What Car? says...
The Citroën C3 Aircross is the French brand’s contribution to the small SUV class, and is effectively a taller, boxier version of the Citroën C3 with a raised ride height and a bit more space inside.
You can have your C3 Aircross with a choice of three engines, including – unusually for a small SUV these days – a diesel. You can have an automatic gearbox too, but only if you choose the most powerful petrol engine option.
Rivals include – but are far from limited to – the sharp-handling Ford Puma, the surprisingly spacious Skoda Kamiq and the smooth-riding VW T-Roc. You might also be looking at the reasonably priced Dacia Duster or the sharply styled Nissan Juke.
While the Duster is available with four-wheel drive, the C3 Aircross and its other rivals have front-wheel drive. However, Citroën does offer an optional feature called Grip Control, which is designed to help the vehicle adapt the traction of the front wheels to suit different terrain.
In this review, we’ll see if the Citroën C3 Aircross delivers, as we rate it for performance and handling, practicality, value and running costs, and more. We'll also tell you which engine and trim we recommend if you do buy one.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There are three engines to choose from for the Citroën C3 Aircross: a 1.5-litre diesel with 110bhp and two turbocharged 1.2-litre petrols, with 110 and 131bhp. The more powerful petrol comes with a six-speed automatic gearbox while the other versions are manual.
Our pick is the cheapest option, the Puretech 110 petrol, which is punchy enough to make the Puretech 130 feel unnecessary.
The diesel doesn’t make much sense at all. Yes, you should see more miles to the gallon, but it’s slower than both petrols.
Suspension and ride comfort
The softly sprung C3 Aircross initially fools you into thinking it’s going to be a comfortable companion. Unfortunately, once it's moving quicker than 30mph, you become acutely aware of your torso bobbing up and down and your head tossing from side to side.
The Ford Puma has firmer suspension, but its more controlled ride is less annoying. If ride comfort is one of your top priorities, try the Skoda Kamiq or the VW T-Roc – both are much better at isolating occupants from the road surface.
Due in part to its soft suspension, the C3 Aircross leans more dramatically than most of its rivals through bends. What’s more, it feels less stable and composed along bucking and bounding country roads.
Its light, remote-feeling steering doesn’t help matters, because it’s not always easy to trust that the front wheels are going where you're trying to point them. If you want to have fun behind the wheel, the Puma, the Seat Arona and the Kamiq are much better choices.
Noise and vibration
A nasty cocktail of a numb clutch pedal, an overly light accelerator and a vague manual gearshift means driving smoothly at low speeds requires the sort of concentration needed to thread a needle. Changing gear and pulling away is so much easier and more instinctive in the Puma, the Kamiq and the T-Roc.
Of course, you can get the automatic gearbox in the C3 Aircross, but it’s still not a great choice. The gearshifts can be quite jerky and it's quite slow to react when you press the accelerator.
The petrol engines are reasonably hushed, but they often feel coarse at low revs and you can feel some buzzing through the steering wheel and pedals. The diesel engine is worse in this regard, and is noisier too. There's also more road and wind noise at motorway speeds than you hear in the Puma, the T-Roc and other small SUVs.
Strengths Punchy and reasonably hushed petrol engines
Weaknesses Busy ride; sloppy handling; poor gearboxes; noisy at motorway speeds
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
If you’re in the market for a small SUV there’s a good chance you like to sit quite high up above the road. If so, you’ll find plenty to like about the Citroën C3 Aircross, because even with its driver’s seat set to its lowest position, you’re still a few centimetres further from ground than in a Ford Puma or Seat Arona.
Unfortunately, the driver’s seat doesn’t provide much in the way of lower back support to make long journeys more comfortable, and adjustable lumbar support is not available. Range-topping Shine Plus models come with a front centre armrest as standard, though, and you can add one to the mid-level Shine trim as an option.
Annoyingly, the only way to control the air conditioning is using the infotainment touchscreen. To tweak the interior temperature, you have to visit a menu and press the screen several times.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Forward visibility is good, helped by the lofty driving position. Over-the-shoulder vision is less impressive, though – particularly if you go for Shine or Shine Plus trim, because the rear three-quarter glass area is emblazoned with graphics.
It’s just as well, then, that all versions get rear parking sensors to help with manoeuvring, while a rear-view camera is an option on Shine and standard on Shine Plus models. Front sensors are standard on Shine Plus models, but are not even optional on the cheaper trims. All versions get bright LED headlights as standard.
Sat nav and infotainment
No matter whether you have the 7.0in touchscreen that features in C-Series models or the 9.0in version that comes with the posher trim levels, it won't have the contrast or crispness in its graphics that you might hope for. Plus, the delay between pressing an icon on the display and anything actually happening sometimes seems long enough for you to make a cup of tea.
Being able to call up the home screen from any menu with a tap of three fingers is handy, but beyond that the operating system isn’t particularly user-friendly. DAB radio, a USB port, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are all standard.
There’s more to get excited about inside the C3 Aircross than in most small SUVs. From the Art Deco air vents to the silver accents below the touchscreen, everything has been designed to be interesting to look at rather than purely functional.
Each trim level gets its own colour scheme, with leather seats optional on Shine Plus trim. In terms of quality, the interior plastics are no better than you'll find in a Puma or Skoda Kamiq while fit and finish is slightly worse. The C3 Aircross does edge the Dacia Duster and the Hyundai Bayon for perceived quality, though.
Strengths High driving position; good forward visibility; colourful design details
Weaknesses Lack of lower back support; unintuitive infotainment; so-so interior quality
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
We’d recommend avoiding the Citroën C3 Aircross's panoramic glass roof option if you’re tall, or often carry passengers who are. It floods the interior with light, but also badly compromises head room to the point that anyone much taller than 6ft might struggle to fit.
You probably won't have any complaints about the leg room available, and there are plenty of cubbies dotted around for stashing keys, coins and phones. You’ll also find a couple of good-size cupholders in front of the gearlever.
The optional panoramic roof compromises head room in the back even more than in the front. There's also less rear knee room than in the Ford Puma, the Hyundai Bayon and the Skoda Kamiq. That said, it’s relatively comfortable for three adults sitting side by side, because the seats are mounted quite high up and there’s no hump in the floor for the central passenger to straddle.
Seat folding and flexibility
While 60/40-split folding rear seats are standard across the range, you also get a sliding rear bench if you opt for top-spec Shine Plus trim, allowing you to juggle between boot space or rear knee room as you wish. It also adds a handy ski flap, so you can slide longer items between two back-seat passengers.
Shine Plus cars also feature a fold-flat front passenger seat for those occasions when you need to carry really long items, such as flatpack furniture or a ladder.
In fact, we managed to fit six carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf, whereas the Arona swallowed five. Then again, we got seven in the Kamiq and eight in the Puma.
Entry-level C-Series trim is the only one to miss out on a two-level boot floor that makes it easy to slide in heavy items by minimising the loading lip when you don’t need maximum boot space.
Strengths Versatile seats; spacious boot; handy two-level boot floor
Weaknesses Front and rear passenger space could be better
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The Citroën C3 Aircross is temptingly priced compared with many small SUVs – including equivalent versions of the Ford Puma, the Skoda Kamiq and the VW T-Roc. Sure, the Dacia Duster is cheaper, but little else undercuts the C3 Aircross. What's more, big discounts are usually available.
It's not all good news, though, because the C3 Aircross is predicted to depreciate more rapidly than many of its rivals. Its engines don't have any hybrid tech to help with fuel economy either. The Puretech 110 averaged 39.1mpg in our real-world tests, while the more powerful Puma 1.0 Ecoboost Hybrid 155 managed almost 45mpg.
The model will likely cost you less per month than many rivals if you're taking out PCP finance, but not by as much as you might imagine (check the latest prices on our New Car Buying pages).
Equipment, options and extras
Entry-level C-Series cars come with 16in alloy wheels, automatic headlights, climate control and cruise control, in addition to rear parking sensors and touchscreen infotainment.
We’d be tempted to upgrade to mid-level Shine trim for the extra safety kit it brings, and the two-level boot floor we talked about earlier. Range-topping Shine Plus cars are worth considering, because they bring extra styling options, more flexible seating, and keyless entry and start.
Some more creature comforts would be welcome, though. You can’t get heated seats or a heated steering wheel, for example.
You get a two-year warranty with no mileage limit, plus a further one-year dealer warranty with a 60,000-mile cap. That’s roughly the same level of cover as is provided by Ford on the Puma and Skoda on the Kamiq, but Kia gives you a seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty on its Kia Stonic.
Safety and security
It’s disappointing that Citroën doesn’t include automatic emergency braking (AEB) on the C3 Aircross unless you go for Shine Plus trim or add it as an option on lower trim Shine. All models do get lane-departure warning and a traffic-sign recognition system that displays the speed limit. Blind-spot monitoring is an option but only on Shine Plus trim.
That tech helped the model secure a five-star Euro NCAP rating, although that was back in 2017 when the tests were less demanding than today. There are Isofix child-seat mounting points on the outer rear seats, and the security kit includes an alarm.
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Strengths Cheaper to buy than most rivals; decent reliability
Weaknesses Disappointing fuel economy; entry-level trim misses out on essential safety kit
The 1.2 Puretech 130 Shine Plus is the top-of-the-range C3 Aircross. It has a 128bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine and an automatic gearbox. Equipment includes keyless entry and start, tinted rear windows and a black roof.
|RRP price range||£17,470 - £23,880|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, diesel|
|MPG range across all versions||48.5 - 64|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||2 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,030 / £1,508|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,059 / £3,017|