What's the used Citroën C3 hatchback like?
Sometimes it seems that modern small car styling treads one of two paths: crisp and modern, but bland – or fun and fashionable, but overly retro. But the Citroen C3 sets out to prove that that doesn’t have to be the case, with extrovert styling that borrows heavily from its taller, longer brother, the Citroen C4 Cactus.
Such funky looks might be enough on their own to make the C3 more desirable than rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza and Volkswagen Polo for many buyers. But there are some compromises to be had.
For starters, you’ll have to live with a ride that’s less than ideal. Citroen aimed for comfort with the C3’s suspension setup, and made it soft – but the problem is, that means the car rocks around over larger bumps, and fails to damp out sharper ruts suitably, with the result that it always feels unsettled around town. It’s better at higher speeds, but never perfect.
Neither does the C3 feel much cop in corners; the soft suspension means it leans over noticeably, while the remote steering means you rarely have much idea of what’s going on. The C3 also pushes its nose ahead sluggishly if you enter a corner the slightest bit too fast. The peppy, zingy Fiesta and composed Ibiza are both streets ahead.
There are problems inside, too, where you’ll have to live with an interior that’s rather cramped, especially in the back, and saddled with strangely tight door openings. What’s more, there’s a profusion of scratchy-feeling plastics on the doors and dashboard.
At least that dashboard is easy on the eye. Smart styling and clever use of colour mean that despite the slightly cheap plastics, the C3 is a pleasant place to be; you get a slightly taller driving position than you do in most other small cars, too, which results in good visibility. It isn’t perfect, though; the touchscreen infotainment system is sluggish and fiddly to use, and there are no separate controls for the ventilation systems, meaning you have to navigate through the menus to perform even simple functions such as adjusting the heating.
There’s better news under the bonnet, where you’ll find a selection of 1.2-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel engines, most of which are strong, punchy and remarkably efficient, and these contribute to the C3’s low running costs.