REVIEW | Why the 2020 Citroën C3 Aircross made a fine lockdown buddy

19 June 2020 - 08:09 By Phuti Mpyane
The C3 Aircross is an eye-catching crossover that turns out to be suitable for African conditions. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE
The C3 Aircross is an eye-catching crossover that turns out to be suitable for African conditions. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE

I love the Citroën brand, especially the models from a decade ago. The cars aren’t necessarily the fastest, but there’s always some quirk to look forward to, such as the steering wheel with a fixed hub in 2004’s wedge-shaped C4. Unconventionality has always been a measure of the brand’s confidence in its 101-year existence.

The C3 Aircross is the high-riding version of the standard C3 hatch and a pleasing middle option in a three-car range that’s captained by the larger C5 Aircross.

It’s a little bolder in the styling department than segment alternatives too, with bright red roof rails, shutter-style three-quarter windows and a hectic collection of front lights. It’s heavily based on the Citroën C-Crosser concept car from the 2017 Geneva Motor Show.

It has a 510l boot with the rear seats propped up, which increases to 1,289l with the rear seats folded down. It has a 178mm ground clearance, is 4,154mm long and is endowed with a generous interior space front and back. It’s pretty much what you can expect from the competition.

The interior has well-chosen trim materials arranged neatly and conventionally with some red licks of paint on the air vents to keep a bit of Citroën oddity.

It’s a one-engine, single-transmission and two-grades combo for prospective C3 Aircross buyers in SA. These is an 81kW and 205Nm turbocharged 1.2l petrol three-cylinder mated to a six-speed auto and you can have it in entry-level Feel specification or in this pricier Shine model.

Though much of the spec, such as six airbags, traction control and other safety spec, is mirrored in both models, the Shine model also has keyless entry, rain sensor wipers, climate control, front fog lamps and navigation above the Feel model.

If you’re expecting something of a regular crossover drive, you’d be correct. It hasn’t the most refined of suspension settings and isn’t exceptional on bad surfaces. It’s comfortable, but there’s a whiff of tautness in its damping that will not be welcomed by all.

The open roads left by a nationwide lockdown were the ideal proving grounds that the course voice of its mildly lethargic small-capacity motor, and the stiffer suspension, make it outwardly sportier than some in its segment.

The cabin remained comfortable and usable over an extended lockdown test period. Picture: SUPPLIED
The cabin remained comfortable and usable over an extended lockdown test period. Picture: SUPPLIED

A drive to Polokwane during the seven-day easing of lockdown travel between provinces showed the C3 Aircross mettle when introduced to mountain roads. It’s quite happy to amble along everywhere and happy when pushed hard.

It clings to curves with pleasing and controlled grip while the steering is sharp enough and the body doesn’t wallow much.

It’s a fun drive for the enthusiast who also needs the practicality of a crossover. Meanwhile, having taken a navigational gamble, I did find myself driving on a gravel road. Given that it’s designed to roam city streets and styled like a dollhouse trinket, you might expect a casual nonchalance when dealing with loose sand and bumpy and muddy patches. But it shrugged its shoulders and used its ample rubber to tame that rutted road and small streams without complaint.

Foibles? Well there’s the low intensity of its headlights at night. It could use brighter LEDs. But it’s very frugal, and the test vehicle achieved 6.3l/100km, even beating the factory-quoted 6.5l/100km.

The spacious interior, tidy handling and exterior optics enhance the C3 Aircross appeal, but a slightly firm ride can detract attention from it.

Tech specs

Engine

Type: Three-cylinder petrol turbo

Capacity: 1,199cc

Power: 81kW

Torque: 205Nm

Transmission

Type: Six-speed automatic

Drivetrain

Type: Front-wheel drive

Performance

Top speed: 184km/h

0-100km/h: 10.7 sec (claimed)

Fuel consumption: 6.5l/100km (claimed) 6.3l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 146g/km

Standard features

Climate control, keyless access, leather upholstery, USB port, rear-park distance control, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation, electric folding mirrors, auto on/off headlights, LED daytime driving running lights, rain sensor wipers, cruise control, brake assist, ABS, stability control, six airbags

Cost of ownership

Warranty: Five years/100,000km

Price: R380,900

Service Plan: Five years/100,000km

Lease*: R8,187 a month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Citroën C3 Aircross 1.2T Shine

 WE LIKE:

Space, handling, plucky driving performance

WE DISLIKE:

Needs brighter headlamps

VERDICT: It’s a hipster’s crossover

Motor News star rating

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Competition

Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0TSI Highline, 85kW/200Nm — R397,100

Kia Seltos 1.6 EX, 90kW/151Nm — R387,995

Hyundai Venue 1.0T Glide, 88kW/172Nm — R378,500

Mahindra XUV300 1.2T W8, 81kW/200Nm — R304,999

Fiat 500X 1.4T Cross auto, 103kW/230Nm — R375,569

Ford EcoSport 1.0T Titanium auto, 92kW/170Nm — R370,400

Opel Crossland X 1.2 Turbo Cosmo auto, 81kW/205Nm — R399,000

Mazda CX-3 2.0 Dynamic auto, 115kW/206Nm — R364,000

Hyundai Kona 2.0 Executive, 110kW/180Nm — R419,500​

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