Air­cross is a wind of change

Daily Express - - MOTORING - By Craig Thomas

WE CAN’T all af­ford Range Rovers or Audi Q7s but a grow­ing number of car buy­ers still want an SUV, even if it’s one that’s smaller and more eco­nom­i­cal. And if buy­ers want it, car-mak­ers will build it, in­clud­ing Citroen, which is about to launch its C3 Air­cross, a model that is re­plac­ing the French brand’s C3 Pi­casso.

More than 65,000 C3 Pi­casso peo­ple-car­ri­ers have been sold in the UK since 2009 but a new SUV re­place­ment is seen as much more in keeping with what driv­ers now want – to the ex­tent that Citroen ex­pects to sell more than 13,200 C3 Air­crosses next year alone.

It’s easy to see why it has so much con­fi­dence, as the C3 Air­cross is a fun and funky-look­ing small SUV, with great ap­peal.

Rounded and chunky, with a host of rugged-look­ing el­e­ments (roof rails, plas­tic mould­ings, skid plates, etc) it looks ev­ery inch the mod­ern soft-roader.

It also of­fers 85 colour and trim com­bi­na­tions, with con­trast roof op­tions and ex­te­rior colour packs, which ap­peals to buy­ers’ de­sire for per­son­al­i­sa­tion. Citroen pre­dicts that as many as 75 per cent of buy­ers will opt for a petrol-en­gined model so there are three choices, all ver­sions of a 1.2-litre, three­cylin­der en­gine. The base model pro­duces 80bhp and man­ages a rel­a­tively se­date 0 to 60mph time of 15.6 sec­onds.

The av­er­age fuel econ­omy fig­ure is a re­spectable 55.4mpg, while 116g/km emis­sions are also low. Next up is a more pow­er­ful 108bhp model (thanks to the ad­di­tion of a turbo), with a 11.1-sec­ond 0 to 60mph time. The in­clu­sion of a stop-start sys­tem helps im­prove the fuel econ­omy fig­ure (de­spite the ex­tra power) to 56.5mpg and low­ers emis­sions to 115g/km. There’s also the option of a six-speed au­to­matic gear­box, which low­ers fuel econ­omy to 50.4mpg and in­creases emis­sions to 126g/km.

On the road this en­gine with the au­to­matic gear­box copes pretty well even with moun­tain­ous roads with chal­leng­ing in­clines. It’s not pow­er­ful but it never felt par­tic­u­larly lack­ing, while the gearchanges were func­tion­ally ef­fi­cient. This en­gine is likely to be the most pop­u­lar option among buy­ers, of­fer­ing a bal­ance of per­for­mance and econ­omy.

At the top of the petrol tree is a 128bhp vari­ant that man­ages a 10.4-sec­ond 0 to 60mph, while 53.3mpg and 119g/km aren’t a huge penalty for the ad­di­tional power.

This also gets a six-speed man­ual gear­box while the other two petrols make do with just five speeds. On the turbo-diesel side is a 1.6-litre unit, with 98bhp or

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