Review: Citroen C3

Citroen started it all with their C4 Cactus, writes Brian Byrne. A major shift in design that would provide owners, and those who simply saw the car on the road, with a reason to smile. Because it was funky as well as being practical in many ways.

Like the airbumps. Designed to minimise damage from other car doors and supermarket trolleys on the bash, they also added a style element which immediately identified the car and the brand.

With the new C3, launched here before Christmas, they have built on that ethos. It's a car that even on the dullest rainy day will cheer you up just to look at it, and to drive in it. The bright, even brash detailing outside and in are infectious ticklers. Just because it's a supermini, it doesn't need to be boring.

The new C3 has airbumps too, in a different shape but offering the same protections. And the same brand recognition value. The bright two-tone colour options — there are darker ones if you prefer — provide an antidote to the Irish winter, as well as making it easier to spot your vehicle in that supermarket car park. The front end treatment is right up to tomorrow, smoothly melding the traditional chevron signature with the latest in lights technology.

Inside, the quirky theme continues. No subtlety about the red beading on the dashboard, doors and seat trim. The suitcase strap door pulls that debuted on the Cactus still a unique touch, and very handy in use. The indent patterns in the door trim which reflect the airbumps outside. A fine big centre screen, and bright, clear main instruments … though I'll still grumble about having to use the screen for heater controls, until they stop doing it.

It's a spacious car for its class, and someone tall like me doesn't have to duck nearly as much getting in as in many cars even in the class above. I liked the driving position, kind of straight up and lots of visibility. As a 5-door car there's easy access to the rear, and plenty of space for a pair of big people or three smaller ones. Good boot too. All in all, a practical package as well as the fun feel factor.

My review car had the HDi diesel engine, one of those very good PSA units with which we are very familiar and which performed in the usual refined and torquey manner. The 5-speed manual proved perfectly suited. The petrol option is that 3-cylinder PureTech, and I'm hoping to spend time with one before the summer. With the €2,400 premium for the diesel, I'm reckoning the award-winning petrol will win back more people to petrol cars in this class fairly quickly.

The car handles as brightly as it looks, and Citroen's traditional emphasis on comfort shows through. It is a car whose visuals make you smile, but it's the comfort that will keep that grin on your face.

The brand isn't finished yet with this theme. The C-Aircross concept debuted at Geneva last week shows where things are going in the compact SUV space for Citroen. Another smile-maker when it arrives, I feel sure.

Meantime, the C3 deserves to make the right kind of waves in Citroen dealerships across the land. Prices from €15,490 to €22,190.

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