I’ve never met a three-cylinder I don’t like, and now I’ve got another one to add to the list with the 2021 Citroen C3.
This admiration for three-bangers started some years ago, when zipping around in a hilariously fun and slow Suzuki Alto, with its 1.0-litre triple being much more enjoyable than 50kW and 90Nm should ever suggest.
And it’s the same story for this Citroen. While it doesn’t profess to be some kind of hot hatch or performance derivative, Citroen’s baby of the range is good honest fun to drive around.
|2021 Citroen C3 Shine|
|Engine||1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Power and torque||81kW @ 5500rpm, 205Nm @ 1500rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel consumption (claimed)||4.9L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||6.8L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating (year)||Four-star (2017)|
|Warranty (years/km)||Five years/unlimited kilometres|
|Main competitors||Toyota Yaris, Mazda 2, Skoda Scala, Volkswagen Polo|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$29,680|
The C3's three-cylinder engine, whose 1.2 litres of capacity is helped by a turbocharger to make 81kW at 5500rpm and 205Nm at 1500rpm, has that characteristic rumble of a three-cylinder motor, and the wide accessibility of torque is a crucial part of this little Citroen’s appeal.
Against a claimed fuel economy of 4.9 litres per 100km, we've logged an indicated 6.8L/100km. Good, but not great, and a number that would be improved with more judicious use of the throttle.
This facelifted 2021 C3 comes in only one specification called Shine for $28,990 before on-road costs. Throw in $690 for the Spring Blue hue, and you’re looking at $29,680. This represents the biggest problem for the little Citroen: it’s expensive.
Volkswagen’s Polo 85TSI Style can be had for $25,690, or in hot-hatch GTI spec for $32,890. Suzuki’s Swift goes for $25,290 as a GLX Turbo, or $31,990 for the much faster Sport. All of these are with an automatic transmission, by the way.
Toyota’s Yaris, in mid-range SX specification with an efficient hybrid powertrain, goes for $29,020 before on-road costs. These are only a few of the competitors.
It seems only the Mini and Audi A1 are more expensive than the Citroen, which puts this little hatch in a precarious situation. And the price also lines the C3 up against more expensive small SUVs, which are favoured by most Australian buyers. To be compelling, the Citroen will need to be damned good.
2021 does bring some important changes for this pint-sized Citroen. There are new seats and trimmings inside, and a refreshed exterior look on the front, sides and rear. The powertrain and chassis haven’t changed with this update. But that’s not a bad thing, because the drivetrain is one of the little Citroen's highlights.
Along with that thrummy and willing engine, the Citroen rides comfortably and steers confidently, handling bumps with aplomb and responding smartly to big changes in direction. For punching down suburban streets and through intersections, the C3 is adept.
And to be honest, it’s a decent highway plugger at the same time. Six ratios seem to be enough for the torquey triple, which spends most of its time humming along around the 2000rpm mark. And being a more traditional torque-converter-style automatic transmission, the C3 is easy to operate at low and high speeds alike. It might not get the slight efficiency gains and sharper shifts of something with a dual-clutch, but it suits the application well regardless.
The new seats are unique and comfortable, with an interesting textured cloth trimming lending a nice overall ambience to the Citroen’s cabin. It’s got character, sure, but it’s also not exactly a premium or overly practical experience.
There are two small cupholders up front, and a couple of extra storage nooks for your bits and bobs. The seat-mounted armrest for the driver is nice, but there is no centre console for extra storage. There’s an extra cupholder in the rear behind the handbrake lever.
The 7.0-inch infotainment display has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as native navigation and digital radio. Although, it
can take a while to boot up or load. Traffic sign recognition is hidden within the basic multifunction display in front of the driver, and amongst things like fuel range and fuel economy.
With a four-star ANCAP safety rating from 2017, the C3 is off the pace from other cars in the same segment. There is now autonomous emergency braking (at speeds of up to 80km/h for a stationary vehicle, 85km/h for a moving vehicle, and 60km/h for a pedestrian) and blind-spot monitoring, which could improve the ANCAP score (initial testing and scoring was for the model without AEB). But, the fact that there are plenty of five-star-rated cars in the same segment, most of which are cheaper and many of which have more advanced driver assist tech, means the C3 is off the pace.
As good as the 2021 Citroen C3 is, it’s unfortunately overpriced to compete equally against the wide range of other small and city cars on sale in Australia. The important facets of powertrain and ride are solid and appealing, and the C3 does have a unique character that sets it apart from others in the range.
However, its overall packaging doesn’t carry any special surprises or tricks. And at the end of the day, your dollar can go a lot further in other small-car showrooms.