Car Test   R0263
September 2002
  Citroen C3
Printer Friendly Page Featured model: 1.4HDi 16v SX
Having recently sampled the 1.6 petrol version of this new supermini from Citroen (see R0253), we were able to revisit it in its higher-powered diesel guise.
   This engine was jointly developed for the new Ford Fiesta and various Peugeot 206/307 models but, as yet, only Citroen is offering this 92bhp deeper-breathing, 16-valve version.
   In the C3, its list price is a mere £300 extra, but its rewards are considerable.
   We ran this test alongside a Fiesta with the 8v/68bhp version, in fact. Carefully metered mpg figures resulted in an overall improvement of 13 per cent in favour of this 92bhp sixteen-valver. But remember, you won’t enjoy these benefits if its considerable extra verve is constantly indulged – as our 47mpg in boy-racer mode confirmed.
   High, long-legged gearing blunts, its accelerative urge in the top two ratios, and even the (heavier) Fiesta could almost keep up at such times – as our rivals table demonstrates.
   The other snag with this higher-powered version is that it’s uncouth. The 1.4 8v is really sweet-natured, waffling along contentedly in both slow traffic or on a dual carriageway. There’s a more raucous edge to this 16v version, and it can lurch and surge a bit, on and off the (electronic) throttle, as well. The 8v purrs, this 16v throbs.
   The C3 gives the driver a really commanding outlook. The front seats are much improved therapeutically and there’s wheel reach and rake plus seat height adjusters.
   Practical accommodation in this taller than average hatchback includes lots of sensible oddments spots, a ‘Moduboard’ arrangement – of dubious value – in the rear load area and rear head restraints that recede out of the driver’s rear view when nobody’s sitting there. The Exclusive’s self-folding door mirrors are a nice touch but even the SX shares its velour upholstery.
   Curiously, however, the C3’s rear cushions are fixed, so folding the backrests results in a stepped load platform – albeit a well trimmed one. The rear load sill is very prominent too but load depth is good – even though a full sized spare is beneath. For the rear passengers kneeroom is the limiting dimension but if you’re not too lanky, it’s a really comfortable seat.
   The C3 road manners pass muster because the steering, cornering attitude and bump-suppression are all adequate but overall, the C3 lacks the fluency and poise of a Polo or Skoda Fabia.
   We were also disappointed with the brakes. The SX and Exclusive add brake-assist, which boosts servo-assistance in an abrupt arrest. However, it goes ‘over-the-top’ and a clutch like 10kg pedal load, even applied unhurriedly, got the ABS working. The C3 lacks progression, for controlled braking.
  considering size, price and rivals
Overtaking Ability
Fuel Economy
Security, theft of  not available
theft from  not available
  • seats' height eases entry and egress
  • rear door child locks controlled from the front
  • tailgate has an integral release
  • air can be delivered to screen, vents and floor simultaneously
  • boot locks itself once car is under way
  • no oddments spots are soft-lined
  • heater/air con shut off with engine
  • intermittent wipe too rapid at speed
  • air con light comes on with demist - and hard to spot
  • surge and can stall (with a jolt) moving slowly
The SX, with its generous kit and plush velour, is the C5 that makes the most sense in diesel guise. Which of the two diesel engines you decide on will depend on your priorities in service. The modest £300 extra for this 92bhp sixteen-valver will be repaid at the pumps over 50,000 miles, but it’s the attraction of a truly lively performer that will persuade many to forego the sweeter nature of the lower-powered version.

engine 1398cc, 4-cylinder, diesel; 92bhp at 4000rpm, 147 lb ft at 1750rpm; belt/chain driven, double overhead camshafts, 16 valves   transmission 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive; 27.4mph/1000rpm in 5th, 22.0 in 4th
suspension front: independent damper/struts, integral coil springs
rear: torsion beam (dead) axle, coil springs
  steering electric power assistance; 2.8 turns lock-to-lock; 11.4m diameter turning circle between kerbs (15.8m for one turn of the wheel)
brakes ventilated discs front, solid discs rear, with anti-lock and brake assist controls   wheels/tyres 6in steel with 185/60R15H tyres; full size spare

size and type five-door (mid-priced) supermini hatchback   trim levels LS, SX, Exclusive
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.4 litre/75bhp, 4/1.6/110;
diesel: 4/1.4/70 (or 16v with 92bhp)
  drive front-wheel drive; 5-speed manual. Optional 4-speed stepped automatic with torque converter on 1.4 petrol; clutchless auto-shift synchromesh box on 1.6 petrol

HOW THE CITROEN C3 16V DIESEL COMPARES engine (cyl/cc/bhp) revs at 70mph (rpm) 30-70 through gears (sec) 30-70mph in 4th/5th gears (sec) fuel (mpg/CO2) brakes from 50mph (kg/m) maximum legroom - front (cm) typical leg/kneeroom - rear (cm) steering turns/circle (m) overall length (cm)
Citroen C3 1.4HDi 16v 4/1399/92 2550 12.3 17.5/26.5 63/112 14/26.5 108 95/69 2.8/11.4 385
VW Polo 1.4TDi 3/1422/75 2750 14.6 17.1/22.7 56.5/124 18/26 108 96/71 2.9/10.2 390
Ford Fiesta 1.4 TDCi (8v) 4/1399/68 2730 17.1 19.8/27.6 55.5/121 18/26.5 109 100/74 28/10.2 392
Vauxhall Corsa 1.7DTi 4/1686/75 2850 12.7 16.3/22.8 57.5/126 14/24 106 95/70 2.9/10.4 382
Skoda Fabia 1.9TDi 4/1896/100 2360 10.3 13.5/20.1 55/135 27/24.5 109 100/72 2.8/10.3 396
Peugeot 206 2.0HDi 4/1997/90 2600 11.4 14.4/19.8 52.5/136 8/26.5 108 94/66 3.3/10.1 384

Good seat with ample adjustment, but funky, unreliable displays. Receding rear headrests ensure good vision, but autowipe can't cope with autumn misting. Steering and gears rather heavy-going.
Less cornering roll than previous Citroens, but this translates into some imprecise steering waddle over some uneven roads - it's also weightier at speed. Poor turning circle, but light manoeuvring effort.
Too much road noise and sharp-edged jolting spoil underlying absorbency - seats help, though. Manual air con on SX gives more controlled flow than Exclusive's posher system. More engine throb than on 8v version, but cruises effortlessly.

Roars away when given a heavy right foot through the gears but less lively if left in the higher ratios. Gearchange too imprecise, but it will handle top gear pulling from about 35mph.
  acceleration in seconds through gears 4th gear 5th gear
  20-40 3.5 11.7 19.5
  30-50 4.6 8.7 14.2
  40-60 5.9 8.2 11.5
  50-70 7.7 8.8 12.3
  30-70 12.3 17.5 26.5
  max speed in each gear (* using 4250rpm for best acceleration)
     gear      1st*      2nd*      3rd*      4th*      5th
     speed (mph)      22      41      67      93.5      109 (3975rpm)

Truly remarkable result for so swift a performer and our results make it the most frugal diesel available in the UK. Don't expect even more mpg on the lower-powered version - you won't get it - despite official figures.
  type of use (air conditioning off) AA test (mpg) 
    urban (17mph average/heavy traffic) 42.5
    suburban (27mph average/6.4 miles from cold start) 55
    motorway (70mph cruising) 55.5
    cross-country (brisk driving/20 miles from cold start) 64
    rural (gentle driving/20 miles from cold start) 79
    overall mpg 63
    realistic tank capacity/range 40/550
    official mpg (urban/extra urban/combined) 53.3/76.3/65.7
    CO2 emissions 112g/km
    car tax band A

  from 50mph (with brake assist/ABS)
This model has not yet been
tested by EURO NCAP
pedal load     stopping distance
unhurried 10kg     27m
sudden 10kg     27m
14kg     26.5m best stop
fade resistance/consistency    
Euro NCAP = European New Car Assessment Programme: independent crash safety tests evaluating protection for occupants and pedestrians in an offset frontal collision, side impacts and pedestrian strike conditions
click here for more NCAP details/test results etc.

  in centimetres (5-door hatchback)
  length 385
  width - including mirrors 191
    - mirrors folded 171
  height 152
  load sill height (inside/outside) 30/77
  turns lock-to-lock 2.8
  turning circle (metres) 11.4
  easy to park/garage?
  front - legroom 89-108
    - headroom 98-103s
  rear - typical legroom 94
    - typical kneeroom 69
    - headroom 94
    - hiproom 130
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
  load length 52-112
  load length to facia no
  load width 97-103
  load height (to shelf/to top of aperture) 59 91
s no sunroof

central locking  
remote control  
remote window closing  
alarm (perimeter + interior)   
self-locking (static)   
two-stage unlocking   
attack-resistant glass   
AA load area security rating
=standard    =option    =not available
NCSR - "theft of" not available
NCSR - "theft from" not available
NCSR = New Car Security Ratings: a 1 to 5 star system which rates anti-theft protection, both of the car itself and the theft of valuables from within the car
Visit for more details
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