For supermini buyers, style is often more important than substance, but the good thing about the Citroen C3 is that it delivers both.
It looks like no other small car on the road, yet despite being somewhat wacky in its appearance, it still manages to do the job of being a truly excellent junior hatchback.
It offers low running costs, cheap insurance, good fuel economy and a straightforward model range, rounded off by multiple personalisation options. It’s as much a fashion accessory as it is a runabout, but in this market, that’s something that really matters.
As a result, it’s in fairly high demand, meaning that used examples tend to get snapped up quickly, not least because it’s a big hit with younger buyers.
Conventional is not a word you’d use to describe the C3. Taking styling cues from the oddball Citroen Cactus, which shares its platform, the C3 has integrated narrow light clusters, bulbous curves and distinctive plastic side panels, which not only lend it a distinctive look, but also keep insurance costs down due to them protecting the sides of the car from low-speed impacts and car park scuffs.
Chunky plastic wheel arches and bumper corners further protect it from the trials and tribulations of city traffic, while the body shape is broken up by the addition of a roof that’s a different colour to the body - either red, white, blue or black depending on the main body colour. It’s a formula that was a huge success for MINI, and it appears to be drawing the crowds towards Citroen’s small car as well.
The unconventional theme continues inside, too, with a chunky square fascia, often found with brightly coloured highlights, which are a popular option.
The main instrument cluster is housed in an analogue display inside a rectangular pod, while a central digital speedometer offers the best of both worlds. Some models also have infotainment systems that are Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatible, too.
Continuing the squared-off theme, the seats look about as inviting as Victorian dining chairs - but this is a ruse, as they’re surprisingly comfortable and supportive in all the right places. The driving position is excellent, with plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment to accommodate even the tallest of drivers, and although rear legroom is best suited to youngsters, you can squeeze four adults in at a push.
Luggage space is above average for a supermini at 270-litres with the seats in situ, but the high loading lip and tight boot aperture mean it isn’t the most practical small hatchback on the market. That said, it’ll swallow a surprising amount of luggage if you ask it to.
Another neat feature is its built-in dash cam, yet another of the reasons why the C3 is a good choice for younger drivers as this also helps keep insurance costs down, while the system is marketed in a clever way, encouraging owners to share their journeys with other C3 drivers on social media.
Driving and practicality
Citroen has gone for a daring mix with the C3, with a focus on sharp handling, but with soft suspension to deliver that traditional Citroen ride quality.
While that might not sound like the ideal combination, in practice it works much better than you’d expect, with a sharp turn-in and tenacious grip, but plenty of suspension travel. That means it tends to lean quite a lot in corners, but the chassis is competent enough to not let go, with impressive levels of grip.
It’s no Ford Fiesta in terms of all-out dynamic ability, but it’s better than most of its rivals when dealing with potholed city streets, and in reality that’s where many C3s will spend most of their time. On that basis, then, the compromise is a good one, and it’s certainly a fun car to drive. The 1.2 turbo petrol engines, in particularly, feel lively and peppy. The diesel less so, but thanks to the C3’s lightweight construction it’s still a fun car to drive.
It’s quite clear from its vibrancy and cheeky character that the C3 is aimed at younger drivers, while the variety of colours and personalisation options means it very cleverly manages to appeal equally to both male and female buyers - 52% of C3 buyers are female, according to Citroen, and 48% male - it’s almost a stalemate.
Thanks to the multiple safety features and low insurance costs, it’s a particularly appealing package for those seeking a hassle-free first car.Search Citroen C3