Citroën C3 Aircross SUV review
"The Citroen C3 Aircross is a quirky small SUV with cool looks, a cosy interior and plenty to like about the way it drives"
- Comfortable interior
- Attractive styling
- Decent engines
- Middling reliability
- Touchscreen heater controls
- Red is only ‘free’ paint colour
The choice of small SUVs available in the UK is extensive, with the Citroen C3 Aircross facing off against several stylish rivals including the Hyundai Kona, Kia Stonic, SEAT Arona, along with the latest versions of the Nissan Juke and Renault Captur, plus the new Ford Puma. If you’re about to go crossover shopping, there should be a model to suit you to a tee.
Citroen is late to this party, but it has a longer history of building small and practical cars than almost anyone else. The Aircross effectively replaces the C3 Picasso, which means that Citroen fans to whom that mini-MPV appealed now need to join the SUV bandwagon.
It'll be good news for many, then, that the Aircross hangs onto some of its predecessor's design eccentricity, as it also effectively supplants the quirky C4 Cactus as Citroen's small, funky crossover offering. Individual looks aside, the Aircross is actually thoroughly conventional under the metal, sharing its underpinnings with the smaller C3 supermini, and built in the same factory as the Vauxhall Mokka X and Vauxhall Crossland X.
The Aircross offers a 1.2-litre PureTech turbocharged petrol with either 109bhp or 129bhp; CO2 emissions start from 135g/km for the lower powered manual car, rising to 142g/km for the more powerful automatic. A 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel is also offered with 109bhp emitting up to 124g/km of CO2. This should amplify its appeal to company-car choosers, even with the 4% extra surcharge on diesel fuel, who’ll be keen on its relatively low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax band. That's one band above most of the petrol engines, although the 108bhp petrol falls into a more appealing band if you spec a lower trim level.
The BlueHDi 109bhp engine is already well proven and here it provides impressive get-up-and-go, with a smooth delivery until well beyond the point you’d usually change gear. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 10.8 seconds, beating the fastest diesel Renault Captur by two tenths, and fuel economy of up to 60.1mpg is equally impressive.
Taller suspension helps the C3 Aircross retain its composure, with only the occasional pothole grabbing your attention. In corners, the Citroen is equally well composed, resisting any stomach-churning body lean, despite having plenty of grip to remain on your chosen trajectory. It's anything but a sporty car to drive, though, because Citroen instead wanted to prioritise comfort.
Four trim levels are available: C-Series, Shine, Shine Plus, plus a Rip Curl special edition. The previous entry-level model, Touch, had steel wheels with plastic trims, but its rather sparse equipment list did include Bluetooth, air-conditioning, DAB radio and automatic headlights. You'll be able to find this trim on used cars, but now all new C3 Aircross models come with alloy wheels, as well as the equipment listed.
The alloy wheels and faux front and rear skid plates help give the C-Series trim its SUV status, while the interior benefits from cruise control, lane departure warning and Citroen’s seven-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Go all out with the Shine Plus version and you get a more distinctive look, thanks to a bi-tone roof that allows up to 85 possible body and roof colour combinations – this will be welcomed by those who mourn the absence of the C4 Cactus' trademark Airbumps. Shine Plus also brings bigger 17-inch alloy wheels and features like navigation and parking sensors. The Rip Curl edition is a collaboration with the surfing brand, adding unique alloy wheels, a black contrasting roof, a new interior look and Rip Curl logos.
As in the Renault Captur, the Aircross' back seats are on individual runners, so you can move them to expand the boot to 520 litres. Leave them fully back for maximum kneeroom and the boot measures 410 litres – figures which are good for the class. There’s enough room for four adults, but rear headroom is a bit tight for adults, particularly if the panoramic sunroof is fitted.
Safety is guaranteed, thanks to a five-star Euro NCAP rating. The C3 Aircross is fitted with the usual airbags, but there's also technology to help prevent a collision from happening in the first place, with autonomous emergency braking standard from the Shine model upwards.
All told, the Aircross is a very thoroughly conceived package, which loses out to rivals for driving appeal but more than makes up for this with a flexible, well equipped and comfortable interior. And that, after all, is what many small SUV buyers are looking for.