What: Citroen C3 PureTech VTi 82
Where: Paris, France
Date: December 2012
Price: from £13,640
Available: On sale now
Key rivals:Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa, Volkswagen Polo
Citroen’s updated C3 supermini offers improved efficiency and greater performance thanks to a pair of new three-cylinder engines, with plenty of practicality, too.
We like: Smooth, refined engine, economy improvements, comfortable ride…
We don’t like: …at the expense of roll in corners, overly light steering
First drive: Citroen C3 (2009 onwards)
Read more Citroen car reviews
The Citroen C3 is the French firm’s best-seller in the UK with sales of 600,000 to date, but it’s been lagging behind its supermini rivals of late.
As vehicles around it have received more efficient engines and clever eco-focused technology the C3 has quietly blended into the background – until now.
This new car gets Peugeot-Citroen’s latest crop of small three-cylinder engines, offering more power, better performance – and importantly – increased fuel economy over the range of four-cylinder units they replace.
The car doesn’t look any different – it’s the technology underneath that’s important. A 30% reduction in friction and gadgets such as a “free-wheeling” alternator, reducing load on the engine, help to eek as much out of a tank as possible.
We sampled the larger capacity 82hp 1.2-litre C3 ‘PureTech’ model and, on the whole, were impressed. It’s spritely enough, with a solid mid-range helped by well-spaced gearing, making it good around town.
Unfortunately, the useable performance isn’t continued higher up the rev range – the engine rather runs out of puff if you stretch it – it’s best to play to its strengths and change up earlier, helping keep fuel economy respectable, too.
It is extremely smooth and refined
The 0-62mph benchmark takes 12.3 seconds – 1.5 less than the 73hp 1.4-litre engine that it replaces – but outright performance isn’t what this car is about.
It is extremely smooth and refined. The 1.2-litre unit gets a balancer shaft (the 1.0 doesn’t get one purely for cost reasons) to help reduce vibrations from the triple, and at motorway speeds the engine is quiet with some useful pull.
The slick motor highlights the gearbox’s shortcomings though – it’s perfectly liveable, but the change action is a touch imprecise, not helped by a light throw.
There’s more to come from the engine, according to Citroen. But don’t expect a high-power turbocharged variant – the engine wasn’t designed with forced induction in mind; “it’s just not the Peugeot-Citroen way.”
Citroen has stiffened up the new C3’s suspension dampers by 20%, as well as increasing the car’s resistance to roll by a further 15%. It still feels soft though.
This is not a hot hatchback, and we don’t expect it to handle like one, but the updated car still isn’t the sharpest tool – the facelifted Ford Fiesta is more precise.
Light steering – although with not much feedback from the wheel – means it’s easy to manoeuvre the car in tight spaces and the reduction in weight at the nose gives a keener response, but there is still too much roll. The compromise means a composed and relaxed ride, however.
We didn’t get to test the C3 on anything other than urban roads and motorways so we can’t tell you how it would handle a typical British B-road – a tight motorway slip road and the odd roundabout were the most we had to go on to asses its higher speed handling.
It might not thrill dynamically, but as an every-day vehicle the C3 is more than capable.
Not much has changed inside the car. It’s still comfortable, with a mix of gloss plastic trims and fascias, as well as some chrome highlights.
The sweeping “Zenith” panoramic windscreen runs back past your head giving great visibility of the road in front. In fact, it’s easy to see out of the C3 in every direction – an important point in a supermini that’ll likely spend most of its time running around towns and cities. Should help parking again, too.
Fuel efficiency is what has driven the C3’s engine update
Rear legroom is good and as a result of that expansive piece of front glass, the cabin is flooded with light, making it feel nice and airy.
Boot space is impressive at 300 litres – 20 litres larger than a Volkswagen Polo and a whopping 89 litres more room than a Suzuki Swift.
Fuel efficiency is what has driven the C3’s engine update. Both the new 1.0- and 1.2-litre three-pot engines are more efficient than the four-cylinder units they replace.
The 1.2 we tested uses 25% less fuel than the old 1.4, while CO2 emissions are improved by 35g/km, according to Citroen.
It claims 62.8mpg combined with 104g/km CO2 emissions, putting the car tantalisingly close to the sub-100g/km CO2 free road tax category. There’s no stop-start system fitted, but the French firm isn’t ruling out adding it to the range at a later date, meaning this engine package has the potential to be even more frugal.
No structural changes have been made to the C3 so it retains its four–star Euro NCAP crash safety rating. Four airbags come fitted as standard, but ESP is an optional extra. Plenty of rivals have five stars now.
Citroen’s new three-pot C3 is a competent supermini. More power and performance while using less fuel in delivering it makes the car a viable choice in the sector once more.
It won’t provide the thrills of the Ford from behind the wheel, and it doesn’t offer the quality of the Volkswagen, but comfort, efficiency and ease of use are three qualities the C3 majors in. It seems like three is a magic number for Citroen.
On Bing: see pictures of the Citroen C3
Find out how much a Citroen C3 is worth on Auto Trader
First drive: Citroen C3 (2009 onwards)