What's the used Citroën C3 Aircross hatchback like?
Cars from traditional market sectors, such as MPVs, are no longer cool. It doesn’t matter if the car is new or used; fewer people want to be seen in one. That’s a shame, because used examples of the Citroën C3 Picasso are really good value and make plenty of sense for young families. Instead, potential buyers are looking further afield into the growing small SUV market and to cars such as this C3 Aircross.
Similar to the Seat Arona and Kia Stonic rivals, the C3 Aircross is a high-riding version of a small hatchback – in this case, the C3. It affords a raised driving position and therefore is easier to step in and out of. It also has chunkier styling and off-roader inspired accessories such as roof bars and extra black plastic body cladding to make it look tougher.
Engines range from a lethargic, naturally aspirated 82bhp 1.2-litre petrol to more potent 108bhp and 128bhp turbocharged versions of the same unit. There are also two versions of a 1.5-litre diesel with 99bhp and 118bhp. Lower-output engines come with a five-speed manual gearbox, while more powerful ones have either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic.
Later models trimmed the range back to just the 1.2 110 and 1.2 130 pterol engines and the 1.5-litre 110 diesel.
There are three trim levels, Feel, Origins and Flair, and even the cheapest C3 Aircross comes well stocked with comfort, convenience and infotainment features. Feel packs most of the kit that most people will need, including a touchscreen infotainment system, air conditioning and cruise control. It's worth looking for a car that's had the optional Active Safety Braking (Citroën’s term for AEB) added, or the optional City Pack for its rear parking sensors and that sliding rear seat bench. Origins trim brings mainly cosmetic upgrades that mark the Citroën brand’s centenary, while range-topping Flair adds more sophisticated climate control, rain-sensing wipers and keyless entry and start, plus a few personalisation options that you would have had to fork out extra for on the cheaper trims.
Later models revised the trim range to C-Series, Rip Curl, Shine and Shine Plus.
From the looks of the car and the way you sink into its soft seat cushions, you’d think that you’ll be in for a comfortable driving experience. However, spend some time in the C3 Aircross and you’ll find your body bobbing a lot and your head being tossed from side to side more vigorously than a green salad in a Michelin star restaurant. It can also be quite jarring on rough roads, because its suspension can't cope with potholes, and tends to send shudders through the chassis when you strike one.
What’s more, the gearbox is vague in its operation and has an unpleasant rubbery feel. Compounding this, the clutch pedal is numb and takes a while to get used to, plus the steering is remote and not the best for placing the car in a corner. You’ll also have to put up with plenty of body roll in the bends.
So, the driving experience certainly isn't the C3 Aircross's strongest suit. However, practicality is. It's far from the biggest car in the world, but you can get quite a lot of stuff in it, thanks to its boxy shape and the fact that you can fold down both the rear and front passenger seats. On high-spec Flair models, you can also get sliding rear seats to increase boot space at the expense of leg room.
Adults won’t be overstruck with the amount of space in the rear, but it's fine for young children. The driver and front passenger do get plenty of leg and shoulder room, though. Head room is great for all, so long as you don't buy a car fitted with the optional glass sunroof.
On the safety front, the C3 Aircross achieved a full five-star Euro NCAP safety rating when it was tested back in November 2017. Plus, all versions come with lane departure warning (that annoyingly reactivates every time you start the car, regardless of whether you switched it off) and speed limit recognition. Automatic emergency braking was an option and is worth looking out for.
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