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Small SUVs are today's hatchbacks, which is to say they are the go-to for families, and every manufacturer seems to offer one in its range. So how do you release a small SUV in today's saturated market and make it stand out?
Car-makers tend to take one of two routes; make it sporty and fun to drive, or make it practical and quirky. Citroën has chosen the latter with the C3 Aircross.
As they are usually based on the underpinnings of small hatchback counterparts (in the C3 Aircross's case, it is the C3), the interiors of small SUV/crossovers can be quite underwhelming, with dull, cheap-looking (and feeling) plastics dominating the cabin. Thankfully, for the Aircross, it has a solid pedigree in the shape of the C3 supermini, which has personality in buckets.
As soon as you sit in the C3 Aircross you are welcomed by spongy seats, fabric inlays and funky highlights all over the dashboard, seats and doors. There are plenty of scratchy plastics to be found, but the colourful design cues help soften the blow significantly.
The touchscreen system - available from mid-range Feel trim upwards - is where most functions are housed, including the climate control features. Unfortunately, this is a bit of a nuisance, as having to click several times to change fan speed and temperature can prove quite difficult, especially at motorway speeds. Apart from that, the touchscreen looks great and is fairly straightforward and intuitive to use, from its pinch and swipe
sat-nav functions to its easy-to-tether Bluetooth functionality.
Kit on all models is impressive. Touch models get Bluetooth, DAB radio, air-con, cruise control, USB connectivity, traffic sign recognition and lane-departure warning. Equipment on our flagship Flair model included a two-tone paint job, 17in alloys and some tech enhancements, including rear parking sensors and sat-nav.
Although comfort and equipment is good, the C3 Aircross is lacking when it comes to decent storage in the cabin. The likes of the glovebox, dashboard shelf and coin dish near the handbrake are all pretty useless, with the central cubby in front of the gearstick being the only practical option.
Sit in the back and there is an abundance of both head and legroom, and there is also the added benefit of being able to slide the rear seats back and forth, and even recline them for added comfort and convenience - the sliding bench coming into its own in the boot.
A few other nice touches include padded door armrests and two cup-holders in the back of the rear seat, which can be used when it is folded down.
The boot is just as impressive, with a tall and wide opening, no load lip thanks to an adjustable boot floor, and seats that fold completely flat.
The C3 Aircross is a very easy car to drive. The steering is light, albeit lacking feel, the ride soaks up most bumps with ease, and due to its small dimensions it can nip through gaps in traffic and into tight parking spaces in the city.
Due to its comfort-focused ride, the suspension can get a little flustered when hitting several bumps in quick succession. The cushy suspension also makes for some pronounced body roll, even when taking gentle bends too quickly.
We tested the 1.2-litre, 110hp, three-cylinder petrol engine, which is the middle option in the trio of three-cylinder petrol units. Power is decent in this engine, with plenty of punch for pottering around, and enough kick (if you work the gearbox) for overtaking, and 40-45mpg should be quite easily achievable with a mixture of town and motorway driving.
Speaking of the gearbox, the six-speed manual available in the Aircross lacks finesse, being hesitant to slot into the correct gate at times and, due to its long throw, rather tiring to use on a winding country road. There is an automatic transmission available with the 1.2-litre 110hp petrol, so we would recommend giving that a go before committing to the manual.
Citroën C3 Aircross 1.2 110 Flair
Residual value: £6,800
Service, maintenance and repair: £1,914
Cost per mile: 34.35p
Fuel consumption: 47.2mpg
CO2 (BIK band): 109g/km/25%
BIK 20/40% a month: £83/£165
Boot space: 520 litres
Engine size/power: 1,199cc/110hp