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Citroën C3

According to research (whose I can’t be sure), the average car owner spends 4.3 years of their lives in their cars – so we might as well enjoy it, according to French brand, Citroën. The third generation C3 hit South African soil at the end of May and is such a quirky addition to the sometimes overly serious passenger car market that it’s hard **not** to have a little fun in it.

Inspired by the Citroën CXPERIENCE concept car, the C3 continues in the vein of the brand’s “Be Different, Feel Good” promise by upping the number of customisation options – including striking Onyx Black or Opal White contrasting roof colours – and adding a raft of little design touch-ups here and there that combine to create a car that you can’t help smiling at. 

It’s All About the Details

The somewhat polarising Airbump returns on the top-specced “Shine” model, with one of the three “bumps” on each side, now picked out with an eye-catching (in a good way) silver outline. This pop of colour continues to the fog light surrounds and serves to balance the high, horizontal front design and new-look LED headlights beautifully. Chrome detailing on the bonnet outlines the LED Daytime Running Lights and emphasises Citroën’s distinctive chevrons.

The 16” Helix alloy wheels on the Shine variant are a thing of beauty, as are the 3D-effect taillights that Citroën have retained from the second generation and are standard on both the Shine and entry-level Feel model. The back bumper has also been redesigned for a more rugged look – as befitting this compact hatch which has a distinctive SUV feel about it. 

Design Finesse

Let’s face it, the French do design well, so it’s little wonder that the cabin of the new C3 is equally adorned with thoughtful aesthetic touches. The rounded rectangular “bump” shape is echoed in patterned indents on the inside of the doors, as well as on the stitching design of the quilted upholstery seats. The leather door handles are reminiscent of the handles of sturdy leather travel trunks from the days of the “Grand Tour”, reminding you that this is a car to explore in. A shiny black insert on the dash also makes one nostalgic for the days before plastic became the prominent material of choice for car interiors. 

Slide into the driver’s seat, and if you don’t notice the extra padding on the Advanced Comfort Seats right away, you certainly will after a few trips around the block. Hit the highway, and the third generation’s noise-cancelling upgrades also become more apparent. This is one aspect Citroën excels at, and it really helps to make the interior feel like a comfy, cosy bubble in which to while away some enjoyable hours on the road.

Let’s Take it for a Spin

The entry-level C3 Feel comes with a five-speed manual gearbox (thank goodness some manufacturers are still giving manual options for those of us who like to control our own gear changes) mated to a 1.2 PureTech engine which kicks out 60 kW of power. I can’t attest to whether the engine is as “feisty” as Citroën claims, though, as we only drove the turbocharged Shine option at the launch, which comes with a six-speed auto ‘box and a power output of 81 kW. Admittedly, you will experience a little bit of turbo-lag with the auto, but then again, it’s not designed to be a sporty drive, and the engine purred along smoothly and reasonably effortlessly on the launch drive, despite the higher altitudes of Gauteng. 

Infotainment is courtesy of a 7” touchscreen with Android Auto/Apple Carplay in the Shine (5” in the Feel) with some tactility provided by buttons both under the touchscreen and on the multifunction steering wheel, which, incidentally, also sits nicely in your hands with the added touch of a jaunty flat bottom. 

Take a Break

Coffee is an essential part of any Parisian’s life, so it’s no surprise that Citroën has included a Coffee Break Alert to remind you to take your requisite shot of espresso after every two hours of driving. Including the Coffee Break Alert, the C3 comes with no less than nine driver assistance systems (including Lane Departure Warning and Driver Attention Alert) as **standard** (ooh la la!), which is certainly something out of the ordinary for this segment. 

Last Word

Pricing is set at R269,900 for the Feel and R324,900 for the Shine (with a five-year/100,000 km warranty and three-year/60,000 km service plan), and as Citroën is now part of the much larger Stellantis Group, aftersales service is guaranteed to be better than ever before. 

The C3 plays in the same league as cars like the Opel Corsa, the Hyundai i20, the Kia Rio and the Peugeot 208. Is it the most powerful of the bunch? No. The most value for money? Probably not. But is it the most distinctive, quirky and fun-looking car in its segment? I certainly think so! For those buyers looking for something a little different from the norm, something they can put their own stamp on, and generally just have fun in, pick the C3 – it’s different, and it’ll make you feel good!

Report by Nicky Furniss | Images © Citroën South Africa

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