Why would I buy it?
- Engine performance
- Ride quality
- Large dimensions
Why would I avoid it?
- Lacks features
- No automatic option
- Cost cutting measures evident
Engine and Performance
The first thing that strikes you as you start driving the C3 is the driving position itself. You sit very high, the steering wheel is just the right size and visibility upfront is superb because of how low the windscreen extends and how the dashboard is angled. You can see a lot more of the road ahead and because you also have these ridges on the bonnet you get a better judgement of where it ends and that's always good for new drivers. Visibility from the side widows is also great although parking the C3 is always going to require more effort than usual because of the lack of reversing camera and a relatively smaller rear glass.
As for the engine itself, what we have is the turbocharged version of the 1.2-litre 3 cylinder engine and it's paired to a six speed manual. You also get a naturally aspirated version of this engine and naturally it's down on power. But strangely enough there isn't any automatic option at the moment even for this 110 horsepower version which I think is quite delightful. It pulls well from low to mid RPMs and besides a clattery idle, Its good enough when it comes to engine noise and vibrations.
The C3 is surprisingly quick in a straight line, delivering effortless performance all the way till triple digit speeds. The typical three-cylinder engine thrum is also well contained and under normal driving conditions, this 1.2-litre engine remains adequately quiet and refined. The six speed manual that we have here isn't the most engaging unit around but the shift action is adequately light for daily driving. Although what's even better is the clutch action. It's not as feather light as the one we have seen on the Tata Punch but it's very progressive which is just perfect for city driving.
Ride and Handling
Ride quality is something that has always been Citroen's forte and we have experienced it extensively in the C5 Aircross SUV. The much cheaper C3 naturally doesn't have the same level of plushness but for a hatchback, it's a different story altogether. The suspension on this is extremely silent and until or unless you hit the biggest of potholes you won't hear it working when going across bad roads. It's also good at absorbing bumps keeping the occupants flat across uneven surfaces. The 195 section tires are among the widest that we have seen in B segment hatchbacks and it’s the combination of these chunky tires, 180mm ground clearance and long travel suspension that plays a key role in delivering a big car like ride quality. Citroen themselves have said that the C3 is not an SUV but it has the attributes of an SUV. And that brings us to the other pressing question that I have around the C3 and its identity.
The other thing that makes the C3 so user friendly is the steering and its lightness. The wheel itself is quite compact compared to other hatchbacks and it terms of usability it’s nearly spot on. Firstly, it operates with just the right amount of progression as you turn and more importantly, it’s very light at parking speeds and that’s something that a lot of first time car buyers would appreciate.
At nearly 3.9meters in length and with a wheelbase of over 2.5meters, the C3 is not only bigger on the outside but also roomier inside compared to most B segment hatchbacks. And the generous proportions are nicely augmented with the exterior design which is typically Citroen. The high bonnet, the split design for the headlights and the grille are all from the C5 Aircross and so is the generous use of plastic cladding all around. Apart from these, there are some design elements that are unique to the C3. Things like the deeply carved front and rear fenders, sharp grooves on the bonnet, the roof and lastly, the rather large front skid plate.
Comfort, Convenience and Features
The interior is your typical small car space when it comes to the quality of plastics and textures but there is nothing typical about the design of the dashboard or the seats. For instance, the large orange coloured trim for the dashboard lends it a bespoke feel. Then you have the rounded rectangular shaped air vents and bucket seats at the front with a rather unique pattern to add to the cabin’s flair. In comparison, the ambiance at the back is a little underwhelming because the cabin is predominately black and also there is virtually nothing here to keep you occupied.
You don’t get rear AC vents or even an arm rest but the rear seat itself is large and nicely contoured to hold you in place. We also like the generous amount of legroom and thigh support which is always a big plus in a small car.
The boot, at 315 litres, is wide enough for two check-in size suitcases and two handbags and in terms volume, it’s bigger than the Maruti Swift but noticeably behind something like the Tata Punch. Although you get a wide 10-inch infotainment system with wireless Android Auto and Apple Carplay, height adjustment for the driver’s seat and one touch auto down for all four power windows, the C3 lacks basic yet extremely useful features like rear wiper and defogger, a tachometer split folding rear seats, rear armrest and a reversing camera. In terms of comfort oriented features, it’s lacking alloy wheels, electric mirrors, push button start, LED headlamps and there’s no automatic air conditioner either. What’s also odd is the placement of rear window switches. Having them between the front seats is hardly convenient and also hints at cost cutting measures.
So far what we know for sure is that the new Citroen C3 is spacious on the inside and has lots of scope for customisation. It also rides really well for a basic hatchback and that's the thing. It's just a nice basic hatchback but in a market like ours where features are so important, the C3 will have it's work cut-out because it's not only lacking gimmicky but also a lot of the basic features that we have come to expect from hatchbacks. It's a cheerful car for sure but will the C3 be affordable? That's purely down to how well Citroen Indian does for pricing and given the size and the list of standard features, the C3 is likely to be a very affordable proposition.
We are expecting that the C3 would undercut petrol manual versions of the Swift, the Celerio and the Punch which means a starting price of little over Rs 5 lakh for the naturally aspirated C3. If Citroen can deliver on that then there is a good chance for them to taste success with their first ever budget car for India.
Pictures by Kapil Angane