What is it?
Funky and chunky. I think that’s a fair description.
As the rise of the small SUV continues to grow, Citroen, like most of the other car manufacturers, have taken advantage of this growing and lucrative market with their C3 Aircross. It’s obviously based on the regular C3, but with a higher ground clearance and taller all-season tyres, it certainly stands out from the crowd, and that’s before I mention the orange colour pack!
On the road
My C3 Aircross for the week was the 1,199cc 3-cylinder lump with 110ps which I found to be comfortable and sprightly enough when I find myself in the suburbs, but is it fun to throw around corners? Hmmm…
On the open road it feels very Citroen-like, which is a good thing, obviously, but when you begin to push it along your favourite country lanes, you definitely get the sense it would rather you didn’t. It isn’t to do with the extra height as the roll stiffness is increased, I feel it’s more to do with its overly light and remote steering setup personally.
The 3-cylinder, 1.2ltr petrol engine is both turbocharged and intercooled, and produces 110bhp which serves the Aircross well, as did the 6-speed automatic fitted to this car. However I did notice that the gear change from 3rd to 4th happens around 32mph, so if you’re hovering around that speed the automatic gearbox is up and down like a yo-yo.
With what I’ve just written you may get the impression that on the road the C3 Aircross is a bit rubbish. It isn’t, it was fun, comfortable and relaxing, just don’t expect it to handle like a sports car, that’s all.
Off the road
The Aircross only comes in front-wheel drive, however before you all reach for the delete button, this one had the £400 Grip Control with Hill Decent Assist option, and oh my word, does it work a treat. To test it I performed the usual balancing act, no problems there, but I wanted to test it on something a bit more taxing, so off I trundled to a green-lane that I’d heard about.
Admittedly I was a tad dubious about driving the lane as I usually like to scout green-lanes before I take press cars along them, you know, to make sure that they’re non-damaging. However on this occasion I was passing and the C3 was due to be returned the following day, and, and.....excuses, and more excuses.
At the beginning of the lane I was a little trepidatious, but the further I climbed up the muddy track the more confident I became. It had been raining all day, and as I crossed a small stream the ground was saturated, but the Aircoss showed no signs of giving up or losing grip.
It got to the point at which I was taking the trickier routes, give this a try, that worked, how about this… before I knew it, it’s taking me places way above its station!
There was one particular section where the lane was quite chewed up, it was a turning point for tractors that entered and left a field. To test how good Grip Control actually was I turned it off and drove slowly through the rutted mud - the Aircross didn’t like it one bit. Turning the steering wheel from side to side in an attempt to get the front tyres find grip was fruitless, I was going nowhere.
I then selected ‘Mud’ on the Grip Control dial, and gently pressed the accelerator and we inched forward without any drama.
I was impressed, no, I was seriously impressed, and quite gobsmacked if I’m being honest.
I continued to drive the lane with a lot more confidence, my only want was for the Aircross to have a little more approach angle and ground clearance.
If you’re used to driving 4x4s, you’ll be truly surprised at what it can do off the beaten track with Grip Control.
As soon as I sat behind the wheel I was overcome by a sense of comfort, the seats are big enough for my girth, and they’re comfy too, though they do lack a little bit of lateral support when you’re flinging it around corners.
The dash layout is simple and easy to read, but the heater controls are on the touchscreen so your eyes are off the road when you want to adjust the temperature.
I do like the cardboard covered with carpet effect that Citroen has included, it gives the car warmth (Muddy Madam says I shouldn’t use the word carpet, more fabric). It reminds me of my first ever car, an 850cc Mini in which the previous owner had fitted a strip of carpet either side of the speedo. I was never sure why.
Anyway, moving to the back and the rear seats which are akin to a bench seat, in other words no sculpting. Rear passengers won’t find them as uncomfortable as it sounds, especially if there’s 3 of them, and it did pass The Mud Life's test for rear legroom, just.
With the rear seats folded down the C3 Aircross has the largest boot in the segment. The boot's standard volume of 410ltrs can be increased to 520 litres thanks to the split rear sliding seats and total load volume with the rear seats folded down is an impressive 1,289ltrs.
Odds ’n’ sods
The C3 Aircross comes in three trim levels. Touch models start at £14,700 and is equipped with air conditioning, lane departure warning and cruise control with limiter.
Next up is the Feel, from £15,455 on which you get a 7” Touchscreen, Android and Apple carPlay and Bluetooth tech.
If you want to go all in, then the Flair, from £17,995, variant is for you, with climate-control, keyless entry, satellite navigation and parking sensors.
The car we tested was the Compact Flair S&S PureTech110 automatic with an on the road price of £19,200, or £23,020 including extras.
Engines ’n’ transmissions
Citroen have given the Aircross and engine choice that will suit most peoples' needs. Petrol power comes courtesy of a 1,199cc 3-cylinder lump which is available with either 82, 110 or 130PS power outputs. If you prefer a diesel there’s a 1,560cc engine with either 99 or 120PS.
Gearbox wise, depending on which model you choose, the Aircross comes with either a 5 or 6-speed manual, or 6-speed automatic gearbox.
I really enjoyed our week together, not only does it look cool, but it’s also a blast to drive.
What really surprised me was its ability to clamber up muddy tracks without much drama. It’s fair to say that it probably spent more time on green lanes than it did on tarmac!
If you want a small SUV that’s distinctive with lots of scope for personalisation, and that isn’t too shabby on performance, then you need to pop down to your nearest Citroen dealer and take one out for a test drive,
Website: Citroen C3 Aircross