New Citroen C3 Aircross: Small SUV with flair
SOMETIMES too much choice can be a bad thing. Remember prowling the aisles of a video store looking for the just-right Friday night flick? Ever been paralysed by the problem of potential, not knowing which side to back or which meal to order?
Citroen understands. Which is why the new C3 Aircross is the new C3 Aircross.
It isn't a family or range of vehicles. There are no engine or transmission options, body variants or safety packs. The just-launched Mazda3 has two dozen versions before you consider enhancement packs or a third engine option just around the corner. Cars are becoming increasingly complex, which is why Citroen's approach is refreshing.
Priced from $32,990 plus on-roads, the sole C3 Aircross has all the features buyers are likely to need. Standard are automatic transmission, alloy wheels, head-up display, seven-inch touchscreen with smartphone connectivity, a comprehensive suite of driver aids and more.
You can pay an extra $590 for a splash of colour on the wheels, mirrors, roof rails and other trim. But that's it.
Citroen sold just 13 examples of its C3 hatch in the first quarter of the year, a figure that
represents a rough day's trade for any of the top seven best-selling light cars in Australia - the likes of the Toyota Yaris, Mazda2 and Honda Jazz.
Keenly aware that quirky charm isn't enough to get the job done in a dwindling market, Citroen loaded the Aircross with plenty of kit and a simple sales pitch.
The downside is it's significantly more expensive than the C3 hatch currently sold for $23,990 drive-away, and Citroen's capped-price servicing scheme is quite steep at $2727 for the first five years of ownership. As with most brands now, Citroen backs its cars with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Step inside the Aircross and it's clear the brand focuses on design. Squared-off circles, or "squircles", feature throughout a cabin with clever touches such as a wireless charging pad for modern smartphones and an aviation-inspired handbrake handle.
It's an attractive space, home to an accommodating range of driver adjustment, along with clear and concise instruments and an uncluttered dashboard that relies on the touchscreen for climate control and other key features.
Cleverly, the rear seat slides fore and aft to improve access to an impressively large boot. Space is a key asset of the Aircross, which is much roomier than rivals such as the Mazda CX-3, Toyota CH-R and Renault Captur.
Moving away from rest, the Aircross emits a throbbing thrum from a turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine that delivers adequate (81kW/205Nm) outputs, driving the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.
There's no all-wheel drive option. But the driveline works well enough, keeping the engine
percolating away with a good spread of ratios and none of the frustration associated with Citroen's old four-speed autos.
The promise of adventure comes from an extra 20mm in ride height, along with upgraded traction control and protective skid plates he front and rear - which look more design-led than defensive.
Then again, relatively few people are going to take something like this off -road. Stay on the black stuff and you'll appreciate Citroen's decision to favour plushness over poise, imbuing the car with a comfortable ride (and corresponding body roll) as opposed to driver-focused harshness (and precision).
Light and communicative steering is a doddle around town, where the Aircross's torquey engine and cushy suspension excel. It's less impressive at higher speeds where intrusive road noise merges with a throaty thrum from under the bonnet.
Diesel and manual versions sold in Europe are not available locally. After all, you can have too much choice.
Price: Citroen's first C3 Aircross draws heavily on the C3 hatchback. Priced from $32,990 plus on-road costs, the high-riding version is significantly more expensive than the C3 which launched for $23,490 plus on-roads in 2018.
A key selling point for the Aircross is that there is only one version with no options.
Tech: Principal features include smart keys, colour head-up display, self-parking with reversing camera and seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and inductive charging. Strong safety kit includes AEB, blind spot detection, lane departure and driver attention alerts.
Performance: Powered by the same 1.2-litre turbo triple as the C3, the Aircross can reach 100km/h in 10.6 seconds - nearly a full second slower than the hatch. Power goes to the front wheels through a six-speed auto.
Driving: Front-drive only, the high-riding Aircross has 20mm of additional ground clearance compared to the C3 hatch. Protective skid plates at the front and rear hint at adventure.
Design: Fun to look at, the C3 Aircross features funky design details, set off by a $590 colour pack with highlights for its 17-inch wheels, headlamp surrounds, mirror caps, rear side windows and more.
Citroen has a good thing in the C3 Aircross. Well-equipped, spacious and competitively priced, the machine builds on the brand's usual design flair with genuine substance. Expensive servicing and average refinement let it down.
Citroen C3 Aircross
Price: $32,990 plus on-roads
Warranty/servicing: 5 years/unlimited km, $2727 for 5 years
Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl turbo, 81kW/205Nm
Safety: Unrated, 6 airbags, AEB, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, speed sign recognition