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Citroën's fashionable C3 is one of the most eye-catching contenders in the supermini segment and underwent a minor facelift for 2021.
Most of the changes to Citroën's quirky C3, revealed last summer, take place at its front end - with a reworked bumper, grille and wheel arch design. There's also been some new exterior colour options added, the brand's famed air bumps have had a slight redesign, and there's some new style-conscious interior additions too.
A chic interior
The C3's interior remains heavily stylised and unique. Although it's fairly minimal in its design - with very few buttons on the dash - it manages to remain delightfully-eccentric, with luggage handle-like door pulls, splashes of colour dotted around the cabin and (new for the facelift) memory foam-like Advanced Comfort Seats, carried across from the C4 Cactus and C5 Aircross. Another new addition is the wood-effect dashboard inlay, which in our model matched the trim colour of the seats.
The flagship Flair Plus model we tested (an equipment grade almost immediately superseded with Shine Plus in line with the new C4) came jam-packed with everything from sat-nav to a reversing camera, and DAB to Android Auto and Apple Carplay. The minimalist layout we mentioned makes for easy navigation of all the car's functions, although we would have preferred to keep the physical climate control buttons, as having to navigate to a menu in order to change the temperature is a bit of a pain, particularly when on the move.
Practicality in the cabin is a little hit and miss, with deep door bins, but awkward cup holders, and a fold down armrest that's more of a nuisance than a blessing. Like all French cars (and now the newest Vauxhalls), we lose half the glove compartment from refusal to switch sides of the dashboard for right-hand drive.
Hit and miss supermini practicality
As is the case with a lot of superminis, the C3 forces you to compromise when it comes to practicality, but fortunately not in the rear seats. For rear passengers, space is excellent, especially when you consider the car's diminutive size. You may have to duck to get under the rear door frame, but once sat down, there's plenty of head and legroom for most. There's even space for you to stretch your legs out and tuck your feet under the seat in front. We also like the large rear door bins, door-mounted armrests and flat rear bench, which makes moving around easy to do.
Boot space is a little more of a mixed bag. Although on paper there is a decent amount of space - 300 litres - the boot is hampered by a large load lip, which can make loading heavy bags difficult. The rear seats don't fold down flat either, far from it, so laying long objects down can be tricky. As mentioned though, actual space in the boot is very usable, and fitting a bulky item like a folded up pram is not a problem.
We tested the 110hp 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. Like many other three-cylinder units, this 1.2-litre makes you work for the performance it has hidden beneath its throaty engine note.
Engine is a grower
Potter about at 15 or 20mph and you'd be forgiven for discounting this engine as lacklustre. Our advice however would be to stick with it. It can take a while to get used to how this engine revs (and sounds), how much you should put your foot down and when you should change up and down the gears - but again, this is a fairly common trait with most three-cylinders.
Once you get a feel for it, you'll quickly learn that this little engine has quite a bit of personality; it's certainly competent enough for a school run, A to B work journey or blast past slow traffic on the motorway - once the turbo spools up, that is. And the more you get used to the engine's characteristics, the better your fuel economy will be. We think you'll be able to get an average of around 40mpg very comfortably.
Aside from its engine, the C3 is a joy to drive. It's clear that Citroen has prioritised comfort over everything else, but it's pulled it off, with an extremely comfortable ride and well-weighted steering that actually encourages a bit of zealous cornering on country roads - within reason, of course. The six-speed manual gearbox could be snappier, as its slightly clunky set-up makes shifting to third and fifth a little like guesswork, at least at first, but just like the engine, this is something you get used to.