Citroën to make a funky and very French comeback
With Citroën planning on making a comeback, Mark Smyth put its C3 Aircross to the test
As we reported last week, Citroën is set to return to SA at the end of 2019 or early in 2020. One of the models that looks likely to be on its launch list is the C3 Aircross and we put one to the test recently.
We tested the Flair Puretech 110 automatic. It’s a crossover model to take on the likes of the Hyundai Kona and Mini Countryman, in fact it even has some similar styling features to the Mini, particularly from the rear.
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Being a Citroën, it’s quirky of course, with that high, narrow grille, slim headlights and decal strips in the luggage area’s side windows. It’s got plenty of black plastic cladding to give it that pseudo off-road look and protect the bodywork as well as a plastic and aluminium-look rear scuff plate.
Inside there are elements of sister company Peugeot, but the designers have included plenty of Citroën flair, from the large, square handbrake lever to the colour-coded trim components. In fact there are more than 40 colour combinations available for the model including contrasting rear side window decals, foglight surrounds, wing mirrors and interior elements. It’s all very funky and very Citroën.
Local spokesperson for Peugeot and Citroën, Sharon Garson, told us that the head office in France has not yet confirmed which models are heading SA’s way, but the C3 Aircross is definitely one of the most likely.
The model we tested featured what the company calls Grip Control Technology. It’s not an all-wheel drive vehicle, but the system utilises the electronic stability programme (ESP) and traction control to manage the level of grip on the front wheels in different conditions using various modes. These include Snow, All-Terrain, Sand and a fully off setting.
We didn’t put that to the test though, instead sticking to a mixed tarmac and concrete surface which, let’s be honest, is where most urban crossovers spend their lives anyway, but with the massive network of gravel roads in SA, the system could prove rather useful.
The C3 Aircross is powered by a turbocharged three-cylinder 1.2l petrol engine, one that will be familiar to many a Peugeot owner. It produces 81kW and 205Nm of torque, all of which is channelled through a six-speed automatic transmission.
Pull away and you get that three-cylinder thrum as the engine does its best to reach 100km/h in a claimed 11.8 seconds. Quirky it might be, but quick it is not, but this is an urban crossover so no-one’s going to care.
The cloth seats are comfortable and the driving position good, with a chunky flat-bottomed steering wheel that at least makes things feel a little more sporty. Unlike many a Peugeot model, the steering wheel does not block the instrument cluster, providing great visibility of the dials and trip computer in front of you.
Our test model had a panoramic roof with only a thin cloth screen beneath it which did little to alleviate the sun’s heat coming into the cabin. The climate control, adjusted only through settings in the touchscreen infotainment system worked hard to improve the situation as we focused on the drive.
The steering is typically light, with little in the way of decent feedback but it’s accurate and the C3 turned well into corners. It’s a little bouncy when pushed harder but again, who’s really going to do that in this type of car?
In general it was very comfortable, showing potential not just for urban driving but also for long distance, where the standard 520l boot space is going to come in handy, 70l more than the Mini Countryman, 75l more than the popular Renault Duster and a massive 180l more than the Hyundai Kona.
In these days of finding a car that best reflects your own individuality through its design and personalisation options, the C3 Aircross is a rather good package. Unless it arrives at a very competitive price though, it seems unlikely that its unique character will be enough to persuade buyers back into the French stable, particularly given the wider range of competitors on offer in the segment since Citroën said au revoir to SA in 2016.