ROAD TEST: Citroen C3 bumps off boredom
RICH with panache and as funkily mad as a Citroen should be, the Citroen C3 with its "airbump" body protection nevertheless competes against far cheaper rivals in the compact hatch segment.
Its higher riding nature and plastic wheel arches pitch it against small SUVs too, almost justifying the current on-special $24K drive away price.
It lacks some safety kit but has plenty of goodies, style and rarity to stand out in an often vanilla compact car segment.
IAIN: I know your French heritage means you're going to go all patriotic and proclaim the C3 a triumph of design and joie de vivre.
JULES: Yes. And what of it? Are you telling me you'd rather have a Toyota Yaris or Hyundai Accent?
IAIN: No. For $24K I'd get an excellent larger hatch like a VW Golf, Hyundai i30 or Mazda3. Like normal people do.
IAIN: Or if I wanted quirky I'd go a Hyundai Kona, Jeep Renegade or Suzuki Vitara for similar coin.
JULES: Yes but this has proper European flair and looks like nothing else on the road. Check out the elegant skinny front lights, funky airbumps, pretty derriere and I am totally in love with the colour. So on trend. So me.
IAIN: Almond green, they call it. I'll admit it's very funky, especially with contrasting black roof and rims, but would it be out of line to suggest this is quite a female-orientated car?
JULES: No. It is one for the girl about town. And this girl loves it.
THE LIVING SPACE
IAIN: I guess the soft plastic salesman was turned away the day they designed this cabin. It's hard plastic central in here. Door handle straps are cool though.
JULES: For the money it feels a bit cheap in places. Materials don't feel premium but I'll overlook that as the design excellence extends inside. Vents, dials, steering wheel and dash all have a cohesive funky shape and form.
IAIN: The cupholders are tiny and storage is skimpy. Do the French only drink espressos and need space for their pack of Gitanes and Hermes scarf?
JULES: That's possibly true. The seven-inch touchscreen dominates the dash and it's great it has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It's the fastest working CarPlay I've experienced. Turn engine on, phone mirroring works nearly instantly. Brilliant.
IAIN: Reverse camera, parking sensors, cruise control, climate control and auto headlights and wipers are strong features.
JULES: I'd love analog dials for the climate control though. It's such a pain having to use a touchscreen for that.
IAIN: I love the three-cylinder turbo engine, especially once you get up to speed. It's zesty with a lovely note. But the auto gearbox is a laboured thing. It's jerky at low speed and can feel as if it's operating in thick treacle.
JULES: It lurches a bit and can be slow to get off the line. It can get annoying when you're in traffic or parking.
IAIN: It's a shame really because the engine's a peach. There was less jerkiness in sport mode but the engine revved like mad. I bet a manual gearbox - not available on this car - would make for a great combo but Aussies just wouldn't buy it.
JULES: I found it really comfy to drive. Great seats and you sit pretty high. It's a quiet ride and absorbed the bumps well.
IAIN: It's a compact car so the boot's compromised. That said, its 300L is more than a lot in this class.
JULES: Space is all you need for the weekly shop or for a few bags and dresses for a glam weekend away to Paris.
IAIN: Your Sunday run may be to Paris but I reckon the C3 could handle the Monte Carlo Rally route. In the twisties it felt beautifully balanced, predictable and had surprising personality. Get the engine revving and it's damned good fun.
JULES: Style and substance then. But I still reckon the target market of younger females would use their C3 as town and city cruisers only.
IAIN: It cost an extra $600, but what about the ConnectedCam, an on-board HD camera below the rear-view mirror that auto-saves the moments leading up to any accident?
JULES: Smart stuff. But you can also use it to take photos or video of your drive and instantly upload it to social media via an app. Gimmicky but millennials will approve.
IAIN: Not a car for a family of four like ours; the rear seats are too tight for the kids and the boot's not big enough for stuff like bikes.
JULES: Only a four-star safety rating hurts it, too. It has lane departure warning and six airbags but really needs autonomous emergency braking. I'd buy this car if I was single but as a mum I'm more safety-conscious.
IAIN: Brilliantly quirky, fun on back roads and refined on the highway plus a five-year warranty - the C3's got plenty going for it. It's a bit girly for me, it's too expensive and has too many compromises.
JULES: Like most French things, me included, it's worth putting up with Gallic idiosyncrasies. Life is short. I love how the C3 busts the boredom with rare style and detail. I'm sold and I want it in this colour, please.
PRICE $23,990 drive-away (expensive)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5 years/unlimited km (great), $1498 for 3 years/45,000km (pricey)
ENGINE 1.2-litre 3-cyl turbo, 81kW/205Nm (punchy)
SAFETY 4 stars, 6 airbags, reverse camera, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning system, speed recognition and speed warning, coffee break alert (off the pace)
THIRST 4.9L/100km (excellent; 6.9L on test)
SPARE Space-saver (to be expected)
BOOT 300L (very small)