C3 Aircross is Citroen’s small or compact SUV offering, not to be confused with the recently released and larger C5 Aircross.
It shares a platform and engine with cousin the Peugeot 2008, but that’s about where any similarities start and end.
Citroen says the C3 Aircross brings a breath of fresh air to the segment and in a time honoured tradition, it certainly looks radically different from anything else available.
Whether you love or loathe the distinctive and very French styling, it’s a surprisingly fun, well equipped, practical little wagon to drive — economical too!
What’s it cost?
There’s just one highly-specified model, priced from $32,990 plus on-roads.
The eye candy includes venetian-look rear side windows, a grey skid plates front and back, contrasting coloured roof, and an accent pack for roof rails, headlight surrounds, exterior mirrors, wheel centre cap outline.
In many ways, it’s all about the looks, with a total of 33 colour combinations from which to choose, including nine body and three contrasting roof colours.
To go with the striking looks, the inside offers Citroen’s Advanced Comfort Program which brings enhanced spaciousness, modular design and brightness (and funky white embellishments for the air vents).
The exterior and interior can be personalised with additional options, but where pray tell are the signature Airbumps that debuted on the Cactus — it’s an Aircross after all (and they’re not listed as an option)?
Standard kit includes cloth trim and single zone climate airconditioning.
There’s also daytime LEDs, automatic lights and wipers, along with an auto dimming rear vision mirror, plus auto parking, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree overhead camera, cruise control with speed limiter, wireless phone charging and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, digital radio, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink.
The safety menu extends to front, side and curtain airbags, Auto Emergency Braking (AEB), Forward Collision Alert, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Automatic high-beam assist and Driver Attention Alert (DAA3).
What’s it go like?
You don’t need to see the specs to work out its a three pot.
The thrum and distinctive vibration produced by a three cylinder engine is instantly recognisable.
Citroen seems a little retiscent about letting on it’s got three, not four cylinders as is the norm — but its fears are unfounded because it’s a little fire cracker.
The 1.2L PureTech e-THP 110 turbo-petrol engine produces 81kW of power and 205Nm of torque, and is paired with a Japanese Aisin 6-speed auto, with drive to the front wheels.
Citroen says it’s got auto engine stop-start to save fuel, but there was no sign of it in the car we drove.
Maximum torque is available from a low 1500 revs and this makes it remarkably punchy off the mark. In fact, ask it the question at almost any speed and the answer is a resounding — yes!
In spite of a tardy 0-100km/h figure of 10.6 seconds, the C3 Aircross was a constant source of surprise as it sailed past other traffic, with inclines little or no probllem.
As an SUV the increased ride height makes it easy to get in and out of, with a driver’s seat that is height adustable, and a steering wheel that is reach and height adjustable too.
But the seats aren’t particularly comfortable, at least not for long haul country driving.
Starting the car is simply a matter of pushing a button.
A flip-up style head up display projects the car’s speed and current speed limit on a small plastic screen that sits above the dash.
It lets the driver easily keep track of their speed, with Speed limit recognition and recommendation.
But the speed recognition got a little confused as we headed out of Sydney with its many and varied speed zones on the approaches to the Tunnel and Harbour Bridge, which must have been frustrating for traffic following behind.
We’re not too keen on the auto change mechanism, which is overly fiddly moving between drive selections.
There’s a small lighted panel to confirm shift position, but it’s buried deep at the back of the console where you can barely see it.
— with buttons for sport and snow mode either side.
The gear selector can also be used to change gears manually, with buttons for sport mode and slippery conditions.
Suspension is psuedo MacPherson strut, coil springs with hydraulic dampers at the front, with a deformable crossmember, coil springs, hydraulic dampers at the rear and it rides on 17-inch alloys with Bridgestone 215/50 series rubber.
Ride is fine on well formed roads but tyre noise and some harshness quickly surfaces on not so good roads.
You usually get adaptive cruise control with auto emergency braking, but alas not with this model.
With a 45-litre tank and rated at 6.6L/100km, we were getting 6.5L/100km after about 500km — bear in mind though it takes premium 95 unleaded.
A space saver spare is provided.
What we like?
Low fuel consumption
What we don’t like?
Fiddly gear selector
Harsh ride on some surfaces
The bottom line?
Surprisingly. Very suprisingly. We like it.
It wasn’t love at first sight. It took us a while to warm to the little Citroen. And it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea — but if you can get past the looks it’s a practical little wagon with plenty to offer.
French people don’t have a problem buying Citroens and there’s no reason Aussies should either — not with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty and five-year roadside assistance.