Have you got a note from your mum?
The C3’s excused sportiness, and all the better for it. We’re loving its chilled-out comfort. By James Taylor
me witter on about the Citroën C3 for four months now, but more than a few other members of the
CAR team have also recently put miles under its softly sprung wheels, so it seems a timely juncture to let you know what they’ve been saying about it too.
A well-rested Ben Barry praised the C3’s epically comfy seats: ‘There’s something fundamentally French about them; no-one else does seats quite like that. They’re supportive as well as comfortable, and I like the way they’re canted back, with a relatively low driving position.’
Mark Walton liked the soft seats and the softer suspension, too: ‘I think the last time I sat in a car that felt so spongy, with marshmallowy seats, was my dad’s Renault 30, circa 1982. It’s a credit to Citroën’s engineers that the suppleness of the C3 doesn’t cross the line to become uncontrolled or wallowy. Normally I find soft cars a bit vomit-inducing, but I really liked driving the C3.’
Ben B too liked the way the C3’s secondary ride agreeably billows with the road surface, but wasn’t so enamoured with the primary ride, suggesting it would benefit from a stiffer structure. As Chris Chilton put it, ‘It’s great to see Citroën embracing the art of the lope.’ Although when the C3 joined our supermini Giant Test July 2017), it ceded victory to Suzuki’s more nimble Swift, Chris feeling that for all the C3’s boundless feelgood factor it’s just a bit too lacking in steering precision and body control.
But everyone who’s been in the C3 has admired its idiosyncratic charisma – there isn’t another supermini out there with a character quite like it. Walton likes the way the Citroen ‘carves itself a character without resorting to “sportiness”, like virtually every other manufacturer on the planet.’
‘The C3 is about as sporty as a baguette,’ Mark says, ‘yet the way that three-cylinder engine thrums, it feels like it has a distinct identity that’s very willing, very enthusiastic, cheerful even – without actually trying to be fast.’
Tim Pollard likes the spirit of the C3, if not the execution. ‘So much about this car is true to Citroën’s heritage: the cuddly style, an impressively soft, cushy ride and its gentle gait. For me, a lot of that goodness is undone by some shonky basics – the baggy gearchange spoils every journey. The shift from first to second measures more than six inches!’
Ben Barry shares a few of the frustrations I’ve encountered: an unresponsive ignition button and the stop-start system conspire to fire the engine up again just as you’re trying to switch it off, the narrow powerband demands concentration to make un-shunty progress, and some of the touchscreen interface’s elements feel wilfully obstructive.
Nonetheless, as Ben notes, ‘there are a few little bits you could look at and say “I’d have done that differently,” but ultimately it’s one of those cars where its character makes up for all its flaws. It’s not pretentious, it’s not showy, it’s very easy to like. I’d quite happily have one in the household.’
Everyone seems to agree – there’s no shortage of nits to pick, but the C3’s charm outweighs the vast majority of its shortcomings. Which is exactly how I feel about it too.