FOR those who have grown up thinking Formula One, and maybe British Touring Cars, are the only forms of motor sport it may come as something of a shock to know that Citroen is literally hard at it in the tough world of international rallying.
In fact the new Citroen C3 WRC won a stage in the Alps on its first competitive outing, the 2017 Monte Carlo Rally, as well as coming fifth in the overall placings. Things, as the band D:Ream reminded us, can only get better.
The New C3 is a charming little car when shorn of its rally kit of flared wheelarches, huge alloys, and internal roll cage. But it’s still ready for the rough and tumble of the car park ramps, if not the mountain special stages, thanks to the use of Airbump panels, pieces of stylish bubble wrap if you like, that protect vulnerable parts of the car’s flanks from other drivers’ carelessness.
It may be a small car but there’s a lot to like about the C3, which has just arrived in Citroen showrooms and is already attracting strong orders.
Not least among its appealing features is that, although compact at a smidgeon under four metres long, it has the more comfortable ride of a much larger car. A jarring ride is a tiring ride and it’s great that Citroen has avoided this mistake.
Despite this ride compliance, the C3 still handles well enough to be interesting on back routes. You can have fun with it without going to WRC car extremes and without needing anything bigger than the 1.2 litre, three cylinder engine and its 82bhp output.
You might think it slow at times although this is down to psychology rather than a lack of physical prowess. Mo Farah, after all, is a slender being who, if you saw him away from the track, would appear far removed from the Olympic greatness he enjoys. The same with the C3. It’s no Usain Bolt but it quietly builds its speed and shows its stamina so it can slide from slip road to main road at the legal limit, exploiting gaps as they open.
The stark figures of a 0-62mph time of 13 seconds and top speed of 104mph, the latter more than enough to win you top score in the driving licence points league table, belie its ability to keep up.
After all, few drivers who possess cars that do 0-62mph in half that time ever get the opportunity, or feel the need rather than the whim, to exploit such scorching prowess to the full.
Some might also think a five speed manual gearbox is a cog short of modern standards but again why have six where five will do? The car is relaxed, bowls along happily and quietly at 70–80mph, and is parsimonious in its fuel consumption. It’s probably all most people need if they think about their daily driving routine.
While it suits people’s green desires with its 109 g/km CO2 output, is also promises to emphasise other colours in their lives with its wonderful palette and options such as contrasting colours for the “floating” roof that sits atop black screen and centre pillars to make it appear unsupported other than at the rear.
Under that roof is a roomy cabin that has a rear seat equipped with three lap and diagonal seat belts. There are also two top tether ISOFix seat mountings while the front passenger seat gets further ISOFix points plus an airbag that can be switched off using the ignition key.
The seats are great because they are not hugely sculpted lounge chairs but instead look fairly flat.
Citroen has paid great attention to designing soft yet supportive chairs without the park bench feel that seems to be applied by so many car manufacturers these days. Their construction lets them take your shape while the range of adjustment will also suit most sizes. Behind the split-fold rear seats is a deep boot with 300 litres of space, extending to 922 litres with seats folded.
Techies will like the ConnectedCAM system that allows posting to social media simultaneously as you make your journeys, either as stills or 20 second video clips. In the event of an accident it retains the 30 seconds before and 60 seconds after. Other drivers would do well to always wear a happy face when they see a C3 approaching! It will, no doubt, match the visage of the C3 driver, too.
Maurice and Annette Hardy
Car: Citroen New C3 Feel S&S PureTech 82 manual
Does it fit your ego…
0-62mph: 13.0 secs
Top speed: 104mph
Bhp: 82 @ 5750rpm
Torque: 87lb ft @ 2750rpm
…and your wallet…
Combined: 60.1 mpg
CO2 emissions: 109 g/km
Best bits: small Citroen with big car imagination