21 December 2018

Citroen C3 Aircross 2018 Car Review

Our testers can’t be the only folk who’d assumed that eye-catching designs and colours and a concept-car feel would come at a premium, especially if you also factor in a full suite of safety aids.


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But Citroën’s new C3 Aircross proves that’s not the case, as long as you’re prepared to consider what’s still a niche brand for Aotearoa.

There was no doubting that the exterior’s orange flourishes were eye-catching in the gloom of the AA’s test-car garage, and equally eye-catching out on NZ’s highways, byways and supermarket car parks. Yet there’s no cost for this option – or white in its place. Nor do you pay extra for the cabin’s extrovert orange details – white also a no-cost option. Which means folk buying a family soft-roader can at last customize their ride without having to take out a second mortgage.

Like it or loathe it, you can’t deny the colour catches the eye and imparts a lively zing to a bracket which normally emphasizes family safety, rather than artsy flair.

Aircross is yet another entry in the compact SUV bracket, at least in terms of its boxy dimensions and the high hip point of its seats. Based on the Citroën C3, alongside its eye-grabbing looks it delivers just one choice of standard spec, with a 1.2-litre petrol turbo engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission, driving the front wheels – yep, no four-wheel drive for the Aircross, which is clearly designed with average family motoring in mind, rather than a Kiwi’s idea of off roading.

Average family motoring if your average family likes driving what could become a design icon, that is, for Citroën’s emphasis on design carries throughout the car. There are those rounded edges to the otherwise rather boxy outline and details – like those headlights. There’s the large glasshouse, which imparts an excellent all-round view out from the cabin, less obvious from outside in part because those horizontal orange stripes to the rear mask the fact they’re actually on a window.

The cabin could only be called funky, most notably because of the orange on the seats and dash, wheel and trim allied to touches of what seems to be tweed fabric, but also for the shapes and materials used. That gear lever looks as if it belongs in an aircraft, controlling the angle of climb. The air nozzles echo the overall rounded-edge cubic design features. The three rear pews individually slide to and fro, there are lift-up blinds for the rear windows, there’s an inbuilt cupholder in the centre rear seatback when it’s folded down – back-seat passengers are very much catered to in this car.

And it all works well. Funky looks doesn’t have to bring confusion with it, and here everything you need falls easily to hand and works intuitively – with the possible exception of the handbrake, with a shape that takes getting used to the first time or two if you’re more familiar with the old rod-and-lift, but which soon feels like second nature. You do wonder at first where everything is – the climate air controls, for example – but once you find it’s all done via the touch screen, with VERY LARGE and simple icons, you’ll bless that simplicity.

Specification also includes an efficient, and useful – especially at the busy school gate or toy-strewn drive – top-view reversing camera. Tentative parkers get park assist that works both in parallel and bay parking situations. There’s satnav, speed limit recognition and recommendation, blind spot monitoring and active safety assist. After two hours of driving at over 65km/h the car will suggest you stop for coffee, and it’ll even turn the fog lights when you corner.

That engine seems keen enough, if not actually perky, but then few buyers are looking for acceleration records, instead they want something comfy, capable and frugal, but not too relaxed in performance terms – and that’s what Citroën delivers.

You can select sport for a little extra vim, and you can release the brake pedal a whisker to avoid the stop-start adding too much of a delay when the traffic light turns green.

Progress at cruising speed is quiet and refined, and ride seemed superb, even over the bumpier, rural segments of our usual test route. And once you’ve got over the novelty look, it’s comfy ride, enough storage and the range of fixtures you want at the price you want which will please the most.

Some may be frightened off by the looks – even without the contrast colour options. But look on the funk as a bonus and you’ll realise Citroen’s C3 Aircross is a thoroughly likeable compact SUV, well thought out for the task it’s aimed at and well priced for what you get.

At a glance

Models

Citroen C3 Aircross

Engine

1199cc petrol

Price

$34,990

ANCAP safety rating

5 stars 

Power and Torque

81kW at 5500rpm, 205Nm at 1500rpm

Transmission

Six speed DCT

Fuel economy

5.7l/100km

Towing capacity

840kg braked, 600kg unbraked

2WD/4WD/AWD

2WD

Seating capacity

5

Luggage capacity/payload

410 litres to 520 litres

Safety systems

  • Top view reversing camera with front and rear park sensors
  • Lane departure warning
  • Auto emergency braking
  • Front Collision warning
  • Park Assist
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Driver attention alert
  • Tyre pressure monitor
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