Citroen C3 Pluriel 1.6i 16V

February 2004

picture of c3  pluriel from the front

Loveable C3 Pluriel is a surprisingly versatile supermini

Ratings

Overall Rating 7Overall rating

Value for money Rating 7Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 8Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 8Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 7Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 8Car safety


Likes

  • Combination of different bodystyles in one car
  • Youthful styling likely to attract fashion-conscious buyers
  • Affordable wind-in-your-hair motoring
  • Supermini practicality with the roof up

Gripes

  • Overall cabin build quality could be better
  • SensoDrive gearbox an acquired taste and jerky in auto mode
  • 1.4 petrol engine lacks power and is noisy when pushed hard
  • No provision made to store roof bars in car when in cabrio mode

Proof that Citroen hasn't lost the knack of making innovative cars comes in the form of the C3 Pluriel. Not only a supermini but also a cabriolet, roadster and pick-up, the Pluriel is a veritable automotive Swiss army knife. However, doubts remain over its practicality when the car's talents are explored fully.

A collective sigh of relief could be heard from Citroen fans when the Pluriel first appeared, as the car's arrival was proof that the French firm hadn't lost the knack of making quirky cars - only misplaced it for a while.

Touting the car as one of a kind in the supermini sector is, for once, an unashamedly bold and true statement. That the car can be a sensible urban runabout one moment and a fully-fledged drop-top the next is indeed mould breaking. Owners of a weak disposition might take two or three moments to complete the transformation though, which highlights the Pluriel's main flaw: usability.

As with many fashion-led consumer items, the Pluriel is not terribly practical when you make the most of its features. Sure, the car looks good, but stowing the roof and rear screen 'cassette' under the boot takes time and practice thanks to the unit's bulk and the various fiddly securing catches. The roof bars only complicate matters further. These hefty items command careful handling when being attached or removed, and require adequate storage space. And you can't take them with you when in convertible mode, which could leave you caught out if the weather turns sour.

While committed fans will merely shrug off these 'minor' inconveniences, people new to the marque may not. That said, the fiddly nature of the roof mechanism and the thorny question of what you do with the bars has done little to dent the car's popularity - if the number of Pluriels on the road is anything to go by.

Our verdict on the Citroen C3 Pluriel 1.6i 16V

On paper the Pluriel is an exciting proposition as the car is well equipped and comes in a selection of bright and airy colour combinations. The reality is, sadly, somewhat different. Question marks remain over the durability of the cabin, roof mechanism and the SensoDrive gearbox. The inability to stow the car's roof bars whilst on the move is big disappointment.

Costs
Costs rating 8

It's rare these days to pay full price for any Citroen, thanks to the firm's numerous attractive promotions. This is also true of the Pluriel, as modest discounts have long since filtered down to this model. Residuals should be stronger than the similar tin-top C3 as there are fewer cars in circulation, and convertibles of all types possess a strong following in the UK. Major service intervals are a generous 20,000 miles - another sure way to save the pennies, while insurance groups of 4 and 6 for the 1.4 and 1.6 respectively are low for what is usually a higher than average risk category.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 8

With the roof up the Pluriel profile is classic supermini. That changes with a twist of a dial, as the fabric middle section slides back. After stowing it and the rear window module in the boot, you can remove the roof rails for the full-on roadster experience. There are two snags, though. The rails cannot be carried in the car so you'll get very wet if it rains, and the process is fiddly and not for the weak as the rails are heavy. Roof aside, the Pluriel is like any other C3; numerous cubbyholes, decent room up front and in the boot, less so in the rear.

picture of c3 pluriel from the rear

Can any other supermini boast of being able to transform into a pick up?

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

'Clear and concise' sums up the Pluriel's major controls and instruments. The only disappointment is the fuel gauge - a collection of LCD 'blobs' that make judging accurately what's left in the tank a little tricky. Otherwise, switchgear is logically placed and the digital speedo requires only a brief acclimatisation period. The combined trip computer and radio display mounted high in the driver's eyeline is a welcome touch, as are the F1-style gearchange paddles on SensoDrive-equipped cars.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 7

Front occupants are treated to a slightly elevated seating position but back seat passengers will baulk at the prospect of long trips thanks to the car's distinct lack of legroom. The seats themselves are soft and flat, which is good if comfort is a priority, but not so when cornering as lateral support could be better. Given the poor quality of modern roads, the Pluriel's seats do compensate for the car's sometimes choppy ride, which can be blamed on the absence of a steel roof and the chassis' lack of rigidity.

Car security
Security Rating 7

Any car with a fabric roof will always be attractive to thieves, but at least the Pluriel comes with an immobiliser as a first line of defence. The 1.6 model adds an alarm, while both cars come with remote central locking, a boot security cover and automatic relocking of the doors and boot if the car is left unattended for 30 seconds. And while unlikely to be on a criminal's carjacking list, the central locking is activated once the Pluriel is in motion.

Car safety
Safety Rating 8

Despite the Pluriel's modest screen price and supermini origins, Citroen has fitted the car with numerous items of safety kit. Twin front and side airbags are standard, along with ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist - items not usually found together on a small car. Although not a permanent fixture, the car's roof rails are reinforced to aid crash protection, and seat headrests double as roll hoops like those on a regular convertible. Both rear seats include ISOFIX mountings for child seats. There's even a user programmable alarm to warn you of exceeding a preset speed limit.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 6

The Pluriel is not a car that lends itself well to being driven hard. The 1.4 petrol variant is better suited to ambling around town and making the odd cross-country excursion at a relaxed pace. If you want more go, the 1.6 petrol is the safer bet. The extra thrust is noticeable and the car can be pushed quite hard, but the chassis runs out of talent sooner than you'd think. For all round versatility there's little to beat the diesel option. It may not be the quickest, but it's more economical and not as harsh at speed. Once you've mastered it, the 1.6's SensoDrive gearbox is easy to use but requires a light touch around town to avoid jerky progress.

picture of c3 pluriel with the roof retracted

With its roof and rear window stowed under the boot, the Pluriel becomes a desirable convertible

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 4

Unlike its more practical five-door C3 relations, the Pluriel won't attract the interest of the family car buyer. More a vehicle for fashionably minded singletons or couples - young or old - it is hard to imagine a child seat in the back of Pluriel. More credible is the possibility of a Pluriel being purchased as a second car to complement the family workhorse.

First car appeal
First car Rating 8

With the combination of attractive looks, ease of ownership, its small footprint and Citroen's predictable plethora of showroom deals, it would be easy to recommend the Pluriel as a first car. Neither engine will set the Tarmac alight - a plus point for any novice driver - and the SensoDrive gearbox could prove a blessing in disguise for anyone seeking the feel of a manual gearbox but lacking confidence or sufficient coordination with the real thing.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 9

Once a self-proclaimed innovator and producer of technologically advanced cars, Citroen today offers safe, conservative designs majoring on value for money. While the staid-looking C5 is an advanced family conveyance, it's taken the arrival of the Pluriel to challenge the current attitude towards the brand. A fun and novel take on the supermini format, the Pluriel is viewed by many to be as much a style accessory as it is a quirky runabout. Concerns remain over the Pluriel's build quality though, with trim and fittings lacking the perceived durability of its European rivals.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

With its wide-opening doors and commodious cabin, living with and driving the Pluriel is certainly no chore - for front seat passengers, at least. Based on a three-door C3, back seat occupants fare less well, as they have to clamber past the flip-forward front seats before experiencing only average legroom. Children would have no problem getting comfortable in the rear. As is common with many current superminis, the driving position is slightly elevated, and adjustment is both easy and comprehensive.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

Citroen's decision to fit a decent quality six-speaker radio/CD player as standard will please anyone who bemoans the current trend to skimp on in-car audio. Steering wheel-mounted controls for the basic functions make changing the volume or radio station safe when on the move. A dealer-fit option on both cars is an in-dash CD changer, which makes rummaging in the boot to change a disc a thing of the past.

picture of the c3 pluriel cabin

Fans of Citroen's C3 hatch will feel at home in the Pluriel's cabin

Colours and trim

As befits a car with such a jaunty, fun-loving personality, the Pluriel is offered in a number of bright exterior colours. A fashion item to its core, the drop-top C3 looks best when chosen in either Citroen's vibrant burnt orange or striking lime hues. While the car's interior isn't quite as outgoing, the light tones of the seats and fascia successfully accentuate the Pluriel's youthful aura. Don't look too closely at the plastic trim decorating the cabin though, as the quality lacks the durability of something from a Volkswagen factory.

Parking

Boasting the dimensions of a conventional supermini, the Pluriel is no more difficult to park than its tin-top sibling. Steering is pleasingly light at low speed, as is the action of the other major controls, and visibility is good. Familiarisation with the SensoDrive gearbox is the key to confident and swift manoeuvres. Parking sensors would make things easier, but are not offered as an option.

Spare wheel

Space saver fitted as standard on both models.

 

Range information

Three engine options - 1.4-litre (75bhp) petrol; 1.6-litre (110bhp) petrol; 1.4-litre (70bhp) diesel. Both 1.4 variants fitted with five-speed manual gearbox, 1.6 petrol fitted with five-speed SensoDrive clutchless manual gearbox with a switchable fully auto mode. No specific trim designator as engine choice dictates equipment levels; the 1.6 gaining fractionally more kit than the others.

 

Alternative cars

VW Beetle Cabrio better built but larger and more costly

Ford Streetka sporty Ford is both affordable and better to drive

Mini One Convertible fashionable alternative lacks the Pluriel's versatility

Peugeot 206 CC pug boasts a better roof and is closer to regular cabrio template than the Pluriel



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February 2004