Citroen C3 1.6 HDi (2009) review

Published:19 October 2009

Citroen C3 1.6 HDi
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

The new Citroen C3 (2009) wades into a fizzed-up supermini marketplace. With the likes of the Ford Fiesta and VW’s new Polo raising the bar to Sergei Bubka heights in the B segment of late, anything not now boasting debutante levels of deportment and style is going to have to rely on a price tag of little more than a bag of marbles and a previously owned Fisherman’s Friend to get so much as a sniff of the action.

This, of course, has always been Citroen’s forte; the dumpy little C3 relentlessly discounted to the point of distraction from its diverse shortcomings. So - in the context of a new model which boasts a significant stride forward in the style, quality and dynamic stakes whilst now matching the price of top end rivals - it’ll be interesting to see if the thriftier B segment buyers that Citroen traditional attracts will be prepared to foot the bill.

So the new 2009 Citroen C3 is a significant stride forward in style, eh?

Well, the outgoing model had all the appeal of a pre-lanced boil, so almost any treatment would be a step in the right direction. The new-for-2009 C3 is far better looking, even if we have yet to see it without that giant, peel-back windscreen which will be a standard fit on most posher models in the range.

First seen on Vauxhall’s Panorama, I’ve never been sold on the glass toboggan, simply because the moment the glazing outside wiper coverage gets dirty you’re merely dealing with acres of opaque glass. Not to mention the need for sun visors in Britain for so much of the year…

But the interior is little short of a dramatic improvement. This is the dashboard architecture of the forthcoming DS3, and build quality, fit and finishes have all taken a stout hike uphill. Everything looks good, and works well, even if the fiddly-buttoned screen control panel should have found itself above the big-buttoned, set-and-forget air-con dials on the centre console.

The driving position’s fine, though the seat is considerably harder than that of the C3 Picasso. However, sitting behind yourself in the back isn’t such a pleasure, and I’m surprised that Citroen has sacrificed rear seat legroom in the interests of crowing over class-leading luggage space. And finding a sawn-off steering wheel in a C3 smacks worryingly of dynamic pretensions that could severely damage the Citroen USP, ride comfort.

Oh no. What have they done?

Well, mercifully, despite the fact that the new C3 is significantly more agile than its predecessor, the Macpherson front and torsion beam rear undercarriage still gives a pleasingly supple ride. It’ll never challenge a Fiesta thrown down a boisterous B-road, but far better that than destroy straight line comfort.

The occasional road racket all too clearly transmitted to the cabin from poorer surfaces is a touch baffling, though, since Citroen claims to have tripled the sound insulation on the car. Then again, they also say that this car is no heavier than its predecessor… Something, somewhere, doesn’t quite add up. It’ll be interesting to see how the C3 copes with our dreadful roads.

>> Click 'Next' to read the rest of CAR's first drive review of the new Citroen C3 1.6 HDi

Have they added the usual raft of powerplants with the emphasis on diesel and low CO2?

Indeed. Along with the 89bhp 1.6-litre turbodiesel destined to be the range best seller, I had intended to try a petrol variant, but my initial musings were so at odds with those of colleagues in the context of the former, I ended up driving the same model twice. The trouble was noise at motorway speeds…

A second run did prove far quieter than the first (dodgy engine mounting?), though the engine still cries out for an extra cog in the five-speed manual transmission to settle things down at a cruise. If you want a six-speed box you’ll have to go for the 109bhp variant of this engine. Let’s hope the shift action is a little more crisp and positive than the gently baggy five-speed affair.

Verdict

The new Citroen C3 is a pleasant surprise. Improved agility without too much degradation in ride quality; a diesel that cries out for a sixth gear; a better looking design and a dramatic step forward in interior quality, even if rear-seat room is a tad challenging.

With prices ranging from £10,800 for a 1.1-litre petrol model that no one will buy to a stout £16,200 for the top-of-the-range 1.6-litre 109bhp diesel, the C3 has also thrown out the discount baby with the drab product bathwater. As discussed, it’ll be interesting to see if the quest for new takers simultaneously leaves the thrify Citroen old guard behind.

Specs

Price when new: £15,200
On sale in the UK: Spring 2010
Engine: 4-cylinder turbodiesel, 1560cc, 89bhp @ 4000rpm, 159lb ft @ 2000rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 0-62mph 11.0sec, 112mph, 65.7mpg, 110g/km
Weight / material: 1155kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 32941/1728/1538

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  • Citroen C3 1.6 HDi
  • Citroen C3 1.6 HDi
  • Citroen C3 1.6 HDi
  • Citroen C3 1.6 HDi
  • Citroen C3 1.6 HDi

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

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