Test Drives

Citroen C3 Aircross 2019 review: Air It All Out



The C3 Aircross shows Citroen at its quirky best – heavy on form and big on function. But what price individuality?

 

SINGAPORE

A quick look at the state of current affairs is all you need to conclude that there’s too much anger, too much vitriol in this world. You see it in the news, on the internet, and even on our roads; the amount of aggression nearly everywhere is needlessly high.

In a way, the same phenomenon is also present in the automotive world – the vast majority of car makers approach car design with sporty aggression in mind, both in how they look as well as how they drive. How else would you justify fitting lumpy M Sports suspension on a BMW 2 Series Tourer? Or the quasi-intimidating Stormtrooper face of a Toyota Sienta? Especially since both of these are thoroughly family-centric cars with no legitimate claim to a ‘sporty’ drive.

The French being the French though, can be resolutely individualistic when it comes to making cars, designing them with a completely different ethos compared to everyone else; and none more so than Citroen.

The C3 Aircross is an upright, crossover-y mini-MPV with a similar size to a Honda Jazz, and it’s an almost exact antithesis to the trend described above – for it neither wants to intimidate you with its looks, nor goad you into pretending that you want to go anywhere in anything other than pure comfort.

While acute angles and brooding scowls seem to be the dominant trend across the industry (see: downward-sloping headlights; trapezoidal “frowny” radiator grilles), you’d be hard pressed to find a single sharp corner anywhere on the C3 Aircross. Gently rounded geometric shapes (Squircles? Circtangles?) are the dominant theme both inside and out, and even the paint schemes are all bright and cheery.

The car’s interior is similarly eye-catching. Flashes of bright orange further brighten what’s already a very airy cabin, and a riot of different textures keep things interesting to the touch. Most interesting of all is the coarse fabric upholstery, which proved its worth over cowhide by not burning our bottoms after leaving the car in the hot sun. That said, some of the plastics are on the stiff and scratchy side, and there’s a lack of storage spaces for small items at the front of the cabin.

With its tall and boxy profile, it’s no surprise that the C3 Aircross has a spacious cabin. There’s a tremendous amount of legroom for a car of this size, and the rear seats can slide fore and aft too, taking boot space up from a decent 410-litres to a cavernous 520-litres. That’s bigger than the Jazz’s boot, although its regular fold-flat rear seats aren’t quite as versatile as the Honda’s. Those seats do recline though, so you can have a very relaxed seating position, the better to sink into those extra broad, extra flat, and extra comfy armchairs.

Comfort, by the way, is the entire remit of the C3 Aircross. There’s absolutely no pretense of handling this or dynamic that, just ease of use (brilliant visibility and light steering weight) and a cushy ride.

Nor, to be honest, is there much sense of urgency in a straight line either. That’s not to say the C3 Aircross is slow, as 110hp and 205Nm of torque are adequate in this class, it’s just that the 1.2-litre engine’s power delivery is calmer and more measured than most.

In fact the C3 seems almost proud of the fact that it has zero sporting pretensions whatsoever, although in extreme cases that can be a bit of a double-edged sword.

Barrel into a corner too fast and you’re easily liable to get some major oversteer if you hit the brakes or lift off sharply mid-corner (as in a panic situation while driving too quickly on a wet road). There’s standard-fit stability control to keep disaster at bay (not all rivals have this), but it’s still something that’s liable to raise pulses.

In a couple of ways, the C3 Aircross does embody a couple of traits of more expensive luxury cars. Firstly, its ride comfort is one of the best among cars of its ilk, and secondly, its design and feature count is anything but cheap and cheerful.

All C3s here come standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen that controls the infotainment and climate control, in addition to auto lights and wipers, steering wheel controls, six airbags and a reverse camera, but for $5k more, the higher-end Shine variant adds larger wheels, keyless go, Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charging, navigation, cruise control and an around-view camera into the mix.

Unfortunately, all the toys come at a price – literally. The Shine model as tested here costs just over $100k, which is territory occupied by larger C-segment (mid-sized) family sedans, never mind its B-segment rivals.

At the end of the day, you’d have to be a huge fan of Citroen’s ethos and the C3’s style to fork out the hefty premium it commands. Driving this blue car around is a pretty relaxing and calming affair, which is just as well when its price tag will have you seeing red.

Citroen C3 Aircross 1.2 SHINE

Engine 1199cc, inline 3, turbo
Power 110bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 205Nm at 1500rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
0-100km/h 187km/h
Top Speed 11.8 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 5.6L/100km
VES Band / CO2 B / 126g/km
Agent Cycle & Carriage
Price $103,999 with COE
Availability Now

about the author

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Jon Lim
CarBuyer's latest addition is its fourth historical Jonathan. Old-fashioned in all but body, he thinks car design peaked in the '90s. He also strongly believes any car can be a race car if you have a sufficient lack of self-preservation, which explains why he nearly flipped a Chinese van while racing it.