Car Test   R0229
April 2002
First Drive Citroën C3
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FRESH FROM THE GROUND UP, THE NEW C3 SLOTS IN between Xsara and Saxo, complementing the latter rather than superseding it. One look at the striking newcomer proves that CitroŽn can still pull clever styling tricks out of the bag, even though its technologically innovative days are history.
   Although the C3 sits on an all-new floor pan, the suspension is conventional and its pair of petrol engines are familiar friends. Even so, they serve the new car well.
   The 75bhp 1.4 has a lively nature with a sporty note to match when pressed, while the 106bhp 1.6 gives a more mature, relaxed feel yet goes like a GTi if youíre in a hurry. Both have a light clutch and an easy gearchange.
   The third engine is a new 69bhp 1.4 Peugeot-CitroŽn diesel thatís shared with Ford in the Fiesta. It wonít win any prizes for performance (to be fair, though, ours had a very low mileage), but itís free of harshness and vibration, cruises quietly and revs gamely to 4500rpm. CitroŽn claims 67mpg overall.
   The comfortable ride is well up to current supermini standards, while good grip and fail-safe handling accompany spirited cornering. Beware of being too "sudden" at the wheel, though - the body lurch that results can be disconcerting.
   So, too, can the automatic lightening of the electric power steering, but it makes parking wonderfully easy. It firms up at speed to feel normally weighted. Not so the brakes; they're far too light and abrupt.
   The big digital speedometer is easy to read, but the strip tacho above it isn't, and the heater controls are set far too low - as are the window switches. Full marks for height-adjustable front seats and reach-and-rake steering settings, though. All round vision is very good, as well. CitroŽn's claim that the C3 is a "small car with a big car specification" is no exaggeration; the top Exclusive model is particularly well equipped.
   Despite being 13cm longer than Saxo, the C3 offers no more kneeroom in the back and similarly proves inferior in legroom to all its supermini rivals. No complaints about foot space and headroom, however.
   A feature unique to the C3 is the adjustable/removable false "Moduboard" floor to the deep and roomy boot. When in place, it lies level with the forward-tipped, 50/50 divided backrest, to give a long, flat load deck.
  considering size, price and rivals
  • lots of big car features available
  • replaceable front bumper scrape pads
  • two gloveboxes (one cooled/lockable)
  • rear headrests lower into backrest
  • numerous (but rattly) storage areas
  • horn push requires too much effort
  • no door sill paint protection
  • left footspace not ideal (heater box)
  • lots of hard plastic interior panels
  • dirt/dust-collecting gear lever gaiter
The C3 is likely to win hearts on looks alone, but it offers a comfortable drive,as well, combined with either thrust or thrift, depending on engine choice. There's also a lot of equipment on offer, and the top spec Exclusive leaves little to be desired in the way of creature comforts. It's just a pity that too much plastic trim and too little rear legroom let the side down.

size and type mid-priced supermini, 5-door only   trim levels LX, SX, Exclusive (1.6)
engines petrol: 4 cyl/1.4 litre/74bhp, 4/1.6/108; diesel: 4/1.4/69, (4/1.4 16v/92 later)   drive front-wheel drive, 5-speed manual (4-speed stepped automatic with manual sequential override optional on 1.4 petrol)
notable features available brake assist, "Moduboard" boot floor, height-and-reach adjustable steering, "black panel" instrument lights, height adjustment for both front seats, overspeed warning. Wide range of comfort and safety options

length x width(exc mirrors) 385x167
- legroom 89-108
- headroom(no sunroof) 98-103
- typical legroom 94
- typical kneeroom 69
- headroom 94
- hiproom 130
load space(litres/cu ft) 310/10.9
load length (seats up/folded) 52-112
load width 97-103
load sill height(inside/outside) 30/77
Load height
(to shelf/top of aperture)
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