Autotrader ad desktop

In partnership with Autotrader

Used test: Citroen C3 Aircross vs Ford Puma vs Hyundai Bayon

Can the C3 Aircross and Bayon take on and beat our small SUV favourite, the fun-to-drive Ford Puma, when all contenders are two-year-old used buys?...

Hyundai Bayon vs Citroen C3 Aircross vs Ford Puma fronts

The contenders

Citroen C3 Aircross Puretech 110 Shine Plus

List price when new £21,500
Price today £14,000*
Available from 2017-present

A practical and attractively priced used buy, although the C3 Aircross is the least powerful car here

Ford Puma 1.0 Ecoboost Hybrid 155 ST-Line

List price when new £23,745
Price today £15,000*
Available from 2019-present

It may be great to drive, but the Puma needs to tick more boxes than just that to beat its competition

Hyundai Bayon 1.0 T-GDi Mild Hybrid 120 Premium

List price when new £23,245
Price today £15,000*
Available from 2021-present

The newest of our three competitors, but can the mild-hybrid Bayon shoot straight to the top of our rankings?

*Price today is based on a 2021 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

The Ford Puma arrived in 2019 and quickly became the brand's golden child. Not only did it take home our overall What Car? Car of the Year award in 2020, this handsome small SUV also began selling like hot cakes on the new car market. Its immense popularity has continued to this day.

That's not for a lack of other manufacturers trying, mind you. The Citroën C3 Aircross was given a mid-life refresh in 2021, sharpening its exterior styling and giving it a new infotainment system, among other improvements. The Hyundai Bayon rocked up in the same year, sporting mechanical underpinnings shared with the impressive Hyundai i20 small car. 

Citroen C3 Aircross 2021 front cornering in car park

The Bayon, like the Puma, is also available as a mild hybrid for a minor bump in performance and fuel economy. The C3 Aircross doesn't receive any such tech, but then again it did undercut these two rivals on price when it was new. It still undercuts them as a used buy, actually, although every one of our trio offers up a similarly good saving off their individual new car prices if bought as here at two years old. 

But let's put aside the money for a second, and dig deep into what these cars are like on the road. 

Ford Puma 2021 front cornering in car park


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

If you’re at all interested in accelerating quickly and having fun on a twisty road, there’s no contest; the Puma is the only one with a remotely sporty slant.

You might rightly point out that, in the range-topping 153bhp guise tested, it has a lot more power than its rivals and that the 123bhp version would have been a better fit on performance. But that’s one of the great things about the Puma: the fact that you can have a relatively punchy engine. You don’t even have to compromise on the economy (as we’ll explain later).

Hyundai Bayon 2021 front cornering in car park

The Bayon is lined up here in its most powerful form, yet it’s still left for dust by the Puma. The Puma’s 1.0-litre turbo engine can whisk it from 0-60mph in a nippy 8.4sec, and it also pulls really well from low revs in more sedate driving. The Bayon’s 1.0-litre engine is hardly weak, though, getting it to 60mph in 9.9sec, and it’s quieter than the Puma’s when you work it hard.

As for the 1.2-litre C3 Aircross, that's the slowcoach here, taking 11.3sec to hit 60mph. You can get a more powerful version than the Puretech 110 tested, but that’s available exclusively with an automatic gearbox. Still, it’s worth noting that the C3 Aircross pulls just as strongly as the Bayon from low revs and doesn’t feel sluggish in real-world driving. It also has the quietest engine of the bunch.

Citroen C3 Aircross 2021 rear

Unfortunately, that doesn’t count for much at high speeds, because your ears are accosted by lots of road and wind noise. The C3 is easily the noisiest of our trio on the motorway, with the Bayon proving quietest at a steady 70mph. It’s hardly a luxury limo, though, with tyre slap and wind noise still quite noticeable inside.

While the Puma and Bayon have technically similar 48-volt stop-start systems, the former’s is more user-friendly. You barely notice when the engine switches itself off and back on again, because it happens so smoothly and quietly. The Bayon can be reluctant to restart if you’re too quick with the clutch when engaging first gear, forcing you to repeat the process with greater deliberation. It’s a small quirk but can prove quite frustrating in traffic.

Ford Puma 2021 rear

Mind you, so can the C3’s woolly gearbox and vague clutch action. It also suffers from overly grabby brakes, so slowing down smoothly can be tricky. When you’re on the move, you’ll have few complaints about the Bayon’s gearbox, clutch or brakes, although all of these things are more positive and satisfying to use in the Puma.

As we’ve alluded to already, the Puma is easily the most agile and fun to drive, darting into corners with plenty of grip. And you’ll enjoy the process, thanks to steering that’s accurate and streams plenty of feedback to your fingertips.

The lower-riding Bayon actually leans slightly less than the Puma when you’re cornering quickly, but it isn’t as playful or fun, and its steering, while light and easy to twirl at low speeds, fails to provide a real sense of connection with the road when you’re going quickly. But it’s still heaps better than the C3 Aircross, which sways around the most and has overly light steering that doesn’t inspire much confidence at all on twisting roads.

Hyundai Bayon 2021 rear

One of the reasons the Puma is so agile is that ST-Line models come with sports suspension, so we’d recommend a test drive if comfort is a top priority. However, we actually prefer the Puma’s firm but controlled ride to the C3’s agitated gait; you’re jostled around annoyingly at all speeds.

By a relatively small margin, the Bayon is the most relaxed and easygoing of our protagonists along bumpy roads – but even it can’t match the smooth, sophisticated ride of other rivals from the wider small SUV class, with the Skoda Kamiq and VW T-Roc particularly impressive.