Citroën C3 Origin review

Category: Small car

The C3 Origin is quite a frugal small car but most rivals are better to drive and more practical

Citroën C3 front right driving
  • Citroën C3 front right driving
  • Citroën C3 rear cornering
  • Citroën C3 interior dashboard
  • Citroën C3 boot open
  • Citroën C3 infotainment touchscreen
  • Citroën C3 right driving
  • Citroën C3 front cornering
  • Citroën C3 front left driving
  • Citroën C3 front right driving
  • Citroën C3 headlights
  • Citroën C3 wheel
  • Citroën C3 rear lights
  • Citroën C3 interior front seats
  • Citroën C3 interior back seats
  • Citroën C3 interior detail
  • Citroën C3 interior air-con controls
  • Citroën C3 interior detail
  • Citroën C3 interior detail
  • Citroën C3 interior detail
  • Citroën C3 front right driving
  • Citroën C3 rear cornering
  • Citroën C3 interior dashboard
  • Citroën C3 boot open
  • Citroën C3 infotainment touchscreen
  • Citroën C3 right driving
  • Citroën C3 front cornering
  • Citroën C3 front left driving
  • Citroën C3 front right driving
  • Citroën C3 headlights
  • Citroën C3 wheel
  • Citroën C3 rear lights
  • Citroën C3 interior front seats
  • Citroën C3 interior back seats
  • Citroën C3 interior detail
  • Citroën C3 interior air-con controls
  • Citroën C3 interior detail
  • Citroën C3 interior detail
  • Citroën C3 interior detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

Some people are happy with cheese on toast while others want croque monsieur – and you can look at the Citroën C3 Origin in a similar way. It has the same basic ingredients as other small cars but its presentation is a bit different.

That's partly thanks to the C3's extrovert styling, but also the numerous colour combinations for the roof, bumper inserts and door mirrors. Oh, and the optional "air bumps" on the doors, which protect the body against rogue shopping trolleys in supermarket car parks.

As part of a recent update, the model was also treated to a bit of a nip and tuck. The optional air bumps were redesigned, the front end was sharpened up, the lines of the wheel-arch extensions have been smoothed out and LED headlights are now fitted as standard.

Aside from its funky looks, is the Citroën C3 good enough to compete with the best small cars or are you better off buying, say, a Dacia Sandero or VW Polo? Read on to find out...

Overview

With its funky looks inside and out, the Citroën C3 Origin does a great job of turning heads. It’s also surprisingly well equipped. However, it's poor to drive and not very practical, so any number of rivals are more recommendable on an objective level. If you do get a C3, we recommend the PureTech 110 engine and mid-spec Plus trim.

  • Decently equipped
  • Stylish interior
  • Efficient engines
  • Poor to drive
  • AEB is not standard on lower trims
  • Cramped rear seats
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

Strengths

  • +Comfy motorway ride
  • +Mid-spec engine has more than enough oomph

Weaknesses

  • -Rivals handle better
  • -Wallowy ride on country roads
  • -Manual gearbox could be better

Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox

The pick of the Citroën C3 Origin engine range is the 108bhp PureTech 110 1.2-litre petrol. With a 0-62mph time of 9.4 seconds, it has plenty of pep whether you’re nipping into a gap on a roundabout or merging on to the motorway.

The entry-level PureTech 83 costs less but feels underpowered and you need to use full power just to keep up with traffic. Even its official 0-62mph sprint isn’t that inspiring, at 12.5 seconds.

The PureTech 83 comes as standard with a manual gearbox, but rather strangely, our favourite engine, the PureTech 110, gets an automatic gearbox as standard. To get the PureTech 110 with a manual you need to step up to range-topping Max trim.

Suspension and ride comfort

Citroën has gone soft with the C3, choosing to make its suspension squidgy and with plenty of travel. As a result, it lollops around over bigger bumps on a country road, bouncing you skywards then sucking you back down to the ground again. If you're thinking that sounds a bit uncomfortable, you're right – it is.

The suspension set-up lends itself far better to motorway travel, where the softness soaks up small imperfections with ease and only gets unsettled by large potholes or sharp-edged bumps.

Don’t get us wrong, the Dacia Sandero, Seat Ibiza and VW Polo are much more comfortable overall, but the C3 is a great motorway companion.

Citroën C3 rear cornering

Handling

Because of its super-soft suspension, the C3 feels rather more old-fashioned to drive than its sharp looks would suggest, with huge amounts of body lean through corners. And while the steering is relatively accurate, it's far too light to give you much confidence when you're driving on faster roads.

Citroën C3 image
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As a result, you have to really concentrate on placing the nose of the car through corners. The process is far more intuitive in other small cars including the Sandero, the Ibiza and the Polo, and those rivals also feel more composed through corners.

Noise and vibration

The C3’s petrol engines tend to be quite thrummy, but no more so than rivals that also use three-cylinder engines. You're more aware of the noise in the PureTech 83 than the 110 because the 83 needs to be worked harder.

Manual versions are challenging to drive smoothly in town because the brake and clutch pedals aren’t very positive, and the gearbox has a vague long-throw shift. The light and precise manual gearbox in the Ibiza is much better. The automatic gets around this, but you’ll feel some vibrations during low-speed parking manoeuvres, as well as some jerkiness when pulling away from a stop.

If you release the brake quickly on an incline, the C3 has a tendency to roll before the stop-start system has had a chance to restart the engine. Wind and tyre noise are not excessive compared with other small cars though.

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Strengths

  • +Pleasant interior
  • +Decent forward visibility
  • +Good driving position

Weaknesses

  • -Disappointing infotainment system
  • -Build quality could be better

Driving position and dashboard

Along with backrest angle adjustment, the Citroën C3 Origin’s driver's seat offers height adjustment. The steering wheel can be moved up and down, as well as in and out.

If you want lumbar support you’ll need to step up to Max trim, which introduces what Citroën calls Advanced Comfort seats. They feel a bit like armchairs – your bottom sinks into the pillow-soft cushion.

On manual versions, the gap between the clutch pedal and the car's central tunnel is so narrow that if you wear anything larger than a size nine shoe it traps your foot.

Most controls are conventionally placed and easy to access, the heating and ventilation controls are confined to the touchscreen display (unless you go for the entry-level You! trim). That makes them tricky to use when you're driving. The steering wheel-mounted controls for the stereo, cruise control and speed limiter functions do work well though.

Visibility, parking sensors and cameras

The fairly slim windscreen pillars leave your view forwards reasonably unobstructed. The over-the-shoulder view is rather less impressive because the C3’s tapering roof and up-swept side windows create sizeable blind-spots.

Shine trim and up gets a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors to help with reversing. Bright LED headlights are fitted across the range, and offer better illumination at night than most rivals that only have dimmer halogen lights.

Citroën C3 interior dashboard

Sat nav and infotainment

The entry-level You! trim gets a very basic 5.0in monochrome infotainment touchscreen but every other C3 has a 7.0in touchscreen with DAB radio, Bluetooth, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring.

If you want built-in sat-nav, you’ll need to step up to range-topping Max trim. It gives you access to a TomTom system with live traffic updates. You get a three-year subscription but we’d rather connect up a smartphone and use a good sat-nav app.

The 7.0in screen is something of a disappointment. It doesn’t have the contrast or crispness in its graphics you might hope for. The delay between pressing an icon and anything actually happening is frustratingly long. The Seat Ibiza and the VW Polo have quicker and more intuitive infotainment systems.

Quality

The C3 doesn’t feel as robust inside as the Ibiza, let alone the Polo. The switches are not as well damped and the surfaces feel cheaper. However, the look of the interior is at least distinctive, with neat touches such as faux-leather door pulls to lift the ambience.

Plus trim comes with a soft-touch dashboard finish, while range-topping Max gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel, gearstick and handbrake lever, plus a strange soft-touch wood-effect trim (called Techwood) on the dashboard. That sets it apart from the more strait-laced Polo.

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Strengths

  • +Plenty of front space

Weaknesses

  • -Rear space could be better
  • -So-so boot space

Front space

There’s little to quibble over where front seat space in the Citroën C3 Origin is concerned. Even tall occupants will find head and leg room to spare, and as small cars go, the shoulder room between you and your front passenger isn’t bad, either.

The door pockets aren’t vast, but will each take a small bottle of water laid on its side. There are also a couple of cup holders in front of the gearlever for your latte, and a place to store your phone near the USB port. Unfortunately, the glove box is small because it also houses the C3’s fusebox.

Rear space

Rear-seat space isn’t one of the C3’s strengths: head room is below-par and leg room is mediocre. It’s fine for kids, but if you regularly carry adults in the back, particularly ones of above average height, the roomier Dacia Sandero, Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia are better choices.

Storage wise, all models come with small rear door bins, while Max trim gives you map pockets on the backs of the front seats.

Citroën C3 boot open

Seat folding and flexibility

Seating flexibility is all about clever adjustments that give the car more comfort and versatility, and the C3’s seats don’t really add much of either.

The front passenger doesn’t get seat-height adjustment or adjustable lumbar support, only the usual manual lever fore and aft movement, and backrest recline.

It’s the same in the rear. Unlike the Honda Jazz – which offers all sorts of seating combinations to help you find the right balance between carrying luggage or passengers – the C3 just comes with folding rear seat backs, split 60/40.

Boot space

Access to the C3's boot isn't the easiest, with a rather narrow aperture and a big internal lip (there's no height-adjustable boot floor).

Once you've navigated those obstacles, the load bay offers 300 litres of storage space. We managed to fit five carry-on suitcases under its parcel shelf – two more than you’ll fit in the Kia Picanto and Toyota Aygo X but one less than you’ll fit in the Sandero.

You can extend the boot by dropping the 60/40 split-folding rear seats, but when they’re down, they form a sizeable step in the floor of the extended load bay. That adds to the strain of heaving bulky items in or out.

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Strengths

  • +Well-equipped
  • +Efficient engines

Weaknesses

  • -Expired safety rating
  • -Depreciates faster than rivals
  • -AEB is only standard with top trim

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

The entry-level Citroën C3 Origin – called the You! – undercuts almost every small car rival except the Dacia Sandero. The only problem is that it comes with next to no standard kit and can only be had with the underpowered PureTech 83 1.2 petrol engine.

If you’re on a budget, we’d point you towards the better equipped Sandero, which is also cheaper on PCP finance (you can check the latest prices on our New Car Deals pages).

In terms of depreciation, the C3 is expected to lose value more quickly than most rivals, including the Sandero and the Toyota Aygo X.

Whichever engine you choose, all C3s offer official fuel consumption and CO2 figures that rival the best in the class but it's less competitive for servicing and insurance.

Equipment, options and extras

Entry-level You! trim is essentially a stripped-out version of the C3, allowing it to undercut almost every other rival – but the only "luxuries' it includes are cruise control, manual air-conditioning and heated side mirrors. The similarly priced Dacia Sandero Expression looks much better value.

We'd step up to the C3's Plus trim. It gets a 7in touchscreen infotainment system, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, automatic air-con, 16in alloy wheels and electronically folding side mirrors. 

At the top of the range is Max trim. It pushes the price up by a reasonable chunk, but for that you get AEB, a rear-view mirror that dims automatically so you don't get dazzled and faux-wood trim. It's also the only way to get our favourite PureTech 110 engine with a manual gearbox.

Citroën C3 infotainment touchscreen

Reliability

The C3 didn’t feature in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey but Citroën finished in a respectable 14th place out of 32 manufacturers. That puts it above Ford, Seat, VW and Renault, but below Mini, Hyundai, Kia, Dacia and Mazda.

Every C3 comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, although you can get a longer five years or 100,000 miles policy if you buy online. Either way, you get one year’s breakdown cover too.

Safety and security

The C3 received only four stars out of five in its safety appraisal by Euro NCAP and the rating has expired due to it being tested in 2017.

Even so, while that might sound like a good score, but most rivals get five stars (the exception is the Sandero, which received two stars).

Disappointingly, only the Max trim gets automatic emergency braking (AEB) as standard. All C3s get road-sign recognition and lane-departure warning, though.


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FAQs

  • Yes, in fact it’s the smallest car Citroën makes (except the tiny Citroën Ami quadricycle). It’s bigger than the Toyota Aygo X but not quite as large as a Dacia Sandero or Seat Ibiza.

  • No. Currently you have a choice of two petrol engines, neither of which has hybrid tech. See our best hybrid cars and best electric cars pages to see other options.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £2,294
Target Price from £14,150
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or from £174pm
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Nearly new deals
From £13,270
RRP price range £14,150 - £22,375
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)2
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol
MPG range across all versions 49.8 - 53.4
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £777 / £1,323
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,554 / £2,646
Available colours