Citroën C3 Aircross
First some clarity. The name "C3 Aircross" suggests this is an adventurous version of the Citroën C3. It's not. The C3 Aircross sits on a different platform and it's only the name that's shared with the C3.
The name also implies the C3 Aircross is hierarchically below the C4 Cactus, but in fact both cars have the same length and same wheelbase. However, the C4 Cactus is meant as a back to basics, no-nonsense vehicle. The C3 Aircross on the other hand is a fun car that has a more mature and refined feeling.
But... at the same time the C3 Aircross is delightfully playful! While other SUVs tend to be butch and impressive, Citroën opts for upbeat, lively and original. This is partly thanks to the many outfits the C3 Aircross comes in. For example, the test car is executed in "sand" with orange accents. Do note the stripes on the rear side window, which are inspired by the Citroën BX from the '80s.
And the fun doesn't end with the exterior. The interior is a bit more functional and rational, yet the colourful accents make the C3 Aircross everything but dull. For example, the cabin of the test car is mainly grey and black, but some well positioned orange accents make a difference. The upholstery of the top half of the dashboard in raw fabric is downright stunning and a welcome break from the traditional shiny panels or wooden inlay. The boxy top of the gear lever is different and pleasant to operate at the same time.
In a few cases form prevailed over function. The front seats look great, but on a lengthy drive they are uncomfortable. Also, adjusting the height of the front seats in fact means adjusting the angle. On the highest setting, the driver is almost pivoted out of the seat. Because of the shape of the front seats, little legroom remains in the rear. Even when the retractable back seat is in the rear position, room in the back is mediocre.
With the back seat slid all the way to the front, legroom in the rear is minimal. Yet the boot increases to a generous 520 litres. Also handy: the backrest of the co-driver's seat can be folded flat, after which the C3 Aircross can accommodate objects up to 2.4 metres in length.
If fitted with the right options, the C3 Aircross offers most active safety systems and driver's aids available on the market right now. Think about the camera that reads traffic signs, a warning when approaching other cars too closely, automatic high beam and a warning when accidentally crossing the markings on the road.
Some typical Citroën features like a panoramic windscreen or airbumps on the side of the car are not available on the C3 Aircross. This is because they don't match the character of the car. The panoramic windscreen would make a sizeable sunroof and the decorative roof rails impossible. With airbumps the C3 Aircross wouldn't look so tall.
The audio, communication and satnav are modern and complete. The optional hi-fi system sounds powerful and clear, but recent models from other brands offer even better sound quality. Thanks to support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto the C3 Aircross effortlessly integrates with smartphones, making it ready for the future.
Citroën fits the C3 Aircross with the well-known engines it also deploys in its other models. The finest of those is without a doubt the 1.2 litre petrol engine. This three-cylinder engine has a typical three-cylinder noise when driving fast, but is pleasantly quiet when driving calmly.
Also, there's also plenty of punch available when required, so the driver never has the feeling of driving a base model or underpowered car. At the same time, the "C3 Aircross 1.2 110" is quiet, comfortable and relatively frugal on the daily commute.
After many complaints from customers, Citroën abandoned its robot operated gearbox and now offers traditional automatic gearboxes. The "EAT6" in the test car does what it needs to do, but lacks the refinement from automatic gearboxes by other brands. Also, with the C3 Aircross it's all about driving pleasure and therefore a manual gearbox is the more obvious choice.
The well-known 1.6 litre diesel isn't as outspoken as the petrol engine, but it is noticeably more powerful. Pressing the accelerator a bit deeper always results in mighty accelerations.
Just as easily one can cruise at low engine speeds for more comfort. Expect a fuel consumption of 6.5 litres per 100 km in city traffic. A test drive over mainly motorways cost a mere 3.5 litres per 100 km.
The Citroën C3 Aircross has been developed together with Vauxhall / Opel, which sells the car under the name "Crossland X". Both makes managed to give technically identical cars their own unique personalities.
While Vauxhall went for comfort, Citroën gives the C3 Aircross a more dynamic character. The C3 Aircross doesn't have direct steering nor a firm underpinning, yet it is alert and agile. Also the bodywork is well balanced, despite a high centre of gravity. One odd thing: it's hard for the driver to estimate the width of the car. Not just yours truly, but several test drivers noticed this.
With the optional "Grip Control" the C3 Aircross even manages in light terrain. Instead of expensive four-wheel drive, Citroën offers smart traction control. At the push of a button the driver tells the system which kind of terrain has to be conquered, after which the electronics keep the optimal balance between slip and grip. In real life this works remarkably well and thanks to the increased round clearance (17.5 cm) and underbody protection this cheap SUV can actually do mild off-roading.
The number of compact SUVs on offer is huge. But if one marque proves it can distinguish itself from the masses, it's Citroën. And the C3 Aircross is the latest point in case. The C3 Aircross doesn't just look good, it's also better to drive than the average car.
What makes the C3 Aircross stand out is the excellent balance between fun and functionality. The (petrol) engine is lively but at the same time relatively efficient and quiet. The electronics are modern but not so extensive that they would make the car expensive. Handling is a bit more sporty than average, without ever affecting comfort. In every way the C3 Aircross is a seriously good car, yet it doesn't take itself so serious that it would put an end to the fun.