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First drive: Citroen C3 Aircross

Date: 21 July 2021   |   Author: Pete Tullin

Citroën gives its funky C3 Aircross some subtle cosmetic nips and tucks, and soupçon of additional practicality to keep it in vogue.
Standard equipment:
Air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlamps,
four electric windows, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with DAB, Bluetooth, Apple Carplay and Android, remote central-locking.
Petrol: 1.2 3-cyl 110hp. 1.2 PureTech 3-cyl 130hp
Diesel: 1.5 4-cyl Blue HDi 110hp
Equipment grades:
C Series, Shine, Shine Plus
Six-speed manual, six-speed automatic

The danger with extravagantly styled cars is they tend to alienate as many folk as they woo, and they also tend to date pretty rapidly. 

Arguably this is the case with Citroën's whacky looking C3 Aircross, so it comes as no surprise that three years into its production cycle, the gallic gang have broken out their crayons once again and penned a less Postman Pat-inspired rendition for the Aircross.

There's no doubting the latest frontal treatment gives the car a more mature look, thanks to its extended chromed chevrons, reprofiled bumper, angular lighting, geometric patterns on the grille and a redesigned aluminium-grey skid plate.

There are also a few subtle tweaks inside, including a slimmer handbrake, which frees up enough extra real estate to accommodate a couple of additional cup holders and a larger central storage cubby. 

The rather shabby dashboard retains its odd-looking air vents and is dominated by a new, larger 9in screen on higher-spec models, which brings larger icons, making it easier to access the various infotainment menus. Unfortunately, you still have to access the screen to adjust the cabin temperature and if you happen to get too close to the vehicle in front - let's face it, we've all done it - the screen goes blank until the safety systems deem you've retreated far enough.  

Just as before, the Aircross's vast glass area provides excellent all-round visibility and ensure the cabin feels much more accommodating than the tape measure suggests, while the raised seating and large side windows ensure everyone gets a good view of the outside world. 

The amount of rear legroom is pretty impressive too, and you can boost versatility thanks to a front passenger seat that folds flat and a sliding rear bench. Of course, leg-room suffers when you slide the rear bench forward, but the boot does grow to a healthy 520-litres. Additionally, the rear seatbacks can be reclined in increments and split 60/40, and you can also fold them flat, which opens up a mammoth 1289-litres of load space.

Although the Citroën marketing team place a great deal of store in its heavily cushioned seats, after a couple of miles they can begin to feel a bit like deflated soufflés and the lack of lateral support they provide is evident the first time you come to a tight bend in the road. 

Thankfully, unlike some super soft Citroën models, the C3 Aircross delivers a decent compromise between comfort and control. While the suspension soaks up the kind of beat-up surfaces that you'll regularly encounter on our city streets pretty effectively, that softness also means you will experience a fair bit of body lean when encountering roundabouts or tight bends. That said, it never gets to the point where your passengers will need to wind down the windows because they are beginning to feel a bit green. 

There's also the option to spec Grip control. This features some trick electronics governance, including decent control, which will help you out of sticky situations, but we still question the wisdom of adventuring too far off road with your Aircross.

Citroen reckons the 1.2-litre 110hp three-cylinder petrol model will be the bestseller, which is a shame because the less fashionable diesel is a far better all-round proposition. Basically, the petrol engine doesn't produce sufficient low-down oomph to cope with its tall, fuel economy seeking gearing and it can often labour at lower speeds. As a result, plenty of action from the rather languid six-speed gear shifter is required to keep the engine in the comfort zone, and you can often find yourself in fourth rather than sixth gear to avoid bogging down. The major issue with this is, the engine becomes vocal and vibey with higher revs, so in day-to-day driving, it is noisier, coarser, more tiring to drive and less fuel-efficient than the excellent diesel-powered car. 

What's more, while 110hp 1.5-litre BlueHDi variant cops a pretty hefty 28% BIK rate, the petrol car is even worse, at 30%. Judged by this, it seems like three-cylinder petrol engines are far from the silver bullet solution we were all promised.

Of course, if you do have the hots for a C3 Aircross, chances are it will be primarily those funky looks, relative affordability, inherent comfort and the airy, spaciousness it offers in a compact, user-friendly package that will sway you. Judged by these measures, it is a pretty difficult car to fault.

Citroen C3 Aircross 1.2 PureTech 110 Shine Plus  

P11D: £21,225

Residual value: 40%

Depreciation: £12,741

Fuel: £6,688

Service, maintenance and repair: £1,915

Cost per mile: 35.6p

Fuel consumption: 51.5mpg

CO2 (BIK %): 136g/km (31%)  

BIK 20/40% a month: £110/££219

Luggage capacity: 410 litres

Engine size/power: 1,199cc/110hp


  • Attractive interior design
  • Excellent visibility
  • Lots of space and versatility
  • Petrol engine feels over-geared
  • Infotainment screen is too fiddly
  • Petrol engine brings high BIK rates