Citroën C3 hatchback review
“The Citroen C3 is now just as quirky as iconic models from the French firm’s past, boasting novel features that help it stand out”
- Distinctive style
- Loads of tech
- Comfy ride
- VW Polo feels classier
- Diesel engine doesn't justify extra cost
- Rivals are sharper to drive
The previous Citroen C3 had a difficult time against competitors that were better in many respect. The latest C3 aimed to redress that with a thorough new design, punchier engines and new technology, but it has been a little overshadowed by the adventurous compact C3 Aircross SUV. Fortunately, the latest C3 is imbued with far more personality than its predecessor, and fits in far more comfortably with the funky style found elsewhere in Citroen's range.
If you're looking for a car that stands out from the supermini crowd, the C3 could well be your car, particularly since its midlife facelift. It certainly doesn't blend in among a car park full of Ford Fiestas and Vauxhall Corsas, while SEAT Ibiza and Toyota Yaris buyers will also appreciate its individual looks. The C3 competes strongly on price – essential in fighting the Hyundai i20, Kia Rio and Skoda Fabia, and its price could sway you away from the much costlier Fiesta. If you’ve been frustrated with firm-riding superminis designed to be ‘sporty’, the comfort-orientated C3 could be a breath of fresh air, too. There's even a 'C-Series' version aimed specifically at online buyers, as Citroen makes moves to attract a new generation of customer.
Its unique looks are largely down to its tall roofline, upright stance and fairly high ground clearance, which make the C3 look like a supermini-sized SUV. A wide grille is set high up on the nose, flowing into LED daytime running lights where you’d traditionally find the headlights. Rather like a Nissan Juke, these are positioned lower in the front bumper. It’s a design that owes a lot to the Citroen C4 Cactus, and some trim levels even get a strip of its ‘Airbump’ plastic bubbles to help protect the C3 from minor scrapes and car-park dings. The midlife makeover saw the front end updated with a new grille and bonnet, while LED headlights became standard.
The engine line-up is a lot more conventional but customers should find one of the options fits the bill. The 1.2-litre petrols are branded PureTech, with 82 or 109bhp, and return fuel economy of around 50mpg whether you choose the manual or the automatic gearbox. The higher-powered version comes with a turbocharger, so it's quicker and better suited to mixed driving. It’s therefore a little disappointing that the 109bhp engine is only offered on the Saint James and Shine Plus trim levels, and it’s auto-only on the former.
The one diesel is badged BlueHDi and is larger, measuring 1.5 litres, with 99bhp. This engine manages over 65mpg and just 113g/km of CO2, but it's worth noting that the diesel is only expected to sell in small numbers and is limited to the top trim, making it an expensive choice.
Every version of the C3 will cost the standard VED rate each year to tax, while company-car drivers should seek out the 82bhp 1.2-litre PureTech petrol, thanks to its low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band and price.
From October 2019, Citroen made choosing a C3 easier by slimming down the selection of trim levels from six to three – Feel, Flair and Flair Plus - and in 2021 it mixed things up again. Trims are now called Sense, C-Series and Shine Plus, with a special-edition Saint James version replacing the old Shine trim. Every C3 gets features like a seven-inch touch screen, ‘Airbumps’, DAB radio, Bluetooth and cruise control as standard.
The online-only C-Series sits above Sense but gets a lower price, unique styling tweaks and 'C-Series' badges on the front doors. Extra equipment fitted includes one-touch electric windows, privacy glass, alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and auto wipers and lights.
A special-edition Saint James version is next up. It’s slightly more expensive than the Shine trim it replaces, but gets additional features like a reversing camera and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Stepping up to the Shine Plus trim brings 17-inch alloy wheels, navigation and Advanced Comfort seats, plus a Safety Pack that adds autonomous emergency braking and high-beam assist. The C3 is also available with a front-facing dashcam that can record your journey and even upload clips to your social media accounts. As aftermarket dashcams are becoming more and more popular, Citroen has taken the decision to offer one that's factory fitted. It could help show what happened in the lead up to a collision.
You could say these trims are just the start, because there are lots of ways to personalise or increase the specification of your C3. Roof colours, interior ‘ambiances’, exterior trim (like coloured door mirrors) and lots of accessories are offered to suit your personality and style.
After Euro NCAP crash tests in 2017, the C3 was awarded four out of five stars for safety, with 88% for adult occupant protection. A large number of airbags, electronic stability control, tyre-pressure monitoring and lane-departure warning are fitted across the board. There’s also technology to sense if you’re getting tired and warn you to take a break, along with speed-limit warnings. ISOFIX points for securely attaching child seats are found in the front passenger and both outer rear seats. Auto emergency braking really should be fitted as standard, though.