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Does the Citroën C3 shine bright enough to pull attention from more established B-segment contenders?

It shows a degree of confidence, Citroën introducing its B-segment C3 into the South African market. In a country where the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta rule the roost, it’s a tough segment to infiltrate, even for some established manufacturers. Perhaps Citroën hopes to lure those who want to stand out from the crowd?

Well, you certainly wouldn’t mistake the C3 for anything else in its class. The distinctive styling found favour with everyone on the team, many praising some of the various quirky design elements that make the Citroën such a visual treat. Painted in Platinum Grey, our C3 test unit offset the subtle paintwork with a red contrast roof and Airbumps with red accents. Funky 17-inch Cross alloy wheels finish everything off nicely.

Step inside and you’ll find yourself in a similarly stylish environment. Although pleasant to look at, the materials used within the cabin aren’t quite up to the standard of the Citroën’s rivals, with elements of the facia and door cards trimmed in coarse plastic. The three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel and some interesting touches do their best to lift the cabin’s ambience, such as neat leatherette door pulls and red embellishments. The seats are treated to a similar design, the cloth-trimmed pews sporting grey and red patterns.

The large front seats are comfortable, yet they don’t offer enough side bolstering and there’s a touch too much under-thigh support. There are plenty of adjustment options for the driver’s seat, yet the passenger has to do without height adjustment.

On the convenience front, this C3 Shine model (there’s an entry-level Feel variant that does without a turbocharger and some convenience items) is generously equipped, with luxuries such as automatic wipers, headlamps and cruise control all standard. The more safety conscious will be pleased to see that six airbags, ABS with EBD and a lane-departure-warning system are all included in the price.

Although it is feature rich, the seven-inch infotainment system can be a source of frustration. The screen does respond quickly to user input but the complicated menu structure may leave you scratching your head. Adjusting the temperature or fan speed is more of a task than it needs to be, requiring the driver to dive into the climate-control submenu to make minor adjustments. It does declutter the interior but an analogue climate-control interface would be a more ergonomic solution. The infotainment system does at least offer Bluetooth and smartphone-mirroring connectivity. The speedometer and rev counter are clearly marked and easy to read, and the trip computer is a doddle to navigate.

Cabin storage isn’t one of the Citroën’s strengths. The large glovebox lid is particularly deceptive, with a curiously small amount of storage space hidden behind. A small tray under the infotainment system, a coin holder and reasonably sized door pockets supplement the paltry cubby.

Sited just behind the gearlever are two cupholders. Curiously, the gear indicator is positioned here, too, and is hidden when a beverage is stored in the cupholder. An additional pair of holders positioned behind the handbrake are larger and more practical.

Outward visibility is excellent, with the large windscreen and side windows aiding manoeuvrability when changing lanes or parking. The rear window is slim which makes reversing a bit tricky. Thankfully, there are standard rear parking sensors.

There is plenty of space for those seated up front, with ample knee- and headroom. Larger adults wouldn’t want to sit in the rear, though. The compact dimensions of the C3 hinder headroom, in particular. Coupled with the dark trim, it does make the seat feel cramped. On the plus side, the boot offers up a sizable 248 litres of luggage space and there’s a nicely rounded 800 litres of utility room with the 60:40-split bench folded forward.

The 1,2-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol engine performs  admirably, offering more power and considerably more torque than some of its competition. Producing 81 kW between 5 500 and 6 000 r/min, and a healthy 205 N.m of torque (at an easily accessible 1 500 r/min), the punchy powertrain revs smoothly and feels much quicker than it is. Still, 0-100 km/h in 11,69 seconds is sufficient for a car of this ilk. On our standardised fuel route, the C3 returned 6,4 L/100 km, which is not far off the claimed figure of 6,0 L/100 km.

Around town, the C3 is in its element. The powertrain pulls strongly from low speeds and remains refined as the pace increases. Mated to a six-speed automatic, the gearshifts are near imperceptible. At times, the C3 does tend to hang onto a gear for longer than is necessary, requiring the driver to intervene and select a higher gear via the manual override. In slow traffic, the cumbersome stop/start system can be a tad annoying. Thankfully, it can be switched off via the infotainment screen.

You certainly won’t be annoyed by the high-speed stability demonstrated by the French hatchback. At freeway speeds, the C3 feels composed and sure-footed, making it a fine motorway cruiser. The engine remains suitably hushed, too.

In typical Citroën fashion, the C3 has a superb ride. The soft suspension irons out potholes and road irregularities that would catch out many other small hatchbacks. The trade-off of the softly sprung arrangement is that the C3 doesn’t feel as composed in the corners when compared to the more dynamic vehicles offered in this segment; there is notable body roll on high-speed corner entry. Despite this, though, the C3 is still entertaining to hustle, with pleasing levels of grip. The electric power steering is direct and light at lower speeds, building in resistance as the speed increases. On our test strip, the C3 screeched to a halt from 100 km/h in just 3,01 seconds, gaining a “good” rating. While impressive, it is slightly slower than the heavier C3 Aircross we tested earlier in 2020.
JOHANNESBURG – Interestingly, according to Peugeot Citroën South Africa MD, Xavier Gobille, the brand's research into the potential response to Citroën’s reintroduction to the South African market showed few motorists were aware it had ever left the country back in 2016. Many dealerships retained the chevron logo alongside Peugeot’s lion and service backup continued uninterrupted. Alongside an impressive five-year/100 000 km warranty and service plan across the range, plus impressive new products, the French carmaker will surely bank on that relative ignorance to draw buyers into showrooms and plop their bums on seats to experience the new three-model local offering.

At the South African launch, we got to drive the trio of Citroëns, including the small-hatch C3 and midsize-SUV C5 Aircross (more info on the range here). However, the one I found most intriguing is this, the C3 Aircross. It competes in a growing global and local segment, one that's recently been shaken up by the introduction of the Volkswagen T-Cross, which has already proven a massive hit and sneaking into Naamsa’s top-10 sales list. Ford’s EcoSport does brisk business, too, as does the Hyundai Creta. Renault’s readying to launch a replacement for its well-received Captur and Haval keeps the established players honest with the H2. It’s a tough segment to enter.

Small car, big personality...

Thankfully, the C3 Aircross has a few aces up its sleeve, chief among them its design. Measuring a compact 4,15 metres bow to stern, the Aircross packs a lot of visual punch in such a small footprint. There are skid plates fore and aft, striking 16-inch wheels, "Spicy Orange" accents – which are standard on the three body colours and may prove more divisive than Citroën thinks – Airbumps and a dual-light arrangement on the nose that sees the LED daytime running lights sitting atop the headlamps. It looks great on the road and is a welcome contrast to the T-Cross’ relative conservatism.

The riot of colours and finishes continues inside, where there are more orange accents, soft-touch surfacing on the doors and dashboard, and stylish inserts on the seats. Despite the bold textures, the cabin’s design is surprisingly simple. Taking care of most features is a seven-inch touchscreen that’s crisply rendered but not without some latency. It’s simple to use, though, and offers smartphone mirroring on this Shine model.

Extensive adjustability on the steering column means it’s easy to set the squared-off, softly cushioned chair for a comfortable driving position no matter your height, and there’s generous legroom in the rear should the bench be slid backwards by 150 mm in a 60:40 split. That shrinks the boot volume from a claimed 520 litres to 410.

Perceived quality is impressive, too, and certainly on par with its rivals. Specification levels are generous even on this top-spec Shine variant (the entry-level Feel model is R20 000 cheaper) and include electrically folding side mirrors, auto lights and wipers, tyre-pressure sensors, rear PDC, keyless entry and start, climate control and sat-nav. 

...and a big heart

Both Aircross models feature the familiar 1,2-litre PureTech Turbo engine boasting 81 kW and 205 N.m, figures nicely in line with those of the 1,0-litre units offered in the T-Cross and EcoSport. There’s no option of a manual transmission, which again might deter some buyers, but the six-speed automatic transmission pairs well with the engine and rarely makes it labour outside its optimal rev range. The three-cylinder thrum is more noticeable here than on some rivals, but it’s an appealing sound and less raucous than an equivalent four-cylinder.

Citroën makes a big spiel about how comfortable its vehicles are but it’s a credible marketing claim; we took the Aircross on some poorly maintained dirt roads north of Johannesburg and it displayed impressive compliance. The steering is satisfyingly geared and weighted, but body lean is more pronounced than expected. Still, on a small crossover, I’d happily take a comfortable ride over iron-fisted control. Especially noticeable is tyre roar but wind noise is well supressed and there’s little suspension thudding.

Can Gobille and his team turn Citroën (and Peugeot’s) fortunes around? On paper and in reality, certainly, the three-prong Citroën range is impressive, offering plenty of substance to complement their stylishness. The big question, of course, is whether the company can convince brand-loyal South Africans – ignorant or not about Citroën’s recent fortunes – to buy its cars in bigger numbers. We’ll soon find out…
JOHANNESBURG, Gauteng – The announcement of Citroën's return to South Africa was a welcome one. Although the French firm is unlikely to sell its wares in the thousands it's always a treat to have a variety of manufacturers in the local automotive market. We drove the new C3 for a few days in and around Gauteng.

Where does it fit in?

The local C3 range currently comprises just two derivatives, the five-speed manual 1,2-litre Feel (60 kW/118 N.m) and our test unit, the 1,2-litre Turbo Shine delivering 81 kW and 205 N.m. The latter's forced-induction engine is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission.

The Citroën C3 competes with cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo. It sets itself apart from these rivals with unusual and interesting exterior and interior design. Take, for example, the plastic Air Bump panels on the flanks and the two-tone exterior colour scheme. It certainly draws attention.

This funky design continues when you open the door. The leatherette door handles inside remind me of the grips of a classy suitcase, while the air conditioning vents have a soft-angled rectangular design – a theme carried throughout the car. The red framing of the facia ties in neatly with the red stitching of the cloth seats. The pews, interestingly, remind me of those of the Citroën C4 Cactus long-term test car I drove a few years ago. These seats are wide and comfortable and again illustrate that cloth seats can be more comfortable than leather items.

You view the two dials (speedometer and rev counter), as well as a central screen, through the steering wheel, while the infotainment screen to the left supplies all the necessary information, along with Bluetooth, USB, aux-in and screen mirroring for your smartphone.

Behind the wheel

During our few days with the car, we drove in excess of 600 km, with two adults in the vehicle at all times. This included a commute to Middelburg and several trips within Gauteng. Even with this modestly sized engine, the performance was sufficient. There's sufficient torque low in the rev range, while the engine is at its happiest up to the 5 000 r/min mark.

The transmission shifts relatively effortlessly, but if you are used to a double-clutch transmission, you will notice the slight delay in this torque-converter’s actions. Still, this is an everyday driver and not a performance car, after all. The gearbox sometimes holds onto a gear for longer than expected, although this seems to follow a spirited drive or overtaking manoeuvre, with the cog-swapper clearly thinking its driver wants to continue in this style.

While we made use of the available performance most of the time, our average fuel consumption figure still came in at just a little over 7,0 L/100 km.

Rear passenger space is rather tight, although there's just enough headroom for this 1,87-metre author. The suspension is absorbent and the ride quality comfortable, no doubt aided by the 205/50 R17 tyres at all four corners.

Summary

The unconventional flavour the C3 brings to this segment is refreshing. The importer might not have the dealer-network footprint of its main competitors (that's less of a problem if you reside in one of the larger cities, of course) but the hatchback offers a high level of specification for the money, including a five-year/100 000 km service plan.

It rides well and its performance is on par with that of its key competitors. All things considered, there's a lot to like about this French newcomer...

*Read our full road test of this model in the April issue of CAR magazine.

2020 Citroen C3 1.2T Shine for sale

R285,000
Ref No: 1773864

Latest Resutls for Citroen C3

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Cloth upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Lane departure warning: Standard
  • Attention assist rest assist break alert: Standard
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • Electric child proof safety lock switch: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Emergency brake hazardlights: emergency-brake flashing hazard lights
  • Engine auto Stop Start idle stop ecostop: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Cruise control: Standard
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: Standard
  • Central locking: remote
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Frontfog lamps lights: Standard
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Fuel Type: petrol
  • Fuel range average: 750 km
  • Driven wheels: front
  • Driven wheels quantity: 2
  • Gearratios quantity: 6
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Front tyres: 205/50 R17
  • Reartyres: 205/50 R17
  • Length: 3996 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 1749-2009 mm
  • Height: 1474 mm
  • Wheel base: 2540 mm
  • Load volume / capacity: 300 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 1090 kg
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 45l
  • Fuel consumption urban: 7.5 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption extra urban: 6.4 l/100km
  • Fuel consumption average: 6.0 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 137g/km
  • Power maximum: 81 kW
  • Power maximum total: 81 kW
  • Power peak revs: 5500 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 74.3 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 205 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 1500 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 205 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 188 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 9.4s
  • Maximum top speed: 194 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 1199 cc
  • Engine size: 1.2l
  • enginedetailshort: 1.2T
  • Engine + detail: 1.2 turbo
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 3
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i3
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 5
  • Warranty distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service plan: Standard
  • Service plan time (years): 5
  • Service plan time (distance): 100000 km
  • Roadside assistance time: 5
  • Service interval indicator: Standard
  • Service interval (distance): 15000 km
  • Service interval (time): 1 year
  • Brand: Citroen
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 12011395
  • MMVariant: C3 1.2 PURETECH SHINE (81KW)
  • MMintrodat: 2019-10-04
  • Introdate: 2019-10-15
  • DuoportarecordID: CitrC3_3h2

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Citroen C3 1.2T Shine for sale in Rustenburg from one of Carmag.co.za's apporoved car dealerships
New C3 1.2T Shine availbale from the following auto dealer:
Westvaal Rustenburg new car dealership located in: Rustenburg, North West, South Africa
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