Road test: Cracking C3 Aircross helps you lead colourful life

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Citroen's C3 Aircross


BLACK is the new white when it comes to car colour. And it seems that those who can’t make up their mind have also had an influence in the popularity stakes – grey has taken the second ranking, possibly as a result of confused thinking by the indecisive.

So Citroen’s C3 Aircross test car suitably reflected the trends with its grey paintwork, splashed with red highlights in best Gallic fashion so it wasn’t too boring, although its maker described the car’s hue as soft sand.

That’s the natural thing to do for a model equipped to deal with soft sand as well as snow, mud, and rough conditions despite being a diminutive B segment SUV.

Not that the Aircross looks like some tough, super-muscled off-roader. But it delivers where it needs to, unlike the butch but ultimately ill-equipped Nissan Juke, for instance, which is all power bulges and big wheel arches. It appears to walk the walk but can’t talk the talk.

The Aircross, on the other hand, brings that PSA Group delight called Grip Control to the market yet again. For a paltry £400 you get clever electronics that take command of the various system sensors around the car to help eliminate slippage at the driven wheels. It’s combined with mud and snow tyres with special tread patterns and the result is a slightly higher-riding car that will get you out of a lot of trouble.

Obviously it’s not meant to tackle the type of terrain that demands huge bodily strength, massive axle articulation, and real 4×4 trick transmissions but it’s enough to get most people home on a snowy night or out of a muddy camp site.

The point is that if you want to lead a colourful, go anywhere sort of life then this is a compact SUV that can really help you do it. It not only looks the part, it is the part.

In the interests of establishing what the new order holds for buyers, we opted for a petrol-engined car rather than a diesel. But unwilling to sacrifice the easy life, we also went for an auto gearbox and what a revelation that latter decision turned out to be.

In the past, our recommendation has always been to avoid the small automatic Citroen and Peugeot models. The electronic manual gearbox they employed was so jerky in operation that for most drivers it was impossible to master. But the latest generation EAT6 gearbox means you can have your cake and eat it (sorry).

Because it uses a torque converter, possibly a step back in terms of technology, it has a much smoother shift between ratios. It gets over the frequent problem of small autos, where the lack of body mass means there’s not enough weight to stifle the jerk of the shift.

It means we can now say confidently that these small auto models from PSA Group are worthy contenders although the switch to a torque converter may help explain the poor average fuel consumption of around 36 mpg from the 1.2 litre three cylinder engine.

But there could be other factors to explain this, possibly revealed by the amount of wind noise when travelling at speed. It suggests the air doesn’t move very cleanly around the car and the roof bar style, with projections at the leading edges, could be to blame.

On the test car, the bars, mirror housings, rear three quarter panels, and other body highlights were in a flame orange colour, very striking. But the stripes applied to the rear side panels obstructed the view out when reversing so maybe they are not such a bright idea.

Inside the Citroen C3 Aircross

Inside, the seats at first look a bit like park benches but they are amazingly comfortable, clearly demonstrating that you don’t need the space-wasting, club chair approach of some luxury saloons to get a decent ride. There were times when jarring could be felt on bumpier roads but that was largely down to the suspension rather than the seats.

Family cars need decent space and without going large on the dimensions the C3 Aircross achieves this. There’s decent legroom front and back, sufficient shoulder width for two adults or three kids, and enough safety features to get a five star rating.

There’s even 520 litres of load space with all the seats and the parcel shelf in place, as much as you get in much bigger cars. The Aircross certainly solves the conundrum for families wanting a roomy, practical, go-almost-anywhere car.

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: Citroen C3 Aircross Flair S&S Puretech 110 Auto

Does it fit your ego…

0-62 mph: 11.8 secs

Top speed: 114 mph

Bhp: 110 @ 5500 rpm

Torque: 151 lb ft @ 1500 rpm

…and your wallet…

Price: £19,200

Combined: 50.4 mpg

CO2 emissions: 126 g/km

Best bits: small car with big imagination

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