Citroen C3 1.6 VTi Exclusive

December 2009

picture of car from the front

Sleek styling is typical of Citroen

Ratings

Overall Rating 7Overall rating

Value for money Rating 8Value for money

Space and Practicality Rating 8Costs

Space and Practicality Rating 7Space and practicality

Controls and display Rating 8Controls and display

Comfort Rating 7Comfort

Security Rating 7Car security

Safety Rating 7Car safety


Likes

  • Stylish exterior
  • Comfortable ride
  • Excellent visibility
  • Decent rear legroom

Gripes

  • 1.6 VTi petrol engine feels flat
  • Tiny glovebox
  • Lifeless steering lacks feel
  • Fiddly entertainment controls spoil excellent control layout

The B-segment never stands still for very long and the current generation of superminis is the best yet. Citroen's new C3 joins the party aiming to bring increased refinement, quality, style and some unique styling touches to the segment.

With more than two million examples of the last generation Citroen C3 sold, the French manufacturer has placed greater emphasis on quality in the new model. Increased competition from dynamic new models in the competitive small hatchback or supermini B-segment means that perceived quality, equipment and refinement are more important than ever. With this in mind, Citroen has designed a sharply styled model that aims to deliver high levels of comfort and practicality alongside some distinctive touches.

The most obvious of these is the Zenith windscreen, available from mid-range models up. Offering 30 per cent more glass area, the huge windscreen sweeps up into the C3's roof, allowing in more light and making the interior feel more spacious. Naturally, it increases visibility but not only for driver and front seat passenger; rear occupants also get a better view as a result. A sliding headliner complete with sun visors reverts it back to a normal windscreen where required.

The C3 comes with a range of compact petrol and diesel variants from 60 to 118bhp. A four-speed automatic gearbox option is present for the most powerful petrol unit, the rest come equipped with a five-speed manual only, with the exception of most powerful diesel unit which boasts a six-speed gearbox. Trim levels adhere to Citroen norms, but an additional 99g/km CO2 producing model called Airdream+ is also available.

Outside, the new C3 mixes a compact, domed design with stylistic touches such as boomerang lights and a flush rounded nose. The five-door hatch format is traditional but the styling more charismatic than the outgoing model. Higher quality materials have been introduced to the stylised interior and additional metallic trim gives a more upmarket feel.

Our verdict on the Citroen C3 1.6 VTi Exclusive

The Citroen C3 is only let down by the lifeless performance of the 118bhp VTi petrol engine. In every other department the new model is an improvement on the old C3, offering a measured mix of practicality, refinement and style. The Zenith windscreen is a smart idea neatly executed and the C3's comfortable ride and ease of use combine well with its stylish exterior and interior design to offer an attractive package.

Costs
Costs rating 8

Citroen models are always competitively priced and the new C3 is no different, offering a decent degree of refinement, build and equipment for price although some of the more interesting options are only available at cost or on higher specification models. An efficient engine range and should help keep running costs low and insurance should come with few unwanted surprises. Improved quality may also help residual values.

Space and practicality
Space and Practicality Rating 7

Although not the largest vehicle in its class in terms of exterior dimensions, the C3 can boast the largest boot. Combined with the good size rear hatch and 60/40 folding rear seat arrangement it's a practical small car. Space for passengers is improved through a recessed dash assembly allowing the front passenger seat to be moved forward without compromise, freeing up additional legroom in the rear. Although the glovebox is very small, under-seat storage is available and the door pockets are useable.

picture of car from the rear

A large hatch is great for practicality

Controls and display
Controls and Display Rating 8

With the exception of the centre console audio equipment, which adheres to the small and fiddly form of other Citroen models, the C3's controls are a definite triumph. The layout is traditional but elements such as the stylish ventilation controls complete with LCD screen add appeal. A three-dial display perfectly fuses analogue with digital, the steering wheel is fully adjustable and the gear lever nicely positioned. Electronic window switches (four in the Exclusive model) are angled towards the occupants for ease of use.

Comfort
Comfort Rating 7

Decent specification in the range-topping Exclusive model obviously adds to the C3's comfort levels, but even in base trim level it's a perfectly comfortable place to spend time. Road and engine noise are noticeably well restrained, the chassis absorbs all but the worst road imperfections with competent ease and material quality is good, with soft touch plastics adding to the sense of ease inside the cabin.

Car security
Security Rating 7

Only the Exclusive trim level comes with an alarm as standard, but child locks and automatic door locking are standard equipment. Remote central locking, complete with deadlocks, is standard across the C3 range.

Car safety
Safety Rating 7

Six airbags and a reinforced safety cell are standard fair for all models - curtain airbags are also present on upper trim levels. ABS with brake-force distribution is standard equipment but ESP is only available as an option. As speed limiter is present on the Exclusive model, and hazard lights flash under heavy braking to warn pursuing cars.

Driver appeal
Driver Appeal Rating 5

Despite a reasonably high-powered petrol engine, performance in the 1.6 VTi equipped models feels a little flat compared to some of the C3's rivals. Although the on-paper performance figures are impressive, on-the-road the unit feels less responsive than the technical figures suggest. Light steering that lacks any real feedback also means the C3 is not the most rewarding drive in its class. However, it is very comfortable performer. The linear power delivery from the engine and the light steering make it un-taxing to drive and very easy to live with around town. Visibility is also excellent, not just because of the extended windscreen but also the thin A-pillars.

picture of car interior

The Zenith windscreen allows in lots of light

Family car appeal
Family Appeal Rating 7

The C3 scores well as a small family hatchback. The rear will accept two child seats with Isofix mounts on the outer seats and the five-door format means access to the rear is very good. A spacious boot adds to the family appeal and the improved quality interior seems suitably hardwearing. Children and adults will appreciate the Zenith windscreen, bringing light and greater visibility to the interior.

First car appeal
First car Rating 8

The new C3 offers an excellent mix of qualities for a young driver or first time car buyer. Smartly styled, practical, well equipped and affordable, it should appeal strongly to younger drivers. Particularly easy to drive and live with around town, it's also ideal for the inexperienced driver.

Quality and image
Quality and Image Rating 7

The new C3 is a big step up in terms of quality. The interior in particular features better quality materials and a more upmarket layout and feel. Recent improvements in the French manufacturer's track record for reliability mean the new C3 should be held in higher esteem while a vibrant, modern exterior design give it additional kerb appeal.

Accessibility
Accessibility Rating

Despite a more compact body than many of its key rivals the C3 doesn't suffer for accessibility. Front and rear door length is evenly distributed and the dome body shape means the passenger compartment is tall. The doors open to a decent angle and offer a very reasonable portal. At the rear, the hatch is wide and uniform making for decent boot access.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

A built-in sat-nav system is available on the C3 for the first time - neatly incorporated in the centre console - and reasonably simple to use once familiar. It comes with Bluetooth and USB input but is a cost option. A six-speaker system with CD player and radio is standard but an eight-speaker set-up with subwoofer is a smart addition for making the C3 more desirable to younger drivers. Wheel-mounted stereo controls are standard.

picture of car in detail

Additional chrome trim looks great

Colours and trim

The new C3 is available in a vibrant range of eye-catching shades and its stylish exterior looks good in both light and dark colours. The Exclusive model in particular benefits from a body coloured bumper and tastefully applied additional chrome for the exterior. There's a similar theme inside, with a much improved level of standard trim boosted by additional touches such as metal inserts for the steering wheel and lower dash on higher specification models. Leather seats are an optional upgrade only, but leather steering wheels can be found from mid-range upwards.

Parking

The C3 poses no problems when it comes to parking, which is good as not even top-of-the-line models qualify for parking sensors as standard. A more compact body than many of its rivals allows for easily slipping into small spaces and a good turning circle and very light steering aid manoeuvrability.

Spare wheel

Full size steel or space saver spare depending on alloy wheel option.

 

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.1-litre (60bhp); 1.4-litre (74 and 94bhp); 1.6-litre (118bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.4-litre (69bhp); 1.6-litre (89 and 108bhp). Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox, six-speed manual gearbox, four-speed automatic gearbox. Trim levels: VT, VTR+, Exclusive, Airdream+.

 

Alternative cars

Ford Fiesta Stylish and great to drive but rather expensive

Vauxhall Corsa Excellent ride and spacious interior

Volkswagen Polo Smartly styled and strong engine line-up

Peugeot 207 Value for money small hatchback



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December 2009