2017 Citroen C3 Aircross review: French fancy

Introduction

Once upon a time if you wanted a versatile car for the family you would opt for an MPV. A bit like your washing machine, an MPV is a thing of function but certainly won't cause the neighbours any envy. Well, the Citroen C3 Picasso MPV has now morphed into the C3 Aircross. From washing machine to funky SUV. The compact SUV class is a war zone at the moment with every manufacturer fighting for dominance. Citroen’s less sober approach to design makes the Aircross stand out from the crowd. However, simply being attention-grabbing isn’t enough to bag class honours – the C3 Aircross has to be pretty good if it's to square up to rivals such as the Kia Stonic, Renault Captur and popular Nissan Juke.

Body Style: 5 door compact SUV Seats: 5             MRP: £13,995-£19,525

Did you know? Citroen is not tied to the distinctive so-called AirBumps seen on the C3 hatchback and Cactus – that’s why the Aircross doesn’t have any

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

The Citroen C3 Aircross does a great job of standing out in an increasingly crowded segment. In addition to a funky design, plenty of customisation means that you can put your signature on it.

It might not be the best car in its class to drive, but it is one of the most practical. A good-sized boot and versatile interior highlights how the Aircross blurs the line between MPV and SUV. The compact SUV crown is still very much up for grabs with no definitive leader of the pack. This Aircross falls short of becoming the outright king, but there is still plenty to like about it.

It’s better looking than a Ford Ecosport, more spacious than a Nissan Juke, and cheaper than a Vauxhall Mokka, so it’s definitely one for the shortlist.

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Spec & Trim Levels

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★☆☆☆ (7/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Citroen C3 Aircross

We Like

Funky design

Versatile interior

Customisation

We Don't Like

Numb steering

Low speed ride

Rear headroom with panoramic roof

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

It’s an interesting thing to look at, isn’t it? Turn the clock back a decade and Citroen’s anonymous design work wasn’t capturing anyone’s attention. It was the Cactus that laid the foundations for the brand’s quirky design direction, and the C3 Aircross continues the lineage; we love that the French brand has got its USP back.

There’s hardly a straight line on the Aircross, with the majority of the bodywork curving to form a rounded silhouette. A raised ride height, scuff plates and plastic cladding grants the C3 Aircross SUV styling cues that grant it access to one of the fastest growing car segments.

As unusual as the car’s design is, if it proves popular you will likely encounter a few of them in the supermarket car park. Good thing that there are 85 possible colour and trim combinations to make your C3 unique. You can be as covert as grey on grey, or go all out and add some orange details to your blue car.

Citroen C3 Aircross

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

The interior continues this artistic flare with five trim designs to choose from on Feel and Flare models (entry-level Touch cars just get black). They range from sober dark shades to a two-tone number featuring a slightly retro ‘tobacco’ leather. But the interior hosts more curiosities than unusual colours.

Overall design is minimalist, but the cabin is garnished with some interesting shapes and sculptures. The air vents are finished in glossy black trim with contrasting details and domed elements form a three-dimensional landscape that’s very different to more conventional rivals.

An interesting array of materials have been used; everything from spongey fabrics to textured rubber will have you poking and prodding in curiosity. However, there are some hard plastics to be found that are less pleasing.

The cosseting seats are very accommodating and prove comfortable over lengthy periods of time. They do lack some side support, but unless you are driving your Aircross like rally champion Sebastien Loeb, you probably won't notice.

Practicality

Better than just being interesting to look at, the C3’s interior is a versatile space. The boot has a nice wide opening to give you access to its 410 litres of space, but that – on top-spec cars – can been boosted to 520 litres by sliding the rear bench forwards. That’s notably more than the Kia Stonic. Fold the rear seats flat and this SUV becomes a small van with 1,289 litres of space. You can also fold the front passenger seat flat to fit longer items.

Those aforementioned sliding rear seats of the Flair trim also recline, allowing passengers some extra comfort if they fancy it. There’s good head- and legroom with the middle occupant able to take advantage of only having a small hump in the floor. The optional glass panoramic sunroof does cut into headroom, but the added natural light is worth the sacrifice.

Citroen C3 Aircross
Citroen C3 Aircross

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

All models get luxuries such as DAB radio, Bluetooth to connect your phone, automatic lights, speed limit recognition and cruise control. Not bad for a small car.

Higher trim levels get a 7-inch touchscreen display that banishes many physical buttons from the console and puts them into virtual menus. It isn’t the most intuitive system to use and at times it can be caught napping. That said, much of this can be negated by using its Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone features.

Mid-spec Feel models and above graduate from four speakers to six. Something music fans might want to take note of.

On all cars except base-spec, Citroen offers a system called Grip Control. This form of advanced traction control has several settings to help out on sandy, muddy or icy surfaces. This system isn’t a true replacement for all-wheel drive, but it will likely meet the needs of most customers.

Citroen C3 Aircross

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance

When it comes to what’s under the bonnet, you have a choice of three petrol and two diesel engines.

An 80bhp three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine opens the batting for entry-level cars. It’s paired with a five-speed manual transmission and we’ve yet to test it, but it’s safe to say that with a 0-62mph time of 15.9 seconds it’ll be better suited to urban environments.

A more powerful 1.2-litre with 109bhp has some added punch and slightly better claimed economy of 56mpg. At idle the engine is hushed and that’s the way it stays unless accelerate hard. In that scenario you are met with that characterful three-cylinder thrum and respectable acceleration. This engine can be had with an automatic or manual transmission. We tested the automatic and found it to be ok when pottering around town, but not the most responsive at higher speeds.

Top of the petrol range is a 129bhp version of the same three-pot, also with your choice of transmission.

If diesel is more you thing, then the tried and tested BlueHDi engines aren’t a bad choice. However, both are only available with a manual transmission.

A 98bhp BlueHDi 100 is the economy champion of the range but we’re yet to test it, while the BlueHDi 120 is a strong diesel offering with plenty of torque – perfect if your Aircross is to spend most of its time on the motorway. It does gargle away under load, but refinement is good once up to pace. The manual transmission is a huge step forwards for Citroen as previous gearboxes often left you wondering if you had selected a gear at all. This one has a much more precise motion.

Handling and comfort

The Citroen C3 Aircross is a mixed bag when it comes to the handling department.

Around town its light steering and compact size means you can take advantage of small gaps and you don’t have to wrestle with the wheel when parking.

The ride at low speed can be on the harsh side with road imperfections thumping into the cabin – especially with the 17-inch alloy wheels. However, at faster speeds things smooth out and the ride becomes more compliant.

There’s some wind noise that emanates from the door mirrors, but overall refinement isn’t bad. It’s certainly better than rivals such as the Ford Ecosport and Nissan Juke.

High-riding cars often lean and sway through sweeping bends – that’s just physics – but surprisingly the C3 Aircross puts up a good fight. There’s still a bit of body roll, but considerably less than you might expect. It’s a shame that the light steering feels vague at speed, but at least there’s loads of reassuring grip and the overall stability of the car promotes confidence.

Recommended engine: 1.6 BlueHDi 120

0-62mph

10.7 seconds

Fuel economy

68.9mpg

CO2 emissions

107g/km

Citroen C3 Aircross

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing 

The Citroen C3 Aircross has yet to be tested by Euro NCAP, but the C3 hatchback received four out of five stars. We’ll have to wait and see if the Aircross can go one better.

All variants of the Aircross get front airbags including curtains for side impacts. Lane departure warning, a system to detect tiredness and emergency braking assist come as standard. Autonomous Emergency Braking is optional as part of the Safety Pack. Two pairs of Isofix points can be found in the back to safely install child seats.

The only other piece of optional safety kit is the Citroen Connect Box and Assistance System. For those of you who don’t speak Citroen brochure, this allows the car to automatically call the emergency services in the event of an accident. It also features a button you can push if you are stranded at the side of the road and need recovering. Top spec cars get this system as standard.

Citroen C3 Aircross

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Colours

Customisation is a big part of the Citroen C3 Aircross. The 90 different trim and colour combinations are enabled by the choice of eight body colours, four roof colours and four colour packs.

The colour packs alter bits of trim, door mirrors and the roof rails. Unless you go for the top Flair spec it will cost you £250, however it does add character so we think it’s worth the money. Throw in a contrasting roof and you have one distinctive SUV.

Red is the only standard colour with the cheapest optional shade being white at about £300. Every other colour, including a very attractive Breathtaking Blue, will set you back just over £500.

Trim Levels

Citroen keeps it simple with three trim levels. Touch, Feel and Flair.

The £14k entry-level Touch trim lacks much of the customisation and even puts up with a set of steel wheels. However, it does get a few luxuries not usually associated with the cheapest models. Cruise control, DAB radio, automatic lights and traffic sign recognition won’t cost you a penny.

We’d recommend jumping up to the mid-spec Feel trim that comes with the 7-inch touchscreen with all of the fancy phone features, 16-inch alloy wheels and a better sound system. It’s worth the circa £1,000 extra it costs over entry-level Touch. Top of the pyramid is Flair – this comes with the two-tone paint at no cost, dual-zone climate control, satnav, 17-inch alloys, parking sensors and automatic wipers.

Cheekily, Citroen will charge £350 if you want the clever front folding passenger seat.

Size and Dimensions

Length

4,154mm

Width including mirrors

1,824mm

Height

1,637mm

Max towing weight unbraked

560 - 640kg

Citroen C3 Aircross

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing 

One of the things that attracts people to compact SUVs is their running costs. You can have all of the driveway appeal that the SUV class offers, but because these micro machines are smaller, their bills shrink too.

The most efficient engine in the range is the BlueHDi 110 diesel that claims an official 70.6mpg. That should equate to fewer trips to the pumps and emissions of 104g/km means less tax. Even the least efficient combination of the 109bhp petrol and an automatic gearbox is still said to deliver over 50mpg combined.

On PCP with a healthy £2,000 deposit you can have a C3 Aircross for under £200 a month. That’s about the same as a Peugeot 2008, but less than a Nissan Juke.

If you dare to be different with your company car and go for the Citroen, BIK for most models stands at 22 percent for 2017-18, or around £120 a month at 40 percent for a mid-spec car. That’s less than the 24 percent a Juke demands.

Reliability and servicing

Citroen hasn’t had the best reputation for reliability over the years, although new models are showing signs of improvement. Recent surveys put the brand on par with mainstream rivals.

Every Citroen comes with a three year, 60,000 mile manufacturer warranty. The fine print also states that if your car breaks down under warranty, Citroen will recover it to the nearest dealer for repairs.

Service

16,000 miles / 12 months

Citroen C3 Aircross

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing is very competitive, especially in entry-level guise where it undercuts most of its rivals. The Nissan Juke, Ford EcoSport and Vauxhall Mokka are all more expensive.

C3 Aircross prices start from just under £14k for the 80bhp 1.2-litre petrol or less than £18k for the most potent diesel engine, although it’s worth noting that while the EcoSport and Juke might be more costly, they’re better equipped at entry trim.

The most expensive Citroen C3 Aircross is the BlueHDi diesel in Flair guise at £19.5k. It’s well specced, but we’d recommend the mid-level Feel trim as it has plenty of toys for a relatively small premium over the basic car.

Citroen C3 Aircross

Recommendations

Tech Junkie

Make sure you get the 7-inch touchscreen for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Cost Conscious

The most basic car is pretty cheap when sat next to rivals. If you can put up with steel wheels, why not?

Luxury Seeker

Go for Flair and be radical with your customisation.

Rivals

Nissan Juke

Getting on a bit now. More costly and less practical.

Ford Ecosport

Well specced at entry level, but far from the best in class.

Kia Stonic

Seven year warranty will offer peace of mind. A bit dull to drive though.

Vauxhall Mokka

Expensive and not very good to drive.

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