mid-spec car. All models get side, driver and passenger airbags, while flagship cars get a pair of curtain airbags, too. Surprisingly, although electric front windows are fitted across the line-up, only high-spec Exclusive versions get electric rear windows. That said, as with all Citroens, discounts are usually available, so be prepared to haggle with dealers to get the best price.
All C3 models boast good fuel economy, with the super-frugal Airdream+ model managing an impressive 83.1mpg. It is painfully slow, but you’ll reap the rewards at the pumps, and thanks to 99g/km CO2 emissions, it's free to tax, too. Like the VW Polo Bluemotion, the Airdream+ gets a series of eco-friendly tweaks like stop-start and regenerative braking. Servicing isn’t expensive and there are some great pre-paid deals, but residual values are among the weakest of any manufacturer – so make sure you secure a decent discount when buying new.