Citroen C3 Aircross review: quirky crossover stands out from the crowd
Citroen’s approach to the compact SUV segment is unique but higher-priced versions are up against some tough rivals
According to Citroen, the updated C3 Aircross you see here is more “self-confident and mature” than before with a more “premium” look brought about by a fairly significant midlife facelift.
What that means in practical terms is that the French brand’s cutesy B-segment crossover with its curvy, almost cuddly appearance has lost a lot of that friendly look in favour of a sharper, more aggressive design.
I, for one, am a bit disappointed. I liked the almost toy-like styling of the original C3 Aircross but Citroen says that customer expectations have evolved and it’s all about sharp design and an assertive style now, with the C3 echoing some of the design touches of the new C3 hatch and C4.
So the C3 Aircross gets a new “face”, with a higher bumper and broader chrome badge, LED headlights along with a more angular grille and lighting design and a completely reshaped lower bumper.
It’s all a bit pointier and angrier looking but, in a segment where individuality is important, it still manages to stand out as utterly unique. And it still has all the styling tricks to give it the true crossover look - from a raised ride height and body cladding to roof rails and skid plates.
The facelift has also extended the already huge list of personalisation options even further, with three new body colours, new two-tone paint choices and four colour packs to add contrasting interior and exterior details.
Our particular car was finished in eye-catching Voltaic Blue (one of the new shades), with a polar white roof and the Hype Grey interior ambience which wrapped the marshmallow-like Advance Comfort seats in a soft-hued leather as well as adding gloss black and satin chrome finishes to interior surfaces.
The interior has undergone less dramatic changes. The chunky, curvy motif is still apparent in the air vents and controls and the biggest changes are in the simplified centre console. It means the Aircross with its analogue dials and lacklustre infotainment system feels dated compared with more modern and high-tech rivals. To compete with that, Citroen says the C3 Aircross leads the class for practicality thanks to a sliding rear bench, flat-folding front passenger seat and “exceptional” rear leg and headroom.
That rear legroom disappears if you have a tall driver but that’s true of most rivals too, and the car definitely has plenty of vertical space and feels hugely airy thanks to the large windows - which also offer great visibility - and our test car’s optional panoramic sunroof.
In a field where many rivals now feel like slightly taller hatchbacks, the C3 Aircross has more of an SUV feel thanks to that bright cabin, a noticeably higher seating position and quite obvious body roll.
Sticking to Citroen’s commitment to comfort, the C3 Aircross’s suspension must be the softest in its class. It makes for unrivalled steadiness over rough roads but also unrivalled levels of wobbliness in corners. Refinement also isn’t among the segment’s best, with a lot of ambient noise creeping into the passenger space.
Some of that noise comes from the car’s three-cylinder petrol engine. The PureTech 130 is a brilliant engine, with a surprising amount of pull and responsiveness plus decent economy and here it’s mated to a smooth six-speed auto gearbox. However, under heavy throttle it isn’t the quietest and it makes itself obvious in the Aircross.
The C3 Aircross starts at around £17,000, which puts it up against everything from high-spec versions of the Dacia Sandero Stepway to the Kia Stonic, Ford EcoSport and Skoda Kamiq. Among that company it’s an interesting choice, beating them on character, practicality, comfort or a combination of the three.
However, our test car with its range-topping engine and gearbox plus touches like the leather interior and sunroof, was £25,000. The Shine Plus spec comes generously equipped, with plenty of creature comforts and driver assistance, but at that price it’s up against the Ford Puma and Vauxhall Mokka and which feel more modern, are more refined and better to drive.
That makes it harder to recommend but if you stick to the lower specification levels the C3 Aircross offers an interesting option to buyers looking for comfort and practicality above all else.
Citroen C3 Aircross Shine Plus
Price: £23,080 (£25,530 as tested); Engine: 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Power: 128bhp; Torque: 170lb ft; Transmission: Six-speed automatic; Top speed: 121mph; 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds; Economy: 40.2-47.3mpg; CO2 emissions: 142g/km