We’ve had the new, far funkier, Citroen C3 with range-topping Flair specification and BlueHDi 100 diesel engine in for review. Is it a match for the Ford Fiesta?
The Citroen C4 Cactus turned out to be a refreshing and eccentric take on family motoring, so Citroen took the key components and applied them to the new C3 last summer, to deliver a car which looks good enough to stand out in a competitive sector, one dominated for so long by Ford’s Fiesta.
Available in a choice of three trims and with either Puretech petrol or BlueHDi diesel, we’ve got the range topping trim and diesel engine in the guise of the Citroen C3 FLAIR BlueHDi 100 to discover if a few funky additions and some Cactus fairy dust can turn the C3 from a sometimes almost bland contender in to the standout offering in its sector.
2017 Citroen C3 – Inside and Out
Citroen has been pretty clever in the way they’ve translated the rather eccentric C4 Cactus’s standout styling, making it suit a smaller, and more rounded, compact hatch without losing the panache it brought.
That means, in this car, a bright white body given appeal with a contrast red roof, plastic cladding running down the flanks to give the sills and wheelarches purpose, a swatch of Airbumps on each side, a smiling nose and red contrast fog surrounds. It’s Cactus, but sort of more mainstream – and it works.
Inside the same trick has been pulled off, so although the dash is still dominated by a (lower set) infotainment screen, the dash itself looks a bit more mainstream and less fragile, with round instruments replacing the strip speedo from the Cactus (which looked like it might have belonged to the grandson of the Austin 1100).
The equipment levels on this range-topping Flair model are good, including keyless, parking camera and sensors, electric front windows, Bluetooth, USB, DAB, MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay, privacy glass, fogs, emergency braking, hill start, lane departure warning and much more. There’s even a dash cam that lets those who are so disposed to share images from their journey on social media.
There’s also plenty of room in the C3, it feels not just modern but well-built too (despite some scratchy plastics), and the seats are proper comfy armchairs, although the glovebox will only hold a pair of gloves and the cupholders are more suited to Nespresso capsules than an actual cup of coffee.
But they’re small moans, and it all adds up to a good looking, well-equipped and individual car.
2017 Citroen C3 FLAIR BlueHDi 100 – Performance & On the Road
Diesel-engined small cars may be losing some of their shine – and Citroen does offer PureTech petrol options for the C3 – but this BlueHDi engine is a pretty good fit for the C3, and will probably be the best-seller.
The engine is pleasingly quiet and smooth, and with 99bhp and 187lb/ft of torque it feels punchy and lively too, even when you get out of its natural habitat of congested towns and cities.
That ease is helped by the fact that you don’t need to push this BlueHDi diesel to its limit to wring useful performance out, and keeping it under 3500 rpm does deliver the sort of performance you need, and keep NVH levels low.
That makes the C3 an economical prospect even in the real world, and although we can’t see many getting anything like the official 76.3mpg, we managed well in to the 50s, and owners will probably do even better.
But despite lively performance, the Citroen also delivers what was once a real Citroen USP – a very comfortable ride.
The suspension, almost all the time, is able to dismiss potholes, ridges and mixed surfaces with contempt, almost floating across the road surface like a pond skater at times you’re bracing for a thump from a nasty ridge. It’s rather impressive for a little urban runaround.
That comfy setup does lead you to expect the C3 won’t be much fun when a B-road blat beckons, but despite more body roll than you’d ever accept in a Fiesta, the C3 has bags of grip, and the roll is just part of its character. Even the rather too light steering is good enough to go where you point it, when you point it.
2017 Citroen C3 FLAIR BlueHDi 100 Review – Verdict
Citroen hasn’t had an easy time in recent years, but much of that is down to trying to be too mainstream and eschewing the quirkiness that made its name.
But with DS hived off to be more upmarket, Citroen really are starting to find their mojo once more, first with the C4 Cactus and now with this new C3.
It’s a line we’ve used before, but in a world where cars tend to be just variations on a theme, the C3 is a standout model – and that is enough on its own to be deserving of some success.
But there’s real substance behind the eccentricity displayed in the C3, with a properly comfortable little car that’s fun to drive, well-equipped and, if you put away your preconceptions, properly good looking too.
Is the Citroen C3 good enough to knock the Ford Fiesta off its perch? Probably not.
But if you think of the Ford Fiesta as the best of breed, you should think of the C3 as the best left-field alternative there is.
And, if you try before you buy, you may just find it offers exactly what you’re looking for, and offers the right balance of comfort, economy, space and performance – even if you’re not part of a demographic turned on by funky customisation options and social media dash cams.
2017 Citroen C3 FLAIR BlueHDi 100 Review Photos
2017 Citroen C3 FLAIR BlueHDi 100 Quick Specs
- Engine: 1560cc, 99bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 10.6 seconds / Top Speed 114mph
- Economy: 76.3mpg – Official / 54.4mpg – Test
- Emissions: 95g/km
- Price: £17,505
- Test car supplied by Citroen UK