REVIEW | The 2021 Citroën C3 is more than just a chic urban fashion accessory

The C3 is among the best-looking of many urban hatch alternatives.
The C3 is among the best-looking of many urban hatch alternatives.
Image: PHUTI MPYANE

Visually, I don’t think there’s anything else in the class quite like the new Citroën C3 hatch. It is not subtle thanks to a stack of large and squinty lights you will notice in a crowd. A recent update stylistically aligned it to its larger C3 Aircross and C5 Aircross cousins.

While its brethren are perched on higher suspensions for family-focused applications that may include off-road travel, the C3 is designed to latch on to a younger, more vibrantly fashion-conscious urban customer.

Citroën plays visual tricks with the design because the C3 actually has a lofty driving position like a squat little crossover instead of a traditional hatch, and there are oodles of space front and back, and a 300l boot.

The C3 hatch is also emblematic of the company’s soft but hardy seat material choice, digital layout and ergonomic brilliance. The ease of finding the best driving position and its light operation keeps driving fatigue at bay but there is no quirky feature. The equipment is all conventionally laid out, but the interior styling is a bit dull, which will disappoint true friends of the brand.

Among many of the C3’s rivals are group cousins the Peugeot 208 and Opel Corsa, the latter recently having being a subject of a Motor News road test. I was concerned they would feel similar as they are virtually twinned and share a turbocharged 1.2l three-cylinder motor, a six-speed automatic transmission and are built atop a similar chassis.

The 1.2T Shine test unit has smaller outputs of 81kW and 205Nm vs the Corsa’s 96kW and 230Nm.

It’s quite spacious inside and has plenty of kit for the price.
It’s quite spacious inside and has plenty of kit for the price.
Image: PHUTI MPYANE

They may be crafted from the same ingredients but there is a real difference in their taste and texture. The Opel is speedier and quieter with a lower ride height and sharper handling around bends.

Keep the throttle pedal pinned in the Citroën C3 and it has an enjoyable buzzy crescendo as the three-pot motor pushes it past 100km/h from standstill in 9.4 seconds and onto a top speed of 201km/h, both which are not too shabby.

The transmission is another source of joy when you are being bullish. There are no mode buttons but intelligent software detects eager throttle inputs and delays up changes with a satisfying and head-bobbing click-action when snatching the next gear. You can drive it in a hurry if you need to.

The small motor has the benefit of fuel economy, which was 6.9l/100km in a week’s urban driving and on one or two spirited jaunts on rural roads.

It is a car that is set up for cushy urban travel rather than sporty exuberance but it is livelier than you would think. Post it into a series of bends and the grip from the front-wheel drive car is ample. You can judge it well enough to scythe through bends and it resists understeer.

It also takes its refinement towards mild off-road situations.  

As a hatch it meets specific criteria, which is to be an affordable, safe, practical and funky set of wheels for the urban masses, but its maker has tweaked the recipe a little to include a slightly jacked up suspension to not limit owners who want to explore a bit further. This and the bold and striking exterior looks are the clincher.

It's not a crossover but you can take it on gravel jaunts if you want.
It's not a crossover but you can take it on gravel jaunts if you want.
Image: PHUTI MPYANE

Tech Specs

ENGINE

Type: Three-cylinder

Capacity: 1.2l

Power: 81kW

Torque: 205Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: Six-speed auto

DRIVE TRAIN

Type: Front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

Top speed: 194km/h

0-100km/h: 9.4 sec (as claimed)

Fuel consumption: 6.0l/100km (as claimed), 6.9l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 137g/km

STANDARD FEATURES

Park distance control rear, LED headlights, Multifunction steering wheel controls, USB port, auto on/off lights, cruise control, front fog lights, high beam assist, auxiliary input, Bluetooth connectivity, cloth upholstery, climate control, aircon, rain sensor wipers, remote central locking, electric folding mirrors, ABS, brake assist, stability control, traction control, EBD, six-airbags    

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Five years/100,000km

Service Plan: Three years/60,000km

Price: R324,900

Lease*: R6,997 per month* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Citroën C3 1.2T Shine

WE LIKE:

Looks, features, price

WE DISLIKE:

Interior styling is a little drab

VERDICT:

A hatch for discerning urbanites 

MOTOR NEWS

Star rating

*****Design

****Performance

****Economy

*****Ride

****Handling

*****Safety

*****Value For Money

*****Overall

Competition

Honda Fit 1.5 Elegance, 89kW/145Nm — R359,900

Hyundai i20 1.0T Fluid Auto, 73kW/133Nm — R355,900

Fiat Tipo 1.6 Pop, 81kW/152Nm — R349,900

Ford Fiesta 1.0T Trend Auto, 74kW/170Nm — R351,500

Kia Rio 1.4 LX Auto,73kW/135Nm — R326,995

Mazda2 1.5 Individual Auto, 85kW/148Nm — R343,500

Opel Corsa 1.2T Elegance, 96kW/230Nm — R386,900

Suzuki Swift Sport 1.4T Auto, 103kW/230Nm — R369,900

Volkswagen Polo 1.0TSI Comfortline auto, 85kW/200Nm — R347,300


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