2018 CITROËN C3 Shine Road Test, Review, and tour
What a fun little car CITROËN C3 is.
It’s unique design echoes the 2CV people’s car from CITROËN’s halcyon past. Who would think it could have been recaptured so masterly?
2CV was rumoured to be able to carry a farmer and a basket of eggs across a ploughed field without breaking either the eggs of the farmer. C3 doesn’t make the same claims, but it certainly feels capable of it.
We drove it at the Australian launch. Read about it HERE.
With the benefit of time, I thought perhaps C3 wouldn’t be quite as good as I remembered it, but it was.
The cute-as-a-button package looks more a feisty mini SUV than a boring old city-hatch.
Eschewing the common-as-muck angular wedge with mismatched lines and bumps we see in a lot of new cars, C3 is all smooth and rounded. Strong lines at the front, air bumps on the doors, and unique wheel design are standouts.
Headlights in a two-part arrangement see the main lights lower in the bumper with the upper array housing the DTRLs and indicators.
This array forms part of an air intake which incorporates the CITROËN “chevron” badge. The twin angles are inspired by the angles form by the teeth of gears and harken back to the earliest days of the brand.
The 5 door hatch has “air bumps” along the lower sections of the passenger doors. These are not merely decorative either. At the Cactus launch, CITROËN allowed us to bang shopping trollies into the bumps to see how it performed, and it was good.
The Air Bumps withstood all but the most severe of trolley collisions. It demonstrated how use in your local Aldi carpark protected the larger expanses of metal. You can change the bump’s colour too.
Customisation has become a CITROËN trademark. You can select roof, body, and trim colours to get an individual combination among hundreds of possibilities. Some combinations cost a few extra shekels.
Window frames are blacked out and highlighted against brightly coloured side mirrors.
17” diamond cut CROSS BLACK alloy wheels look the business, and are a long way from the tiny 14” wheels with narrow tyres from 2CV. Despite the lower profile of 17” tyres, the ride retains the legendary CITROËN ride, but more about that later.
Looking to the top of the windscreen you’ll see an inbuilt dashcam. It can share photos online because C3 is connected to the world via the Net. That is so nifty, and a big tick in the safety box..
“Chic”, and, “Fun”, are the words du jour.
There are shades of the CITROËN C4 Cactus inside. Pull-straps on the doors give a nod to posh luggage of the past. Upholstery options have several themes. The Hype Colorado interior comes with driver’s armrest, caramel and grey seats, and caramel on the steering wheel and dash. It’s not to everyone’s taste but has a bespoke feeling crossed with a touch of funk.
Strong horizontal lines on a dash which looks uncluttered with buttons and knobs. Controls have been moved from switches to the LCD screen. A simple menu system in the centre infotainment screen is used for all functions you’d normally find on the centre stack and centre console.
The fresh, clean, look is now widely used in the auto industry, but some do it better than others.
Seats feel like big comfy lounge chairs with deep padding reminiscent of the classic DS, a delicious masterpiece of design from the early 60’s. There are further nods to the old DS with the steering wheel. Although it has 3 spokes, the centre spoke at the bottom is a different design mimicking the single spoke of the 60’s car. Whether intentional or not, it is beautiful.
In fact, the CITROËN cabin feels like having a cuppa with an old friend: familiar, welcoming, and above all, friendly. It is unpretentious, but functional with most things being in just the right spot.
The city car-size is spacious, in a compact kind of way. The airiness is thanks to large windows and a high roof. The design could never be described as drab.
It’s not all beer and skittles though.
French cars are not known for their cupholders. They always feel like an afterthought and are usually poorly placed and badly designed, and C3 is no different. Cup holders are at the base of the centre stack on the centre console. This puts them in front of the gear selector which makes them hard to get to. You find yourself spilling your brew all over the shop if you dare try and drink while driving.
Worse still, even the smallest of cups obscure the USB socket and makes it almost impossible to see the gear indicator. Those silly old sausages should have given this a bit more consideration.
Cruise control lives on a stalk behind the steering wheel is hard to use until you become more familiar. A few weeks of ownership should sort all that out. The steering wheel has very few controls so Cruise Control could be moved on to the face of the of the wheel without everyone needing big hugs.
The sound system has a decent tone even at higher volumes.
You can fettle controls to give you sound to your taste. There is no need to have booming if you don’t want it. Apple CarPlay works well through the touch interface on the LCD screen. It can be slow to respond on occasions.
Audio, air conditioning, settings, and Bluetooth is all controlled via a nifty set of fixed touch controls which direct-access menus. To change temperature, press the climate button, then the control you want. It isn’t quite as convenient as an individual control on the console, but the trade-off is a clean cabin free of the terrible clutter of dashboards 10 years ago.
Simple controls on the steering wheel also scroll through radio stations (including presets), play lists, phone calls, and contacts. The system is excellent. At first, having to enter menu to change fan speed or radio stations felt foreign, but quickly became second nature.
- Apple CarPlay/Android Auto/Mirroring
- 6 speed auto
- Front wheel drive
- Air Bumps on the exterior of doors
- Speed limit recognition linked to cruise control
- dash cam built in, with online image sharing
- 5 year warranty and roadside assist
Drive and Engine
- 1.2 L 81kw,
- 3-cylinder turbo.
- 0-100 10.9 seconds
What a delight.
Peugeot CITROËN steering has always been good. Even in their entry level cars, there is a sharpness many cars of the same price simply don’t have.
Ride is excellent. Remember that little 2CV I mentioned earlier? It had unrivalled ride for a car of it’s era and C3 continues that theme. The more people onboard, the better the ride. It is smooth with only the most uncooperative of road surfaces intruding into the cabin.
The 10.9 second 0-100 time makes C3 sound a little on the slow side, but it isn’t. at city speeds, the 6 speed auto has low gears allowing take-offs at traffic lights to be quickly dispatched. It feels nippy rather than fast.
Stick the lever in drive, and put your foot down, then sit back and enjoy.
I was critical of the award-winning 3 cylinder 1.2L engine in other Peugeot CITROËNcars. It didn’t feel right. It had been paired to a 6 speed manual and a semi-automatic in the past, and both were dreadful.
However, the 6 speed automatic paired to the tiny engine is a revelation. I usually prefer a manual transmission but in C3, the 1.2L/6 speed auto is brilliant.
Parking in these little French cars is incredibly simple. Not only does the turning circle feel small, but the Lilliputian proportions fit into those small parking spots, you know the ones. The spots under the ramp at Coles, or that awkward odd shaped space a honking great SUV can’t get in to.
Just think how smug you’d be able to feel.
Handling is a hoot. You can swing into tight corners and feel the body lean over just a touch. It goes where you point it, and only the worst of mid-corner bumps will make it feel skittish. C3 is completely controllable even with an inexperienced person at the wheel.
Gearing that allows a nippy take-off at the lights, also allows a leisurely cruise down the highway. There have been small cars that made me feel quite self-conscious. I might even have been slightly embarrassed to be seen in them. Instead, C3 gives a driver a certain reassurance. You feel like you can go anywhere without caring what others think.
Stability control mops up those sundry misdemenours and keeps things nice and tidy.
C3 feels far sportier than it has any right to.
ANCAP gave C3 4 stars.
C3 was tested in 2018, and without AEB (autonomous Emergency Braking) cannot attain a top rating. Whilst I am in no way defending this oversight, it is worth pointing out that most new cars sold do not have AEB across the range as standard. The vast majority of cars on the road are sans AEB.
There is a full range of safety features to make up for it.
There is Hill start assist and stability control, and a system which recognises speed signs. The speed is displayed near the digital speedo in the centre driver’s cluster.
Hill start assist uses the ABS to hold the car on a hill as you take-off to stop you from rolling backwards. Stability control uses the ABS so wheels don’t skid in cornering.
A Built-in dash cam not only monitors the road, but will record crashes. You can take snaps of your journey to share online too. Peace of mind is one thing, but this could also help with an insurance claim.
- Great ride and handling
- Built-in dash cam
- Cute looks
- Current drive price offering
Not So Good Bits
- Poorly placed cup holders
- No AEB
The only real problem I have with CITROËNC3 is that Peugeot CITROËN doesn’t make enough of the Frenchness. There should be a beret and baguette in every ad. The air waves should be flooded with Edith Piaf. There should be a picture of the Eiffel Tour in every showroom. If that sounds naff, think of the way Italians use their heritage.
French cars have a friendliness the Germans don’t have.
It is a fabulously fun car to drive. The current $23,990 drive away offer places C3 competitively in a crowed market place.
The interior is both clever and comfortable. The tiny annoyances like poorly placed cupholders and USB sockets are not deal breakers. The joy of flitting around town in something a bit different more than makes up for it.
I can see a young couple with a dog nipping out for a coffee. In fact they could go further afield for a naughty weekend away, just the three of them. Most city cars are rubbish in tight corners, and utterly miserable on highways, but C3 feels like it wants to run.
CITROËN has struggled for recognition and suffered from a lack of love from previous importers.
Inchcape now imports both CITROËN and Peugeot, alongside it’s successful Subaru models. It owns prestige retailer, Trivett, as well as providing logistics for other brands.
I’d like the chance to take one on a road trip. Why not indeed?
Facts and Figures: 2018 CITROËNC3 Shine
- Engine: 1.2L 3 Cylinder turbo petrol producing 81kW/205Nm
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Warranty: 5 years/ unlimited km
- Safety: Select
- Origin: France
- Price: $23,990 Drive Away
Author: Alan Zurvas