Citroën C3 Aircross

New funky cross­over rocks up

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - TOM MOR­GAN

WHY WE’RE RUN­NING IT To see if this quirki­est of com­pact crossovers has more to offer than its head-turn­ing styling

There’s re­ally no es­cap­ing the charm of the com­pact cross­over, is there? Take the hum­ble hatch­back, jack it up like it’s on stilts and ap­ply some off-road-in­spired de­sign cues. Job done. The great Bri­tish pub­lic has gone mad for Suv-themed su­per­mi­nis, and so man­u­fac­tur­ers are sure to keep them com­ing to sat­isfy our thirst.

It’s an in­creas­ingly crowded corner of the mar­ket, so it pays to stand out, which is some­thing the Citroën C3 Aircross has no trou­ble do­ing. The Aircross re­places the Mpv-in­spired C3 Pi­casso in Citroën’s line-up with the SUV styling du jour, re­sult­ing in a cross­over that oozes quirky French charm in­side and out. It gets Citroën’s trade­mark fo­cus on com­fort, al­beit in dis­tilled form, and prac­ti­cal­ity that’s on par with the best in the class.

This might not be the most dy­namic, most lux­u­ri­ous or most af­ford­able car of its kind, but we reckon it’s prob­a­bly the most in­ter­est­ing. And see­ing how it’s al­ready the com­pany’s sec­ondbest­selling ve­hi­cle be­hind the C3 hatch­back, af­ter a lit­tle un­der ten months on sale, it would seem cus­tomers agree.

We called the de­sign “in­stantly like­able” when we road tested the C3 Aircross (7 March), even if we de­ter­mined it “wasn’t quite a match for the Seat Arona on per­for­mance or han­dling so­phis­ti­ca­tion”. To find out if that mat­ters for day-in, day-out driv­ing, and to dis­cover whether there’s more to like about the Aircross than its stand­out styling, we’ll be run­ning one for the next six months.

Our long-term test car is pow­ered by the PSA Group’s near-ubiq­ui­tous 1.2-litre tur­bocharged three-pot petrol. It’s an en­gine that can be found in every­thing from a cross­over like this C3 Aircross all the way up to Peu­geot’s 5008 SUV, and is seen here in its most po­tent form. Power and torque out­puts of 128bhp and 170lb ft should be well-suited to a com­pact cross­over, while the six-speed man­ual gear­box will hope­fully be a bet­ter match for the short-geared, rev-happy mo­tor than the five-speed ’box fit­ted to our road test car.

Com­bined fuel econ­omy is quoted at 54.3mpg (NEDC), and while that fig­ure would put it firmly among its peers, we’re ex­pect­ing in­ner-city life and all the slow-speed driv­ing that en­tails to make achiev­ing such a tar­get some­thing of a strug­gle.

More than half of UK buy­ers opt for the top-spec Flair trim, so we’ve done the same. It builds on mid-spec Feel vari­ants by adding 17in al­loy wheels, along with key­less en­try and start, a slid­ing rear bench for a tem­po­rary boost to boot space, cli­mate con­trol, rear park­ing sen­sors and a re­vers­ing cam­era. It also up­grades the 7.0in in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen with Citroën Con­nect Nav­i­ga­tion, al­though with An­droid Auto and Ap­ple Carplay both in­cluded as stan­dard, Citroën’s of­fer­ing will need to im­press if it

The Seat Arona may offer a bet­ter drive, but it has a tenth of the Citroën’s per­son­al­ity

is to re­place the Waze app as our sat-nav sys­tem of choice.

We avoided load­ing our car with op­tions, choos­ing only the blue paint and con­trast­ing white roof (£520). The sil­ver colour pack, a no-cost op­tion, then added a fur­ther splash of colour to the wing mir­rors, head­light sur­rounds and roof rails.

You can buy a C3 Aircross with Grip Con­trol, a £400 op­tion that uses elec­tron­ics to ad­just the trac­tion con­trol in place of four-wheel drive for all-ter­rain driv­ing, but see­ing how few cus­tomers feel the need for it, we de­cided we could live with­out as well.

With no child seats to fit (in the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, at any rate), we also de­clined to add the Fam­ily Pack (£490) and its fold-f lat front pas­sen­ger seat. We’ll have to wait and see if we’ll re­gret not tick­ing the box for the £650 Techno Hifi pack, which adds wire­less smart­phone charg­ing, a 3.5in colour in­stru­ment panel, up­rated speaker sys­tem and colour heads-up dis­play. As is, the in­stru­ment panel makes do with mono­chrome.

This brought the total cost to £20,105, which is on par with a Seat Arona 1.0 TSI 115 in FR trim – in our view, still the best all-round com­pact cross­over avail­able to­day. The thing is, while the Seat may offer a bet­ter drive, it has a tenth of the Citroën’s per­son­al­ity. That cer­tainly translates into the cabin. Our test car’s mica grey in­te­rior is the most sub­dued colour op­tion avail­able, but the old-school di­als and quirky shapes still make a good first im­pres­sion.

Ini­tial thoughts? The thrummy three-pot has a pleas­ant amount of shove around town, the high driv­ing po­si­tion gives a de­cent view of the road ahead, and there’s no short­age of space in the cabin. With the back seats in place there’s plenty of boot stor­age, but once the bench is folded flat there’s more room here than you’d find in a VW Golf. That should come in handy for a few of the road trips we have planned for the car.

It’s not all good news, though. The seats don’t have the high-den­sity foam pad­ding of those in the C4 Cac­tus (in which they’re part of Citroën’s ad­vanced com­fort ethos). It might be an is­sue on longer jour­neys. Hav­ing the cli­mate con­trols rel­e­gated to the touch­screen, in­stead of on ded­i­cated but­tons, makes chang­ing tem­per­a­tures on the move a bit fid­dly, and the square gear­knob is overly chunky and awk­ward to grip too.

Our time with the Aircross so far has mostly been spent in Lon­don’s stop-start traf­fic, where fuel econ­omy has hov­ered in the mid-30mpg re­gion. Our car won’t be re­signed to the city life for long, though: it al­ready has a spot on the Euro­tun­nel booked for later in the year to see how it per­forms as a long-dis­tance tourer.

Citroën’s Con­nect Nav­i­ga­tion comes as stan­dard on our Flair-spec car

Citroën’s high stance con­trasts with more stan­dard hatch­backs

We’re achiev­ing 34 miles to the gal­lon

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