Citroën C3 Aircross
Can it handle a tour of France?
WHY WE’RE RUNNING IT
To see if this quirkiest of compact crossovers has more to offer than its head-turning styling
In my few short weeks of Aircross ownership, I hadn’t really had much chance to spend any extended journey time behind the wheel. This week presented the perfect opportunity: a friend’s wedding in the south of France, where the funky Citroën should feel right at home.
Our route took us from London at 3am, bleary-eyed, down to Bordeaux via the Eurotunnel and 600 miles of French motorway network. Unexciting (and expensive) perhaps, but purpose-built for this kind of long-distance motoring.
My passenger declared our start time “brutally early” and proceeded to sleep soundly until we’d passed Paris, waking only to acknowledge the customs official at the tunnel, and to begrudgingly wind the window down and pay for our road tolls. At no point were there complaints about the seats, however, which reinforces my view that the Aircross is a rather comfortable crossover.
The driving position is more upright than I’d like, but you can’t argue with the view of the road it provides. It’s largely the reason I survived the perilously sharp kerbs on the Eurotunnel carriages without nicking any of the alloy wheels.
The Aircross seemed to cope well with almost every road surface, delivering a smooth ride that kept most of the weekend’s passengers happy. Only a rutted dirt track truly made itself felt inside the cabin, but seeing how our car doesn’t even have the optional Grip Control pack installed, the Aircross put in a decent performance outside of its natural road environment.
Wind noise was the main concern, the upright shape and large wing mirrors creating plenty of turbulence that drones into the cabin at motorway speeds. Until you drown it out with the infotainment system, anyway.
Having brimmed the tank the night before we set off, we stopped for fuel twice along the route, with the second pit stop providing enough for a weekend of exploring the French countryside and a decent first leg of the return journey home.
The trip computer reported a respectable 41.4mpg, which is better than the low 30s I’d been averaging on a cross-london commute, but some calculations revealed my true average was closer to 38mpg.
The 1.2-litre turbo was clearly happiest between 50mph and 60mph, with French motorway speeds draining the tank significantly quicker than I experience in the UK. It was only the final hour of the outward journey, where motorway gave way to winding forest roads devoid of any locals, that I could push the Aircross a little harder. It’s by no means a driver’s car, with lots of body roll, overly light steering and a gearshift that’s disappointingly vague, but the engine can still entertain in small doses. The turbo is quick to spool and delivers a healthy punch of power when called upon, even if the engine note isn’t the most sonically pleasing.
Once we’d arrived, the Aircross was called into action to ferry wedding guests between châteaux – but with just a weekend holdall, picnic basket and suit bag in the boot, I hadn’t needed to move the rear bench seats. That meant sufficient leg room for rear passengers. It’s not expansive back there, but four adults can travel in the car without feeling cramped.
After the wedding was over, I’d planned a leisurely return journey to the UK. However, Citroën’s sat-nav isn’t the clearest system and I failed to notice it had aimed us directly through the centre of Paris. At rush hour. That meant an extra hour of stop-start traffic and a tighter dash for the train than I’d planned.
I resisted switching to Android Auto because, apart from that mishap, the C3’s mapping worked without any major misdirections, earning it a stay of execution for at least the next few journeys.
Wheels 4, Eurotunnel 0. French run yielded a true 38mpg or so