If you’re getting a feeling of Déjà vu, you’re not the only one. Citroen has been brandishing the C3 moniker for a while now. Starting with the C3, followed by the e-C3 and now finally, being topped by this flagship iteration, the C3 Aircross. So yes, it is a bit familiar but it bears more resemblance to the larger C5 Aircross from the French brand’s portfolio. That’s a good thing. A VERY good thing in the case of the C3 Aircross
Citroen C3 Aircross
With the trademark Citroen Chevron logo dominating the front, the grille is beautifully proportioned with split DRLs and a muscular stance that is accentuated by the multitude of scoops and sculpted body panels. Even the 17-inch wheels are a smart design that adds to the dynamic profile. Plastic cladding around the wheel arches and the lower part of the doors establishes its SUVish intent and although this is a 4x2 (duh), it exudes the confidence of a proper 4x4 and the Citroen exterior design team has absolutely aced that brief. Available in monotone or a contrasting roof, it has a youthful vibe, especially with the optional style packs that consumers of this segment thrive on.
Undeniably, the biggest USP of the C3 Aircross in this segment is its 5+2 Flexi Pro seating configuration. If you do opt for this variant, you can get more than 500 litres of boot space with the rear seats folded down but also, seven different ways to fold the seats. The third row is very much usable too and makes good use of the largest wheelbase in its class that the C3 Aircross boasts of. The individual seats on the third row can be plucked out in less than 20 seconds (yes, we timed it!) and are light enough to be handled by a child too. Re-attaching is as easy as guiding them back into their hooks and pulling on the seat backs until you hear a click. It’s really nifty and can make all the difference for families that do multiple duties between the weekdays and weekends. You have to forego a centre armrest in the 7-seat variant, which you get on the 5-seat version. First-world choices, but they have to be made.
Step in the the design continues to be funky, with very Citroen-like AC vents and steering wheel. The 10-inch infotainment touchscreen is smooth and lag-free but doesn’t offer much in terms of graphic detail or resolution. It does however offer the crucial support for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which mitigates the lack of on-board navigation. Although wireless charging is conspicuous by its absence, as is the presence of any USB-C ports anywhere in the cabin. However, if you’re old-school, there are plenty of USB-A ports across all three rows of seating in the 5+2 variant. No branded audio here, but the sound quality is actually pretty entertaining, with bass that has weight and goes deep. The highs are extended, if not the smoothest at the top-end, but it’s head and shoulders above anything that Maruti, Nissan, Toyota or even VW offer.
The resolution on the rear-view camera is acceptable too, better than recent cars we’ve driven at twice the price or more! One of the highlights is the roof-mounted second-row AC vents that make so much more sense than the usual centre console-mounted units that blow air on your knees. But then, there are the French quirks like the placement of the rear window switches on the front centre console instead of the rear door pads! The driver too only gets control over the front two windows which is an obvious sign of cost-cutting. Well, that and the lack of basics like grab handles for the passengers or non-height adjustable seat belts.
Basic safety aids like ESP, hill-hold assist, tyre-pressure monitoring system and dual front airbags make up for an average suite of tech assist. Of course, as per the norm, you do get an app, MyCitroen Connect which offers control and monitoring of the C3 Aircross’ vitals and additional features like geo-fencing, intrusion detection, managing secondary accounts etc.
Probably the strongest area for the C3 Aircross, the award-winning 1.2L turbo-petrol engine is punchy and refined with a linear power delivery. Churning out a modest 110hp but a whopping 190Nm of torque, mated to a 6-speed manual, it almost stays clear of any turbo lag and even has a sporty rasp when pushed. An automatic is “coming soon” say Citroen officials, but this manual gearbox is superbly judged with short throws that slot in precisely and tall gearing that allows you to drop speeds right down to 15km/hr in third gear without stalling the car. Great driveability in the city is complemented by a superb ride out on the highway.
Particularly proud of their flying-carpet suspension, the C3 Aircross does indeed ride beautifully over broken roads and because the highways around Mahabalipuram were so well maintained, Citroen had created an autocross zone to really push the C3 Aircross to its limits. Cobbled, stoned, waterlogged and extreme articulation…it had it all and the C3 Aircross went beyond the call of duty by crossing it all without breaking a sweat, or yours. The 200mm of ground clearance isn’t class-leading but doesn’t trail by much and coupled with the famed suspension, it makes light work of the worst of surface conditions and should be the tipping point for those with sensitive backs or fans of the hot-coffee-on-the-dashboard test.
For a brand that is still struggling to make its mark amongst the giants of the segment, the C3 Aircross fills a super niche in a crowded segment. Its obvious lack of creature comforts like ventilated seats, sunroof, climate control, LED headlights, branded audio etc. is hard to ignore. But on the contrary, what is hard to ignore is its seating flexibility and an impressive drivetrain packaged in arguably the best-looking SUV in the segment. The choice isn’t simple and it’s one you will have to make only after walking into a showroom and experiencing its strengths in person.
Not the most tech-savvy but if it doesn't win you over by its good looks, it may just with its family-friendly seating options.
|Engine:||1.2L turbo-petrol 3cyl|
|Boot space:||511L (w/rear seats removed)|