If stand-out looks are your pursuit in this segment, the Citroën is no shrinking violet. Picture: SUPPLIED
If stand-out looks are your pursuit in this segment, the Citroën is no shrinking violet. Picture: SUPPLIED

Since its much publicised return to SA, Citroën has a positive outlook on its prospects and three models in tow. These are the C3, C5 Aircross and the subject of this week’s road test, the C3 Aircross.

It’s in the same league as VWs T-Cross, Hyundai Venue, Renault Captur, and a heap more with its hatchback and small SUV cross ability.

What the company has also brought back is a good reputation for scoring high in crashworthiness and the love-or-hate inventiveness when it comes to vehicle décor. Take, for instance, the rear-quarter windows with their retro shutter glass style painted stripes, and bright red roof rails that are begging to load a psychedelic surfboard or pink roof box. It’s only brave and expressive Citroën that thinks this far out of the individualism box but thankfully the rest of the car is pretty conventional ... sort of. 

It’s neither the largest nor the one with the most generous living space in the segment but there’s plenty of room thanks to its 4,154mm length and 2,604mm of usable wheelbase.

There’s space to fit small oddments and plenty of electric and digital suaveness. Picture: SUPPLIED
There’s space to fit small oddments and plenty of electric and digital suaveness. Picture: SUPPLIED

Storage space is measured at 410l with the rear seats in place, 520l with the rear seats moved forward, and 1,289l with the rear seats folded down. It also stands 178mm off the ground, which is automatic qualification for sojourns on gravel paths.

In this 1.2T Shine grade you sit on comfy, manually adjusted seats with decorative red stitching, and the windows and mirrors are electric.

The dash features a floating 17.7cm digital touch screen that acts as the central command of the cockpit. Almost every available digital item found here is now an app in the display, and you also control the aircon with vents decorated with red edges via the touch screen instead of conventional buttons and switches. I don’t know about you but I’ve always found this feature doesn’t make for rapid access to a gust cooling or heating air nor is it safe to operate while on the move.

There’s a steering wheel with multifunctionality.

Just as you think the company has truly cooled down on the quirk you will find the automatic gear lever isn’t inscribed with the regular P,R,N,D lettering. If you still require this guidance you’ll find they are positioned not next to the lever, but low down on the central tunnel.

The boot is roomy and the light tailgate makes for easy one-handed operation. Picture: SUPPLIED
The boot is roomy and the light tailgate makes for easy one-handed operation. Picture: SUPPLIED

Expect no eccentric behaviour in the drive experience though, from its supremely good damping to wonderfully light and sharp steering responses, good insulation from mechanical and outside noise, to good balance in the bends.

It’s powered by a 1.2l turbo three-cylinder petrol engine with 81kW and 205Nm that delivers hearty lashings of torque nice and early in the rev range and combines well with the smooth-shifts coming from its six-speed automatic transmission. The mechanicals benefit the duality of darting about in the urban jungle, exploiting its dinky turning circle, or when stretching out its front-wheel-drive legs on open country roads.

The power, comfort and 184km/h rated top speed makes it a good enough pal to take on extended journeys and fuel consumption is also kind to the pocket. It sipped on average 6.9l/100km/h during its stay, which is only 0.4l amiss from the claim of 6.5l/100km.

It’s a compelling buy for anyone who is looking for a cheerful oddball without compromising on genuine practicality, sophistication and safety for roughly the same amount of cash to spend in a market segment filled with successful, albeit more dull conformity.     


Tech specs

Engine

Type: Three-cylinder petrol turbo

Capacity: 1,199cc

Power: 81kW

Torque: 205Nm

Transmission

Type: Six-speed automatic

Drivetrain

Type: Front-wheel drive

Performance 

Top speed: 184km/h

0-100km/h: 10.7 sec (claimed)

Fuel Consumption: 6.5l/100km (claimed) 6.9l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 146g/km

Standard features

Climate control, keyless access, leather upholstery, USB port, rear park distance control, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, electric folding mirrors, auto on/off headlights, LED daytime driving running lights, rain sensor wipers, cruise control, brake assist, ABS, stability control, six airbags.

Cost of ownership

Warranty: Five years/100,000km

Price: R359,900

Service Plan: Five years/100,000km

Lease*: R7,741 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit


Citroën C3 Aircross 1.2T Shine 

WE LIKE: Space, refined drive quality, handling

WE DISLIKE: Styling may be too kitsch for some

VERDICT: Urban hipster’s crossover  

Motor News star rating

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Competition

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0TSI Highline, 85kW/200Nm — R365,000 

Hyundai Venue 1.0T Glide, 88kW/172Nm — R369,900

Mahindra XUV300 1.2T W8, 81kW/200Nm — R304,999

Fiat 500X 1.4T Cross auto, 103kW/230Nm — R381,900

Ford EcoSport 1.0T Titanium auto, 92kW/170Nm — R357,300

Opel Crossland X 1.2 Turbo Cosmo auto, 81kW/205 Nm — R399,000

Mazda CX-3 2.0 Dynamic auto, 115kW/206 Nm — R352,200

Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive, 110kW/180 Nm — R404,900