As a result of the difficult economic conditions we're now experiencing, the European B segment has become just as crowded as downtown New York and more and more carmakers are betting all their money on new, small, fuel efficient and environmentally-friendly models. This particular class is somewhat familiar to Citroen, the French manufacturer having a long history under its belt when it comes to mini and small models.
Citroen's very own star in the segment, the C3
, was already a best-seller, as numbers were pointing to an impressive 2 million units since the first launch in 2002
. Basically, all things went just according to the plan, but the natural progression of things led to a new, improved and masculine-wannabe product.
The C3 was first unleashed in 2002 and, during its lifetime, it received several new body configurations, including a convertible flavor, codenamed Pluriel
, and a mini MPV
, known as Picasso
and rolled out at the 2008 Paris Motor Show. The design of the car was made by Donato Coco and Jean-Pierre Ploué, who also worked for the first Renault Twingo
As always, Citroen put all its hopes into the car's city-oriented attributes, regardless if we're talking about fuel consumption, emissions, dimensions or comfort. In addition, it fitted several popular technologies inside the car, in an effort to catch the eye of a larger segment of customers, including women and even young and first-car buyers.
The new C3 came to be at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show and Citroen tried to stir a global frenzy announcing all kinds of improvements, most of them beating competition without too much effort. At least, this is what the French manufacturer said at the time of launch...
We couldn't believe our ears so we took the 2010 Citroen C3, in Confort configuration, equipped with a 1.4 HDI
engine developing 70 horsepower and mated to a five-speed manual transmission, for a ride. It had a price of around 16,500 Euros with all the installed options, while the base version came with a price tag of 13,800 Euros. If you want to find out if the car is really worth its praise and money, continue reading the chapters below.
Just as we mentioned, the girly C3 was meant to become a more masculine mean of transportation, the guys over at Citroen preparing a sportier appearance. There are some differences in dimensions, but the weight remains the same as on the previous model. Furthermore, the car has the same wheelbase but, contrary to the 2002 model, it is longer, taller and wider, which usually translates into more interior room and larger trunk.
Painted in Rouge Lucifer (catchy name isn't it?), the car thus measures 3941x1728x1524mm / 155x68x60 inches (LxWxH) and has a wheelbase of 2466mm / 97 inches, while the trunk has a maximum volume of 300 liters.
As compared to the previous model, which underwent a minor facelift in 2006, almost every major exterior part got reworked, regardless if we're referring to headlights, grille or taillights.
The whole car however is built around the so-called Zenith windshield which was previously used by Citroen for the C4 Picasso. The progressively-tinted windscreen measures 1346mm (52 inches) and gives a youthful feeling at both the exterior and the interior.
Specifically, the Easter egg-shaped car comes with new, extended headlights for a more modern appearance, plus a larger grille that tries to make it a bit more aggressive (if this is indeed possible on such a model). Moving on to the sides, the tested model was equipped with optional 15-inch alloy wheels (available as an option for 300 Euros) plus chrome side mirrors brackets and turn signals integrated into the body-colored mirror housings.
At the rear, the are some signs of evolution, but there's nothing too fancy or surprising. The two redesigned taillights are accompanied by a third brake lamp and a tiny windscreen wiper for the rear window that comes in very handy on a dusty road or simply during bad weather.
All in all, the new C3 seems to be just another regular hatchback thrown in the battle to conquer European soil but looks like that type of car that touches a deep chord into people's hearts with its cuddly and playful appearance.
Since we're talking about a moderately-priced car in the B segment, we can't expect too much when getting behind the wheel. Or at least, we should uncheck massage seats, Internet and DVD players from our "must have" list because the interior of the C3 is as simple as it gets.
The star of the show is once again the Zenith windscreen, with all the other parts apparently being used to bring this feature in the spotlights. The windshield, which according to Citroen is going to be installed on around 50 percent of all C3s, was tinted with a light gradient blue which is said to reflect approximately 90 percent of the solar energy.
Cheapness however is noticeable on most parts inside, starting with the plastics used on the dashboard and ending with the awful sliding interior cover that holds the two sunvisors. There were no vanity mirrors, which for you ladies is terrible, and the whole interior roof was extremely light and thin, giving us the feeling that we could break it with a finger.
The soft-touch dashboard goes on our "we liked" list, just near the gauges and the steering wheel. At the opposite pole, there's the chrome-wannabe dashboard plastic that seems to have an awkward role: give birth to dins, rattle and ruckus inside the cabin.
We were impressed by the quality of the seats however which seem comfy enough for all passengers, especially when driving in urban environment. Our "dummy" test proved that measuring 2 meters in height and driving the new C3 isn't impossible, while sitting on the rear bench is doable only if the front right seat is slid forward. The only problem is that a 2-meter tall guy has more chances to leave the car with several head bumps than a 1-year-old who makes his first steps.
This is actually one of the good things inside the C3: the design of the dashboard allowed the glovebox to be mounted closer to the windscreen, and thus creating more legroom for the front passenger who, in turn, can create more space for the rear passenger. Furthermore, the seatbacks were especially designed to be slimmer, which also contributes to the overall amount of space.
Driving the new C3 in a city is probably the best thing you can do with this car. Mostly because the majority of its features are especially intended to make city driving easier.
First of all, the bubble car appearance gives us more interior space than expected. Both the front and the rear seats provide a decent level of comfort, especially in an urban environment where roads are dotted with speed limiters and potholes. Additionally, the suspension setup is especially configured for the best possible comfort which, although sounds like a great feature, it has its drawbacks. The worst thing is that this configuration leads to a sloppy steering which, in curvy roads, makes the car feel like a boat on water.
Then, there's the engine. Although most of the car enthusiasts out there would laugh their heads off when hearing that the tested C3 came with a 1.4 liter HDi engine developing 70 horsepower, the powerplant definitely does its job, especially on city roads. The fuel consumption ratings are impressive to say the least if we're taking into account the efforts made by the whole automotive industry to cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Citroen says the 1.4 HDi engine should burn around 5.2 liters of diesel every 100 kilometers (45.2 mpg) in city conditions and, as far as we're concerned, the truth lies somewhere near that point. After a regular 15-km trip, basically the approximate distance every citizen covers every morning when going to the office, the trip computer indicated a fuel consumption rating of 6.3 l/100km (37.3 mpg). In addition, the power it provides is more than enough in the crowded cities we're living in, but even so, in case one of your dreams is to replace Michael Schumacher at Petronas Mercedes GP, we'd suggest you to buy a punchier engine.
The manual transmission box isn't the best thing on Earth but you could get used to it. Just as usual, an automatic unit would be welcome for a more comfortable ride and a more delicate way to deal with traffic jams. The manual setup however is clearly indicating that Citroen's main target was, from the very beginning, the Old Continent, but still, a 4-speed automatic unit is offered as option.
Behind the wheel, visibility can't get much better than this, as the driver is basically able to observe all surrounding objects without any hassle. A big plus to the Zenith windscreen that allowed us to see pole-mounted traffic lights easier than anytime before. The only addition that could increase visibility is basically the addition of a blind-spot monitoring system but such a feature is completely missing on the revised C3 range.
As we said, the new C3 measures 3941x1728x1524mm / 155x68x60 inches (LxWxH) and has a wheelbase of 2466mm / 97 inches, while the trunk has a maximum volume of 300 liters. This should be enough to carry all your shopping bags but, if you want to use it on Black Fridays, you can always fold the rear seats for additional storage capacity.
Parking isn't too difficult, as our car was equipped with parking sensors, available as an option for 300 Euros.
Unfortunately for the new C3, this is the section where the engine counts the most in our testdrive. Basically, such a configuration, with a 70 hp engine and a 5-speed manual box is useful only if you're the kind of girl who likes to cruise at 100 km/h and enjoy the landscape.
The comfort-oriented suspension configuration feels terrible on the highway, where the whole vehicle becomes unstable and vibrations or shaking in the steering wheel occur after the car exceeds 110 km/h. In other words, every little movement or bump on the road is felt in the steering wheel.
Fuel consumption is once again impressive, Citroen's very own figures point to an estimated 3.7 l/100km (63.5 mpg) outside the city. After a 20 km test on the highway, cruise control set at 130 km/h, the on-board computer indicated 6 l/100km urban (39.2 mpg). On country roads, fuel consumption dropped to 4.3 l/100km (54.7 mpg), much closer to the official numbers posted by the French carmaker.
The engine makes a bit too much noise, especially at higher speeds, and the car sounds more like an airplane the faster it goes. In a bad way... The air flow is a noise source, as the new C3 isn't exactly the most aerodynamic car on Earth.
We didn't however expect too much from the car but it did manage to get us from point A to point B in a decent way, without too much burned fuel and with an acceptable level of comfort.
Speaking of comfort, a longer trip with the new C3 is the perfect moment for the Zenith windscreen to come into play. Especially if it's raining, snowing or just night. The windshield lets the passengers enjoy the panoramas in a more charming way than a regular sunroof, while protecting the cabin from the sun light.
Visibility is once again a good thing and, although the car features ESP
and cruise control, it lacks almost all features that would make it a more suitable open road ride, such as entertainment gadgets, a more powerful engine plus comfortable seats and superior ergonomics.
Its limited 300-liter trunk forces us to make a compromise: either we choose interior space and thus the car can accommodate up to 5 passengers or we go for storage volume with rear seats folded.