Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive


The Citroen C3 aims to continue a long Gallic tradition of fun small cars and must charm buyers away from a string of very new, very capable rivals.
To beat them, Citroen has tried to do something different again; the tall, rounded lines of the Lumiere concept were an accurate preview of how the production C3 would turn out.
But fresh styling is unlikely to be enough. Its rivals may look more serious, but they are equally serious about cost, practicality, quality and dynamics. The C3 will need to be as able as its styling is original if it is to succeed.

Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive Design

Citroën C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (1)
Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (1)
The 70bhp, 1398cc C3 HDi tested here produces peak power at 4000rpm and peak torque of 110lb ft at 2000rpm.
The C3 is the first car to use PSA’s new PF1 small car platform which will also underpin the C2 city car due next year. Its suspension remains conventional, with MacPherson struts at the front, a cheap, compact torsion beam at the rear and anti-roll bars at both ends.
Braking is by disc at the front and drums at the rear; ABS with brakeforce distribution and brake assist is standard on the Exclusive trim level tested here and the SX below but not the basic LX.
Citroën C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (2)
Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (2)
The steering is more radical with fully electrical variable assistance claimed to cut mass and fuel consumption; at 1022kgs the C3’s kerb weight is low for a diesel of this class, despite being one of the widest and the tallest by some margin at 1520mm.
Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive On The Road
Citroën C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (3)
Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (3)
The C3 takes 13.0sec to hit 60mph, fine for a car of this class and power but you can have more pace for the same money; both the Seat Ibiza and the Skoda Fabia can shave two seconds from the 0-60mph time and might well make a better choice if you spend most of your time on motorways and A-roads, though neither will match the C3 for economy.
But accept the C3 for what it is and you won’t be seriously put out by its lack of pace; single-carriageway overtaking is plainly off the menu but the C3 is capable of adequate motorway progress up to the speed limit.
The C3 is comfortable, but its charm diminishes if you try to hustle it. The ride is soft; together with the refined powertrain and low levels of tyre and wind noise this leaves the C3’s cabin surprisingly calm and quiet for a diesel supermini. And body movement is quite tightly controlled, improving passenger comfort.
Citroën C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (4)
Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (4)
But it’s the steering that lets the side down; with 3.2 turns form lock to lock it’s too long-winded and imprecise at pace. It’s admirably light at parking speeds but the electric assistance adds weight too early and in clearly noticeable steps; even at low speeds you find yourself having to add more muscle mid-manouevre.
Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive Living
Citroën C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (5)
Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (5)
Get into the C3 and you’ll be pleased to note that the awkward French driving position of old is absent; instead you get firm seats with a full range of adjustment and a steering column which can be tailored for both rake and reach.
The visibility is as good as the car’s height suggests, though the instrumentation leaves more to be desired. The main display looks a bit toy-like; a big digital speedo over which arches a thin digital rev counter which is hard to read.
Rear leg room is surprisingly cramped. The C3 won’t fit two six-footers line astern, but all its major new rivals will. Our top-spec Exclusive car comes with a standard kit list capable of matching anything else in the class.
The Citroen is only denied the title of Britain’s most economical conventionally-powered car by the bizarre coincidence that three models claim the same extraordinary combined consumption figure of 67.3mpg. But we haven’t yet road tested the Yaris D4D or the Renault Clio dCi80, so the C3 gets to verify its claim first. On our touring route we returned a sensational 64.9mpg giving 675 miles between refills. And it has a staggering CO2 rating of just 110g/km.
Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive Verdict
Citroën C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (6)
Citroen C3 1.4 HDi Exclusive (6)
The C3’s ride and ridiculous economy give you two clear reasons to pick it over any of its rivals, many of which fail to excel in a single area. It makes a strong case on refinement, standard equipment and safety too but if performance, handling or space in the rear are important to you we’d direct you elsewhere. It isn’t the best small French car we’ve driven, but it does France’s reputation for them no harm at all.


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