First Drive: Citroen C3

Finally, Citroen is doing quirky right again…

Citroen’s new family hatchback is , despite its initial appearances, a thoroughly sensible car. It seemed perfectly natural, therefore, to take it to Shelsley Walsh – the oldest active motorsport venue in the world.

The course is a single track up a 328-foot hill that runs for exactly 1,000 yards. In the right car – a customer made race car that looks like something from Formula One – it’s possible to get from a standstill to the very top in 22.58 seconds. The Citroen C3 took just a little longer, but the 1.6-litre diesel engine didn’t struggle up the hill.

The real reason I made the run was to showcase Citroen’s ConnectCAM. This is a windscreen mounted camera that constantly records what’s going on in the outside world. In the event that it detects an incident, it saves the preceding 30 seconds of video, as well as the next 60 seconds, something that could be useful for insurance claims and even to avoid prosecution. It’s also easy to use when you want, with video recording being a button push away, enabling me to record my run up the hill. Happily, unlike some companies who try to take ownership of your data, the C3’s data is stored on a memory card in the car and not uploaded to Citroen’s computers, so you can choose to delete files or even dispose of the card entirely.

It’s all part of a package of goodies that separates the C3 from the rest of the crowded market of family hatchbacks. Most noticeable are the plastic mouldings on the side – seen first on the C4 Cactus, these ‘Airbumps’ protect the car from supermarket trolleys and suchlike, although they are optional on lower grades. There’s a reversing camera, mobile phone connectivity thanks to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and hill start assist, amongst other helpful bits of kit.

The sensible side continues inside, with spacious seating for five, including some extremely comfortable front seats. The boot is also a decent size, able to accommodate most family needs. Countless storage cubbies help too, although the glovebox is almost entirely useless.

Out on the road it’s another case of keeping things sensible This is no hot hatch (although there are stories that one will eventually follow) but the handling is engaging enough to keep an average driver happy, while the ride quality is better than you would expect from a car of this size. On-the-limit lift-off oversteer is probably off the menu, but the C3 feels secure and planted in all circumstances – including the mud-covered roads on the way to Shelsley Walsh – which will keep parents happy.

Bank managers should be happy too, as this 100bhp diesel-powered version will manage 76.3mpg, at least officially. CO2 emissions of 95g/km mean there’s no car tax to pay either, just so long as you register the car by the end of March. There’s another diesel option, and three petrol engines to choose from, too.

It all helps to make the C3 a stand-out car, even if the Airbumps, bold colours, contrasting roof and twin level lighting at the front failed to grab you.

Model Tested: Citroen C3 Flair BlueHDi 100
Price: £17,095
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 115 mph
0-62 mph: 11.9 seconds
Power: 99 PS (98 bhp)
Torque: 254 Nm (187 ft lb)
Official fuel economy: 76.3 mpg
Road Test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 95 g/km
VED Band: A / £0 per year
Car insurance group: 20A
Kerb weight: 1,090 kg

Phil Huff

Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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