Citroen C3 Aircross Road Test 2018

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AIR ON A C-STRING


Excuse the play on words, JS Bach’s Air on a G-String is one of the pleasantest, lightest and relaxing pieces of classical music you’ll listen to. Ironic really given I’m a rock music fan! But it seemed apt given the lightness and undemanding demeanour of #Citroen’s new  C3  Aircross. And if there’s one aspect that the Aircross exemplifies it’s the fact Citroen has at last reacquired their uniqueness, the quirky looks, feel and forward thinking design that for years set them apart from the rest.


Besides being at the cutting edge of technology it was the look of their cars that truly defined them. And it’s this ethos the C3 Aircross embodies, modern looks, the newest of know-how all combined with shovel loads of retro. The sound of the 3-cylinder engine evocative of the 2CV, the bold almost unsophisticated simplicity of the exterior combined with an interior that melds a 21st Century take on 70’s retro. Add in over eighty five possible colour combinations and five MPV style cabin variations, petrol and diesel engines plus the option of terrain response and the Aircross is possibly as near to unique as a mass production car actually gets.


Described by Citroen as an SUV the Aircross is more crossover than sports utility, the Aircross replaces the more conventional C3, one of the best selling Citroens of all time. Riding 17.5cm higher than before, the now familiar split-level light pods separate the stylised helical gears badging, a bold ersatz silvered skidplate and mesh grille dominating the front. A high waistline runs along the tops of the squared, wide access doors before curling round the squared rear lights and tailgate.


If the raised ride height does interfere with the C3’s practicality it’s the fact the luggage area lip is now higher off the ground and fractionally more inconvenient.

Rolling on what’s best described as conspicuous 17” alloys shod with 215/50 rubber, MacPherson Struts form the front suspension whilst a deformable beam takes care of the rear. Combined, the design gives the Aircross, a stable if at times slightly bouncy feel as it scurries down the road, once again invoking a modern, stable take on days of old.


Inside the capacious cabin the angular detailing of the exterior continues, the cubist references echoing throughout the interior. The Aircross family friendly MPV practicality is reinforced by the use of hard plastic surfaces, this time forgivable. Large squared and comfortable seats are trimmed in durable two tone fabrics, the chunky leather multi-function steering wheel and easy to navigate 7” central screen taking care of a variety of functions, the few remaining switches grouped underneath.


Numerous cubbies and door bins provide ample stowage although the cup holders do tend to struggle around corners. With more than ample head, shoulder and leg room for five and 520 litres of cargo, fold down the rear 60:40 split rear bench seat and 1,289 litres becomes available with the facility of an additional 840kg of towing ability.

Beneath the bonnet Citroen offer just two Euro6 spec engines, the 1,199cc 3-cylinder turbo PureTech petrol as tested here or a 1,560cc 4-cylinder BlueHDi turbo diesel. Developing 110hp and 205Nm of torque and mated in this instance to a 5-speed manual transmission, the enthusiasm and power delivery of the little 3-pot at times defies belief. The 11.3sec 0-62mph feels far quicker than it actually is whilst the indicated 115mph top speed is remarkably easy to head towards.


Returning around 36.2mpg or around 400 miles per 45 litre tank of unleaded, throttle reaction and over demeanour of the Aircross tends to mean you’ll want to enjoy yourself. Visibility behind the wheel is excellent, the elevated driving position ensuring the view ahead is uninterrupted whilst the overall feel and dynamics of the Aircross give the feeling that you’re driving a larger and far more powerful car than you actually are.


The fact the C3 Aircross is overtly cubist allied to the striking colour schemes all add to the car’s appeal. The disc all round ABS braking is even and balanced, the car displays no particular vices the electronic stability keeping the Aircross nicely balanced, the handling more or less neutral even when pushed a little harder. Tyre noise is at times noticeable when traversing less than smooth surfaces but not to the level of annoyance whilst unavoidable potholes are navigated with the minimum of cabin or steering disturbance.


Starting OTR prices are £14,130 for the basic Touch spec C3 Aircross, the mid-spec Feel is £15,235 the Flair £17125, the Flair as tested with just a few accessories £18,965 with the range topping Flair BlueHDi 120 diesel rounding off the Aircross range at £19,805. And for those who feel the need to become more adventurous the C3 Aircross is also available with the advanced front wheels Grip Control as an option on the Feel or Flair models for £400 extra.

A Citroen that’s as entertaining to drive as it is practical and functional family transport. Equally, it isn’t at all badly priced when you compare the Aircross to other similar models. And whilst the diverse looks might not be for everyone, at least one manufacturer is striving to be different!


By; Mark Stone