I've been meaning to write a review here after purchasing my first French car. With the car needing its first 12 month service, it highlighted my lack of action in writing a review, so here we go.
First things first. This is my first ever Citroen, and indeed, my first ever French car.
I've always had a soft spot for French cars. The willingness of French designers to push the envelope, and to produce cars which break from conformity, has always attracted me from the sidelines.
When a decision was made to look for a second (small) car for our household, I couldn't bring myself to look at run-of-the-mill small cars. On this basis, models like the Corolla, Focus, Astra, i30 etc weren't even considered (even though I've driven them, and they all have their merits).
With a budget of around $25,000, the shortlist ended up being:
New Volkswagen Polo - despite the very positive reviews from motoring publications, it just didn't excite me.
Peugeot 308 - interesting and attractive, but when one is sitting next to a Citroen in the same showroom, it felt a bit staid.
Citroen C4 - I was almost sold on the C4 Cactus, but the lack of wind-down windows in the rear (as reported elsewhere; they only pop-out) put me off.
Citroen C3 - As a newer model release from Citroen, it benefited from a more mature (restrained) design theme which first appeared with the C4 Cactus (with airbumps now appearing lower on the doors).
Once I took the C3 for a test drive I was sold.
The 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder PureTech engine was an absolute delight, with lots of low-down punch. It needs few revs to accelerate briskly and tackle steep hills, and it features a real quirky burble as it progresses through the rev range.
The comfort of the front seats and ride was simply outstanding. I honestly didn't expect such comfort from a small car, nor did I quite believe the overall hype surrounding Citroen's claims of its focus on comfort. For once, the PR hype stacks up.
And it begs the question, why aren't all cars this comfortable? Do we really need cars that focus on handling and outright performance at the expense of comfort? Not everyone will agree, but I'm a convert.
From a design perspective, I love the way it sits on the road. Chunky, squat and purposeful. The large 17 inch wheels with 45 series rubber really fill the wheel arches, surprisingly without impacting ride comfort. Unlike so many other small cars, it doesn't try and be swoopy and sleek, which is something best reserved, in my book, for longer vehicles.
And doesn't it attract attention!
Maybe it's a combination of the design, my chosen colour combination of the Almond Green and black wheels, or perhaps it's just because there aren't that many C3's on the road.
Interestingly, the C3's bonnet-line is quite high. When sitting next to our other car (a new Hyundai Santa Fe), the height of the bonnet lines are remarkably close, with the Hyundai only appearing to be mere centimetres higher than the Citroen.
Twelve months on, my initial impressions from that first test drive have not changed one bit. More than that, this is a vehicle which grows on you. The character and charm of the 3-cylinder engine, and the comfort you get from such a small vehicle, keeps you coming back for more.
And it brings a smile to your face every time you walk up to it. It's a fun car without pretension.
I regularly drive the M1 between Sydney and the Central Coast. For those familiar with the M1, it has a number of long and steep climbs, which highlight torque deficiencies in lesser vehicles. The C3 simply eats these inclines for breakfast, barely ticking over in top gear. With the comfort of the seating, quietness levels and torque available, you could be forgiven for thinking you're loping along in a much larger vehicle.
There are a few negatives. Or perhaps they are better referred to as character traits. Or French charm characteristics.
The engine start/stop is not as smooth as it could be (but you learn to accommodate it quickly), the cup holders are too small and poorly positioned (again, something reported in reviews elsewhere), and what's the go with having only one USB connection in a new vehicle? Like other Citroens, the glovebox really only has room for gloves, and is not even big enough to hold the user/service manuals.
I have heard from many motoring enthusiasts that modern cars lack charm, and how we've lost the fun that comes with motoring. The Citroen C3 has given me an insight into what those people have been talking about, as when I hop into other vehicles, I feel the contrast shows how dull many others have become.
I'm convinced that motoring can be full of charm and fun, but only if you know where to look. The Citroen C3 truly is a breath of fresh air, and a refreshing contrast to other vehicles on the market today.