Citroën C3 Air­cross

Can it han­dle a tour of France?



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

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