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      Citroen C3 Aircross 1.2 Turbo First Drive Review

      Vikrant Singh

      Vikrant Singh

      Why would I buy it?

      • Road presence and design 
      • Interior space and 5+2 seating flexibility 
      • Ride quality and strong engine 

      Why would I avoid it?

      • Lacks engine options 
      • Lacks feel-good features 
      • No automatic 

      Engine and performance

      The Citroen C3 Aircross only comes with one engine and gearbox. There's no diesel, no hybrid, and no automatic. All you get is the 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine. But, it puts out almost 110bhp of max power and 190Nm of torque. Add to it a kerb weight of under 1,300kg for the Aircross and it feels anything but underpowered. 

      Citroen C3 Aircross Engine Shot

      It has the same engine and gearbox as the C3 hatchback turbo. But, the hatchback runs on 15-inch wheels and the Aircross on 17-inchers, which means the final gearing for the SUV will automatically be taller compared to the hatchback. This could have resulted in a drop in low and mid-range driveability. But, to compensate - and to give the C3 Aircross that initial strong pull one expects from SUVs - Citroen has used a shorter ratio for the final drive on the Aircross. There is no change to the internal ratios of the six-speed manual, but the change in the final drive has had a telling difference in how the SUV responds to throttle inputs. 

      Citroen C3 Aircross Left Rear Three Quarter

      On the road, the Aircross never feels slow or lethargic or underpowered. It pulls strongly from as low as 2,000rpm even in sixth gear with five people on board. If you keep it in the mid-range - between 2,500rpm and 4,000rpm, the Aircross feels peppy and eager. It feels like an SUV that's in a hurry to get places. Overtakes, even at three-digit speeds, are a breeze. Furthermore, we also like the gearshifts; the throws are short even though these aren’t the crispest in the business. 

      Ride and handling

      Comfort has been Citroen’s big play for a long time. And that continues with the C3 Aircross as well. The ride quality on the new SUV is pliant and absorbent. It flattens undulating roads, bumps and even potholes with the finesse and ease that shows it still has something in reserve if things get worse. One can tell that it is going over poor roads, so it doesn't completely isolate the passengers. But it's more like quiet pulses than jarring thumps. 

      Citroen C3 Aircross Right Front Three Quarter

      Around corners, it does dive and roll when pushed hard; compromising running a plush suspension setup, if you will. But, take a slightly conservative approach - light but progressive inputs instead of wrestling it around - and taking on twisting tarmac becomes more enjoyable. It still rolls, but the body control is better reined in. The steering helps too. It strikes a good balance between weight and response telling you exactly where and how to place the car around bends. The steering is not too light or heavy, or too fast or slow, which makes it easy to use, linear, and predictable not just around corners but also around town and on the highways. 

      Exterior Design

      Citroen C3 Aircross Grille

      The Aircross is a good-looking SUV with a sizable road presence. It has the longest wheelbase, besides being the tallest and widest in its class. It has a confident stance and good proportions. Plus, its pronounced wheel arches look more natural than forced and very butch. 

      Citroen C3 Aircross Wheel

      It has a bold face courtesy of a high hood, aggressive eyes, and a chunky chin. We also love the design of the 17-inch alloy wheels. It could, however, do with better-designed door handles and employing paint instead of a cheap-looking sticker to separate the roof colour from the body on the C-pillar. 

      Citroen C3 Aircross Rear View

      Comfort, convenience and features

      Citroen C3 Aircross Dashboard

      Apart from design, the other big USP of the new Aircross has to be the option of 5+2 seating. Seating comfort in the second row - the thigh and back support for instance - is equally good on the five-seater and the 5+2 versions. Both offer identical head and shoulder room for the second-row passengers as well. But, because the rear seat in the five-seater is positioned 50mm behind where the 5+2's second row is bolted, the former offers significantly more knee room. It also gets a central armrest with cup holders for the rear passengers. 

      Citroen C3 Aircross Third Row Seats

      The 5+2, on the other hand, offers rear AC vents and recline functionality for the second-row occupants. It also has a 60:40 split and fold option. But, of course, the biggest draw of the 5+2 is the third row of seating. It's not the easiest to get into, and once seated, it offers no thigh support to speak about. But, the knee room isn't all that bad. And one can use the last row for short jaunts inside the city. 

      The rest of the cabin reminds one of the C3 hatchback since the two share most of the parts. The Aircross does get additional controls on the steering wheel and a new driver information system with a colour TFT screen. Equipment-wise, the top-spec Shine trim comes with remote keyless entry, height adjustable driver’s seat, electrically adjustable ORVMs, one-touchdown functionality for all four windows, rear washer and wiper, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia system with a reversing camera. The depth of information and UX for the multimedia system isn't great; just adequate. It does come with wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, nonetheless. 

      Citroen C3 Aircross Second Row Seats

      As for the missing features, there's no sunroof, automatic climate control, wireless charger, ventilated seats, or a request sensor to open the door without pulling out the keys. It doesn't get any Type-C charging ports either; only Type-A. Also missing is a lock-unlock button inside. However, features like ESP, hill hold, tyre pressure monitoring system, two airbags and ABS do come as standard across all trims on the C3 Aircross

      Citroen C3 Aircross Open Boot/Trunk

      Finally, the boot space of 444 litres in the five-seater and 511 litres in the 5+2 - with the +2 pulled out is handsome on both versions. 

      Conclusion

      The C3 Aircross makes a strong case for itself as a mid-sized SUV, but not in the same vein as the Hyundai Creta or the Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara. Citroen’s focus with the C3 Aircross is to offer value via comfort and practicality. And it intends to do that by focusing on what one needs than wants at a significantly lower price tag. 

      Citroen C3 Aircross Right Rear Three Quarter

      The C3 Aircross has visual appeal. It has the space. It is comfortable, practical and usable. It is easy to drive. The engine has enough grunt to transport five without feeling slow, lethargic, or underpowered. And it is reasonably fun to drive. It doesn't feel as premium as the Hyundai or the Maruti, though, and if you want a lot of bells and whistles, the Aircross doesn't have enough. 

      To us then, the pricing of the Citroen C3 Aircross will be the true decider. If the French carmaker can price it between Rs 9.5 lakh for the base and under Rs. 13 lakh for the top-spec trim, it might have a winner. 

      Photography: Kapil Angane 

      Citroen | Citroen C3 Aircross | C3 Aircross

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