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In-depth reviews

Citroën C3 Aircross review - Engines, drive & performance

Turbocharged engines make the Citroen C3 Aircross a willing performer

Carbuyer Rating

4.1 out of 5

Owners Rating

4.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

It was never intended to be ‘sporty’, but the Citroen C3 Aircross is well-behaved on the road, with enough grip for most drivers and excellent comfort. Push too hard and the front tyres will begin to squeal as they lose purchase on the tarmac, but there’s nothing that will catch you out about how it drives.

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Passengers and drivers alike should also appreciate a relative lack of body lean, which – along with light yet precise steering – helps to make the Aircross feel more like a supermini than an SUV from behind the wheel. The extra height of the Aircross also improves its ride quality, with longer, softer springs than some rivals. That said, potholes can still send a shudder through the Citroen's body, but it’s noticeably smoother than crossovers like the SEAT Arona or Hyundai Kona, while less satisfying for enthusiastic drivers than the sharp SEAT.

Petrol engines

The 1.2-litre turbocharged PureTech petrol is available in the C3 Aircross with 109 or 129bhp. An entry-level 81bhp version is no longer available but we’d suggest avoiding it on the used market, as its 14.1-second 0-62mph time is sluggish, even before you’ve loaded the car up with people or luggage.

The 109bhp unit offered from entry-level and above has just the right amount of performance, and with a 10.1-second 0-62mph sprint time, it’s actually quicker than an entry-level Renault Captur by almost a second. That, plus the added grunt of the Citroen’s engine does make it perceptively more punchy than the Renault, so we think it suits most buyers. There’s a little vibration but it’s not too noisy or harsh when you put your foot down, and the six-speed manual gearbox offers long gearing that means it feels settled and civilised at motorway cruising speeds.

Sadly, as with the diesel, our main complaint is the long throw of the manual gearbox, which is a common Citroen bugbear. It also occasionally crunches into gear.

Conversely, the range-topping 129bhp engine is probably more powerful than it needs to be – we’d only go for this option if we needed an auto, as it’s the only engine to be offered with a seven-speed automatic. It can't match the SEAT Arona’s DSG gearbox for its swift changes, but it’s smoother and less prone to causing jolts at low speeds.

Citroen C3 Aircross diesel engines

The 1.5-litre BlueHDi engine is familiar from models like the Citroen C4 and Peugeot 2008 and is one of the best small diesels on sale. The single diesel engine produces 109bhp and not only does it accelerate with conviction from low revs, it’s also smooth until much higher in the rev range. It’s a shame, then, that the gearbox doesn’t feel more precise and that the chiselled shape of the gear lever isn't especially comfortable to hold.

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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