The pick of the range is a three-cylinder 1.2 petrol, which is refined and offers decent performance and economy. Otherwise the entry-level petrol is a weedy 1.1-litre unit, then there's a zippy 1.4 that is shared with BMW that is so strong that it makes the 1.6 petrol seem redundant. Citroen also offers three smooth diesels – a 67bhp 1.4 and 1.6s with 89- and 110bhp.
The C3 has clearly been set up to provide an easy life, riding potholes well and staying nicely settled and controlled on the motorway. Unfortunately, it's not a great handler because the body lurches around through bends and the front tyres run out of grip quite early. The steering and gearshift are vague, too.
Generally, the C3 is impressively refined, and even on the motorway there's not much wind- or road noise. True, both the petrol and diesel engines can be heard, but that's as much down to the absence of other sounds as to these engines being especially raucous.
The C3 is priced close to the Volkswagen Polo. However, with good discounts it should have a marginal advantage over its rivals. Engines are reasonably economical, but resale values won't worry the best in the class.
Citroen has never been famed for the quality of its interiors. Climb inside the C3, though, and you may well wonder why. The stylish dashboard is well put together and finished with glossy, polished panels. Only the cheap-looking glovebox lid lets the side down a little. Citroen's dealers are also improving, and the C3's reliability was rated as above average in the 2012 JD Power customer satisfaction survey.
Citroen claims five-star crash safety, yet the C3 was awarded just four stars by Euro NCAP. Why? It loses a star because stability control isn't standard across the range - a bad move in our book. It's only available on higher VTR+ and Exclusive trim levels. Entry-level VT cars miss out on curtain airbags, too, but they're standard across the rest of the range and security kit is competitive.
The highlight of the C3 is its 'Zenith' windscreen (fitted to VTR+ models and above), which extends back above the driver's head. It's a nice feature, although many buyers are likely to leave the sunblinds covering the extended section down on bright days. The dashboard is smart and clear, avoiding any other gimmicks, but the seats don't offer enough support and the rest for your clutch foot is positioned too high.
If a decent-sized boot is key to your requirements, the C3's 300-litre load space will be of huge appeal. It's just a pity the rear seats don't fold down completely flat. Of more concern is the rear space – plenty of other superminis are better. Adults will be cramped and it might be tricky to fit a little one in a child seat.
Entry-level VT cars have electric front windows and a CD player, but we'd upgrade to the VTR+ spec, which adds air-con, cruise control and, on manual versions, alloy wheels. The lower-powered 1.6 diesel is also available in a special Airdream+ trim, which swaps alloys for rear parking sensors and Bluetooth. It also cuts CO2 emissions to just 99g/km. Range-topping Exclusive cars bring climate control, rear electric windows and interior mood lighting.
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This is the best C3. It’s one of the cheapest options, the engine is smooth and it delivers decent economy. It comes well equipped, too.