Motoring review: Citroën C3 VTR+

Ten years on and the Citroën C3 still fails to impress

Price: £12, 940
Engine capacity: 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol
Power output (bhp @ rpm): 82 @ 5,750
Top speed (mph): 108
0-62 mph (seconds): 12.3
Fuel economy (mpg): 61.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 107

When the nice chap from Citroën called to offer me a shiny new C3 supermini to test I practically bit his arm off. Not because it's particularly exiting or is a revolutionary set of wheels, or even that it's glamorous or stylish. It's just that, well, I have a personal connection with the simple C3 that goes back some way.

Eleven years ago, when this little French number had just been launched, it was the first new car I ever drove. To be totally honest, it was my mum's first new car after years of second-hand motors and I was grudgingly insured on it. And despite the scent of fresh adhesive and sealant I absolutely hated it. Of course I used it to get myself around and rarely filled up the tank but it was slow, unfeasibly bulky for a little car and came in a particularly vile shade of old-lady pale blue.

The thing is now, 100-odd cars later, I can't help thinking perhaps I was overly harsh on the poor little C3. Sure, it failed in the teenage street-cred charts, but was it really that bad?

It had a major revamp in 2009 and has been tweaked again now for 2013 with Citroën calling it "a smart, sophisticated, low C02 and unique five-door supermini, designed for the modern family". Luckily I had a modern family to hand last week and took the liberty of loading up with a precocious niece and a messy nephew. They fit. I assume that's what Citroën meant, but that's hardly "unique".

And really, the "new" C3 is the same old C3 with a restyled front and rear and an improved set of powertrains. What's more it isn't even that cheap for what it is – Kia, Hyundai and Skoda all do better-value cars that are better to drive – and adding a picnic set and buggy showed me that it isn't overly spacious or practical either. There aren't even any handy cupholders – I mean, how can a modern family survive without those?

Free of the kids and a nervous passenger in the form of my sister, it's not even that pleasant to drive. The engine is economical and certainly tax-friendly, but the steering is so vague as to be almost nonexistent. It certainly isn't a driver's car. Or a music lover's car either... the radio and speakers don't seem to have been updated in 10 years. There's also a constant feeling of being in a rattling tin can that you don't get with many similarly priced rivals.

Don't get me wrong, Citroën does make good cars, including the excellent Citroën DS3 Cabriolet and the DS5 Hybrid. It's just that it runs a two-track system now. Its DS-badged cars get a dose of charm, style and technology, while its standard run-arounds, well, they are rather neglected.

There is hope. The French press reports that the C3's days are numbered and it will eventually be replaced with a spiritual successor to the famous 2CV. This retro trick worked for Mini and it worked for Fiat with the ever-popular 500; let's just hope that Citroën isn't too late to the party.

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