Citroën glides back with three new models
The C3 hatch, C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross aim to take on the establishment with comfy seats and funky styling
The C3 was launched in 2016 as a compact B segment hatchback in the popular-selling Ford Fiesta and VW Polo class. It is available locally in two petrol versions: the 1.2l Feel and 1.2l turbo Shine.
This latest-generation C3, which wasn’t previously sold in SA, has "AirBump" protective cladding on the doors (Shine model only) as a typically quirky Citroën design feature. First introduced on the Cactus model, which was sold in SA until Citroën’s 2016 exit, these air-filled bubbles help to absorb the minor shocks of encounters in car parks.
Its distinctive design includes characteristic two-tier front lights and 3D effect tail lights. Its colourful personality is accentuated by a two-tone exterior with a red-coloured roof and other red accents including on the wing mirrors and foglamp surrounds.
The interior is clean and simple with a premium feel. An 18cm colour touchscreen infotainment system comes standard in both the entry-level Feel and higher-spec Shine model grades, along with features like central locking, automatic aircon, trip computer, driver attention alert, tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control, ABS brakes, and electronic stability control among others.
The Shine version adds features like 17” alloy wheels (the Feel wears 16s), automatic headlamps, front fog lamps, and rear parking sensors to the repertoire.
The Feel is powered by a normally aspirated 1.2l three-cylinder PureTech engine with outputs of 60kW and 118Nm, for claimed performance figures of 0-100km/h in 13.2 seconds and a 169km/h top speed, and a fuel consumption of 5.7l / 100km. It’s paired with a five-speed manual gearbox.
The Shine version gets a six-speed auto transmission and a turbocharged version of the 1.2 PureTech motor which brings a fizzier 81kW and 205Nm to the party. This unit has won its class for four consecutive years in the International Engine of the Year awards, and hauls the C3 from 0-100km/h in a claimed 9.4 seconds, onto a 194km/h top speed, with claimed fuel efficiency of 6.0l / 100km.
Feel 1.2 PureTech manual – R239,900
Shine 1.2 turbo PureTech auto – R289,900
Ford Fiesta 1.0T Trend auto (74kW/170Nm) – R301,300
VW Polo hatch 1.0Tsi Trendline (70kW/175Nm) – R256,400
Citroën C3 Aircross
A rival to vehicles like the Hyundai Kona, Ford Ecosport, and VW T-Cross in a very competitive segment, the Aircross compact SUV made its world debut in 2017 as replacement to the C3 Picasso MPV.
It is front wheel driven and has no real offroading aspirations, but a raised 178mm ground clearance and front and rear skid plates enhance its gravel-road ability.
It is anything but a shrinking violet styling-wise, and its extravagant plumage is adorned with red roof rails, red fog light surrounds, and a red graphic on the rear quarter window.
The cabin blends high-quality textures with colour-accented pizzazz, but the funky décor is matched to good practicality as the vehicle is wider than the class average in order to accommodate five adults comfortably inside the cabin.
The rear seats in the upper-spec Shine model can be slid fore and aft in two independent parts to vary the amount of legroom versus boot space, with the boot offering from 410 to 520 litres.
An 18cm touchscreen infotainment system is standard fare in both the Feel and Shine versions, along with LED daytime running lights, ABS brakes, central locking, stability control, cruise control, and rear parking sensors, among others.
The range-topping Shine in addition gets front fog lights with cornering function, rain-sensing wipers, electrochrome rear view mirror, and a Mirror Screen function for smart phones.
Both C3 Aircross models are powered by the 81kW/205Nm three-cylinder PureTech 1.2l turbo petrol engine, and six-speed auto transmission. Key figures are a 184km/h top speed, 0-100km/h in 10.7 seconds, and 6.5l / 100km.
I drove the C3 Aircross at the media launch in Gauteng last week and its stand-out factor was the comfortable armchair-like seats which seem to be purpose-made for long road trips. The seats are cloth, not leather however, which could be a turn-off for some people.
The little turbo engine feels adequately powered for urban commuting without running out of breath on the open road. The car is generally quite refined, with minimal wind or mechanical noise, but there was a slight interior rattle in our test vehicle.
Feel 1.2 PureTech turbo auto – R339,900
Shine 1.2 PureTech turbo auto – R359,900
Ford Ecosport 1.0T Trend auto, 92kW/170Nm – R357,300
Hyundai Kona 1.0T Executive, 88kW/172Nm – R384,900
VW T-Cross 1.0T Highline auto, 85kW/200Nm – R365,000
Citroën C5 Aircross
This is the brand’s halo model, a midsize SUV pitched into the popular Kia Sportage and Renault Koleos category.
Though pitched at more well-heeled and presumably more mature customers, it doesn’t hold back on the ‘party animal’ styling. Like its smaller stablemates it lays on a busy design with contrasting red embellishments and air bumps in the lower doors.
The C5 Aircross boasts double-glazed front windows for class-leading soundproofing, and its practical modularity offers three individually sliding and reclining rear seats.
With a class-leading width there’s space inside for five, with the variable boot size offering 520 up to 720 litres. With the seats folded flat there’s a cavernous 1,630 litres of space.
Progressive Hydraulic Cushion suspension uses hydraulic buffers at either end of the suspension setup to all but eliminate bounce from the car’s drive.
It truly works, as my drive on rippled gravel roads attested at the media launch. The cushy bump-soaking nature, along with its wide and well-padded seats, makes it easily the most comfortable-riding vehicle in its class. A 230mm ride height makes the front-wheel drive vehicle useful on rough roads.
Both derivatives are extensively equipped with a 20cm touchscreen and a digital instrument panel, with the Shine model also getting items like a dash cam, keyless start and smart entry, wireless smart phone charging, reversing camera, half-leather trim (the Feel has cloth seats), lane departure warning, and a blind spot monitoring system.
A 1.6l turbo petrol engine paired with a six-speed auto provides the power in both models, with outputs of 121kW and 240Nm. Top speed is 189km/h, 0-100km/h takes 10.5 seconds and the claimed consumption is 7.9l / 100km.
Feel 1.6 turbo auto – R469,900
Shine 1.6 turbo auto – R509,900
Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite Plus auto, 115kW/196Nm – R423,995
Renault Koleos 2.5 Dynamique auto, 126kW/233Nm – R459,900
*All Citroën models are sold with a five-year/100,000km warranty and service plan.