'Back' to the future with the C3 as Citroen put comfort in driving seat
First drive in Barcelona: Citroen C3
Your eyes and ears might form initial impressions of a car, but spare a thought for more prosaic parts of your body, namely your hands, bum and back.
After all, those are the bits that are in actual contact with the vehicle on a daily basis.
Have you ever noticed for instance how a harsh-to-the-touch plastic steering wheel can make a car feel cheap? Or conversely how a tactile-friendly leather steering wheel brings a feeling of quality to an otherwise basic model?
Likewise, comfortable and supportive seats can make a world of difference - even if you don't suffer from back pains.
I mention this because one of the first things that struck me when I drove the new Citroen C3 in Barcelona last week was just how comfy the seats were.
You only tend to notice seats when they are uncomfortable, but in the C3 well-padded seat foams made it feel like sitting on a comfortable sofa - while at the same time staying firm enough to support you in a moving car.
Combined with a pleasingly tactile leather steering wheel, the C3 felt like a considerably more expensive car than its price tag suggests.
Not surprising then to hear the Citroen people say that comfort is one of the key areas they have targeted with the C3. There's 22mm more legroom in the back than before for instance, and indeed for a car that's under four metres long, both front and rear seat passengers have a decent amount of both head and leg room.
It scores well on practicality too - there are lots of storage areas, and check out the glove compartment - bigger than in many cars twice its size.
The old C3 was fairly anonymous in a crowded market place. That's not a charge you can level at the new one. Even without the optional Airbump side protective panels as seen previously on the C4 Cactus, the C3 has a chunky, almost toy-like appearance, especially on the large 17in rims that are standard on the range-topping Flair model.
They're also looking at customisation as an area of focus, and with three roof colours, nine body colours, and four interior ambiences, there is certainly no excuse for rocking up a car identical to your neighbour.
Available in three trim levels and a choice of three 1.2 litre petrol and two 1.6 litre diesel engines, Citroen has priced the new C3 competitively, as disclosed last week, with entry level models starting at €15,490.
Unfortunately flight delays meant we only got to try one of the available specifications at the launch, specifically the range-topping 110bhp petrol engine with EAT6 automatic transmission. This version arrives in February - other models go on sale from next month.
The 3cyl PureTech engine is certainly punchy enough, but the EAT6 'manual automatic' gearbox was the pleasant surprise here. Citroen seem to have eliminated the hesitant lurch between gear changes seen on earlier incarnations, and it now behaves like a regular automatic. It's worth checking out.
Citroen seems keen to push the fun side of ConnectedCam, an optional integrated camera located behind the rear view mirror, as a means of taking snapshots of sights as you drive along, but a more practical use could be as a dash-cam to capture video as evidence in the event of an accident.
A rather brief drive points to a likeable small car. With a comfort and individuality that hark back to the Citroens of old, the new C3 might just be a turning point for a brand that has gone through tough times recently.
It's worth checking out for those seats alone.