The attractive, chubby little Citroen C3 Aircross has had what the car trade calls a “mid-life refresh”, rather like a telly presenter worried about the impact of HD. The face-lift comprises a more angular, slightly more aggressive looking front end, plus some striking new alloy wheel designs, stickers on the rear quarters, bright new colours and, drum roll, LED headlights. It’s not quite in the Anne Robinson league of cosmetic enhancements, but then it was only launched in 2017 and still looks pretty distinctive in its peer group. Up against the wacky Nissan Juke, swirly Ford Puma, sharp edged VW T-Roc and sharp suited Seat Arona, Citroen’s baby SUV looks a bit less Fisher Price these days, that’s all.
Should you buy one? There’s no strong reason not to, put it that way, for family users who aren’t looking for cutting-edge technology or on-the-limit handling prowess. Although it’s billed as an SUV, such is the fashion these days, Citroen has tried hard to retain some of the old flexibility and versatility of the various Citroen “Picasso” models, one of the many MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) like the Renault Megane Scenic and Skoda Roomster that have now been swept away by the SUV and “crossover” boom. Thus Citroen has made the rear bench adjustable so you can have more or less boot space or room for back-seat passengers, and the C3 Aircross also features a fold-flat front seat, so that the car will take an Ikea Billy bookcase flatpack home (this being one of the benchmarks for practicality these days). There are lots of cubby holes and cup holders and the like, and a split-level boot space, and all in the compact supermini footprint.
As a drive it leaves a bit to be desired. If you’ve a sensitive bottom (and don’t we all?) you can feel the reverberations of the three-cylinder petrol engine through your seat, and if you flip the bonnet you’ll see the thing wobbling excitedly like Matt Hancock on a date with a senior aide. It’s not worse, really, than any of the many stressed turbo charged three-cylinder units out there – they do offer good fuel economy with acceptable performance – but they’re intrinsically rough and just not all that, you know, nice. Though deeply unfashionable to mention it, there is still the option of a diesel (four cylinder) version of the C3 Aircross, which is a much more relaxed and tractable affair, ironically given that diesels always used to be a bit rough and ready. It’ll reward higher mileage users with its exceptional economy and, I guess, longer life. There’s also a slightly unresponsive petrol automatic that isn’t worth the premium.
It’s comfortable, though, and tastefully furnished inside – especially the tweedy cloth trim. The touchscreen with a row of conventional buttons underneath is pleasingly simple to use and has good connectivity. But the C3 Aircross is basically an older design, which means there’s no possibility of adaptive cruise control, or automatic lane assist, the types of autonomous driver aids that are becoming so common on mainstream models these days. Nor will there be a hybrid or electric version of this model until it gets replaced in a couple of years. For considerably more money you could try the odd-looking but very capable and very up-to-date Citroen E-C4.
Apparently Citroen buyers like to spec their cars up, and the reality of the new and lightly used car market is that your best bet is to go for the fully-loaded top-of-the-range versions, and haggle (which these days means spending a lot of time on price comparison and dealer and car broker web sites). Citroen itself will do you an inclusive leasing package deal online, and you shouldn’t really have to settle for a C3 Aircross that hasn’t got all the toys fitted; but if you want hi-tech, look elsewhere.
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