Urbanite supermini takes to the open road to test its long-distance cruising potential
It’s surprisingly good on long-haul trips
Atrip to Crewe to see the new Bentley Continental GT loomed and I toyed with the idea of swapping the C3 for one of the more suitable long-distance cars on our test f leet. But in the end, I didn’t, deciding that this was an excellent opportunity to see how the C3 fared outside of its urban remit.
It’s fair to say it didn’t have the comfort or refinement of a Bentley grand tourer, but then what do you expect at a fraction of the price? Nonetheless, Citroën has a sharp focus on offering comfortable cars and the C3 absolutely bears that out. There are very few cars in which I don’t get fidgety or suffer from the common affliction of ‘numb bum’ on a 100-mile-plus journey. But with the C3, it never happened. I was happy all the way to Crewe and back to London again, via the Cotswolds. Even better, the C3’s bench-like seats, inspired by those in the C4 Cactus, look different from almost every other car makers’ out there. So they’re not only incredibly comfortable but also original in design.
A few weeks later, I headed to the depths of Suffolk for a yoga retreat. From my house, there is not the luxury of a direct motorway route. Instead, I traversed motorways, A-roads and B-roads before a final stretch on the never-ending A143. The journey had the same result: I was comfortable throughout.
The C3 can also hold its own on higher-speed long journeys. Our car’s 1.2-litre Puretech 110 engine is the most powerful in the range. That equates to a 0-62mph of 9.3sec – not enough to do more than moderately paced motorway cruising, but sufficient. To get up to speed requires some persistent foot-down driving, but it’s never to the point where you feel that you’re desperately willing the C3 to accelerate more quickly.
The other upside of long-distance journeys in the C3 is also the biggest downside for its natural environment of towns and cities. The gearbox feels notchy and rough when changing through its lower cogs. This makes stop-start urban journeys less fluid than you’d hope. So, of course, with no low-end gearchanging necessary out of town, this isn’t a factor.
The Citroën also has firm rear suspension, which causes it to crash hard over speed bumps. That’s unavoidable to an extent on roads like the one on which I live, which have the worst kind of speed bumps, but rival hatchbacks such as the Ford Fiesta feel better damped. Again, this is much less of a factor on longer journeys outside towns. So I’ve touched on its long-distance capabilities and my main woes on short journeys. But as my daily driver, covering 20 miles a day in the suburbs of London, this is a car I’ve become fond of. I’m now used to that less-than-brilliant ride and those not-as-smooth-as-i’d-like gearchanges and I’m enjoying the C3.
It’s also very practical. The boot’s capacity is 300 litres, which is more than the Fiesta’s, and it is cleanly shaped for optimum space. My Volkswagen Golf-owning mum, on seeing the C3’s boot after a trip to a garden centre, remarked on how spacious it is. On that same visit, my mum, dad, partner and I piled into the C3 for a short drive for a Sunday roast. My 6ft 2in partner drove us back home, with my 5ft 4in mum sitting comfortably behind him, demonstrating a respectable amount of space for all occupants.
It has also been very usable for transporting my two-year-old niece in her car seat. And if anyone’s seal of approval counts, it’s hers. She said, on first seeing the C3: “I like your car. Nice wheels.”
Smart seats are comfy; there’s room in rear, despite tall driver