Road Test: Citroën C3 Aircross BlueHDI 100 Feel
Citroën’s take on the popular supermini-SUV class is a distinctive newcomer. By Alex Grant.
SECTOR Compact SUV PRICE £17,435 FUEL 70.6mpg CO2 104g/km
Small cars, they are a-changing at Citroën. With a distinctive, modern line-up now comprising the C3 and C4 Cactus hatchbacks, and with a chic new Berlingo Multispace coming this year for space-hungry families, it’s opened a slot for an important newcomer; the C3 Aircross compact SUV.
This segment is a hive of activity like no other, and most mainstream manufacturers without a Juke-sized soft-roader will almost definitely already be working on one. Citroën’s selling point – distinctive Cactus-esque styling aside – is that theirs not only has the ruggedized design buyers want, but it offers a little of the C3 Picasso’s family-moving flexibility too.
It will polarise opinions, but the C3’s two-piece headlights and disarmingly curved bodystyling scales up well with the help of some black plastic cladding and skid plates. The mid-spec Feel version isn’t offered with two-tone paint, but a choice of three colour packs including a vivid orange means extrovert owners can make sure there’s no way of losing it in a crowded car park. There’s no obvious clue that it’s related to the subtler Peugeot 2008 and Vauxhall Crossland X.
But it’s the cabin that really impresses. Citroën has mastered the dark art of making low-cost materials feel welcoming, so, while it’s not short of hard black plastic surfaces, the seats and door cards feel like they’ve been trimmed in Habitat swatches, and exterior colour accents are matched to parts of the dashboard too. As it’s quite a boxy car, most adults can get comfortable in both rows. Almost everything else in this segment feels quite drab by comparison.
It takes a bit of option-ticking to make the most of that space, though. The £490 Family Pack includes a 150mm sliding function for the rear bench, and a fold-flat front passenger seat which creates a 2.4-metre load length – to draw on the cliché, that’s enough room for a flat-pack Swedish bookcase. Boot capacity is among the best in the class, has under-floor storage, and extends to class-above dimensions with the bench slid fully forwards. Curiously, parking sensors are optional too.
Even fully optioned, there are some frustrating oversights. The seats lack support so aren’t as comfortable as they look on long journeys, and most functions are within the 7.0-inch touchscreen – including the air conditioning controls, which are within a sub-menu. Aside from being a distraction to alter on the move, unlike physical controls, our test car had a software glitch which fixed the heating on maximum. PSA’s infotainment is a bit prone to lagging, too, though Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity means it’s possible to bypass the standard media and navigation functions if needed.
This also isn’t the best spec. Citroën’s 98bhp, 1.6-litre diesel engine is noisy, even at speed, and all the more intrusive in a car which doesn’t get stop-start or a sixth gear. Long gear throws, soft suspension and over-assisted steering don’t add up to a particularly engaging drive, either, though that’s not the point. The equivalent PureTech 110 petrol is cheaper, and in a lower company car tax band than the diesel – drivers covering the sort of mileage for a diesel to make sense may be better off in the newly updated C4 Cactus, which now has much better seats.
But the C3 Aircross fills an important niche for Citroën; it’s an appealing entrant in an increasingly crowded class, without feeling like a ‘me-too’ product. Change that’s been, for the most part, very well thought out.
What We Think:
It’s a love-or-hate option, but the C3 Aircross is a clever small SUV perfectly capable of retaining former customers of the C3 Picasso. But choose your options carefully to make the most of it.