Why Citroën's C3 deserves an A1 for the 'chill' factor
Petrol power shines in supermini
Some weeks I'm sure we all wish for one or two low-key days: just a nice pace with enough happening to maintain interest but nothing too taxing. They don't come around too often do they?
But the other day, I made one happen. I decided I was going to take three or four hours and just chill. I'd get away and let country air blow some oxygen through a frazzled old brain.
Now, one of the few ways I know of chilling is to drive. I just love being at the wheel of a car. Especially this time of the year. And especially with the prospect of nice cups of tea and good friends' fruit cakes at journey's end. Just so long as some aspect of the car doesn't overly annoy and/or disappoint, of course - that can quickly melt one's chill-out plans.
My companion for this occasion was the 1.2-litre petrol version of the Citroën C3 supermini. I'd driven it previously with a diesel engine and (ab)used it to help a dear friend move house on a deep and dark winter's night.
The petrol, in contrast, got its major outing on a May day of sunshine and thunder showers across the face of a country gorging on greenness.
I let the window down as soon as I got off the M50 and took circuitous routes to the Heartland, breathing in the freshest of air and, occasionally, the pungent aromatics of recently-spread slurry.
Now, the C3 is not a car I'd instantly recommend when asked for purchasing advice. I usually point people towards a Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia, etc.
I'd say that is an historic thing. Back through the years, Citroëns gave trouble; owners took hits on trade-in values. That is not necessarily the case any more, I must stress, but it can take time to wash buyer sentiment through the system.
The new C3 is not a daring car; nor does it claim to be. Its bluff-nosed 'urban capsule' looks are distinctive enough and hint at slight SUV leanings, but there are more graphically-drawn rivals.
The inclusion of minor-impact-proof Airbumps along the side of my test car - they reduce the need for more expensive repairs - undoubtedly set it apart, though passengers were divided on their visual merits.
The inside is quite a bit roomier than I recalled - even allowing for the house-move demands on capacity. It has a longer wheelbase (+75mm).
I was driving the impressively powerful 3cyl PureTech 110 in Flair spec so what more could I ask for as I criss-crossed Dublin, Wicklow, Meath, Kildare, Westmeath and Offaly over a great variety of roads and surfaces. I felt comfortable in this. The chassis/wheels/steering maintained decent equilibrium by squashing all but the most severe bumps (our roads are slipping badly in some areas). The quality of suspension pleasantly surprised. My cabin was lifted by the addition of the 'Urban Red Ambience' option (€300) - a rectangular red-stripe insert/surround on the dash that is echoed throughout the interior. Smart and worth having, I think - and I don't usually go for fripperies. I also liked the driving position; it was at a good height without reaching Crossover proportions.
And, for once, I had no whinge about the central display which takes care of audio (DAB included), Mirror Link/Apple Car Play, satnav, etc. I applaud the reduction in buttons.
My one regret is I didn't use the built-in camera (behind the interior mirror) to record snippets of my journey. The system (ConnectedCAM Citroën) links to a phone app so you can send photographs and videos. It also records video. I'd have liked some footage of that silly driver between Enfield and Kinnegad who overtook at a narrow juncture - while on the phone. But I refused to let it bother me as it normally would. Those were my few 'chill' hours.
Previous, and subsequent, to my lone drive, I had my usual quota of passengers/journeys. They found the car comfortable and praised rear-seat space. The boot, quite deep, was decent - and there were several little cubbyholes.
I took the shortcut/motorway back to Dublin. It was getting late, the skies were darkening and there was work to do. Where I had gently pushed in the course of my outward drive, I now pressed harder. The 1.2-litre engine was excellent - good response/pulling power - though I thought the gearshift a bit notchy. The main point in all this was obvious: you don't need diesel for a car of this size if covering under 15,000km/year. It's as much engine as you need.
The C3 is not startlingly brilliant; indeed it is ordinary in some respects. But it is a vast improvement. And after my 'get-away-from-it-all' drive, its highly competent, non-intrusive nature moves it up the pecking order of cars I think worth taking for a pre-buy test drive.
FACTS & FIGURES
Citroën C3 PureTech 110 Flair; 1.2-litre petrol, 103g/km, 4.6l/100km, road tax €190, 5spd, 110bhp.
Price: €20,990. Range from €15,490.
Spec on this model: Connected CAM (on-board HD camera that permits sharing road-trip photos/videos directly with friends); auto lights and wipers, reversing camera/rear-parking sensors, 7ins touchscreen interface, MirrorScreen with Apple CarPlay, Airbump on sides, 17ins alloys, space-saver spare, foglights with cornering function.
Overall standard spec includes cruise control, lane departure warning, coffee-break alert, Bluetooth.