It’s fairly certain that we will soon refer to events as pre-Corona, post-COVID or some other virus-induced terminology. This cheerful Citroën arrived (and swiftly departed) just before local lockdown started, which gave me plenty of time to surmise if it belongs in our post-virus existence.
I’m sad to admit that Citroën, with its “now you see us now you don’t” attitude towards Africa, has no real place in a society where most people are struggling just to make ends meet. Maybe if they brought in their budget-conscious C1 city car but at this point in time their product range retails between ¼ and half a million bucks.
Having typed that, this C3 Aircross is right on the money when it comes to current trends. Compact, stylish, crossover with a diminutive turbo-charged engine and everything the modern technojunkie desires. Touchy-feely monitor with Apple AutoPlay, remote Blueteeth and fair-trade fabrics; it’s all here.
Perhaps as an excuse for the mothership’s intermittent absence, it’s even competitively priced and traditionally quirky. Stripy orange decals on the far rear side windows? Check. Dual-control vertically stacked ventilation shafts? You betcha. Minimalist gauge cluster and French chic screen fonts… oui, madam.
But is it practical?
However, in my mangled opinion, the C3 Aircross has some endearing features. It may be very left-field and rather alien-looking but underneath those googly eyes and the zesty paint job there’s a very useful mini-SUV waiting for you. It offers plenty of space on wonderfully soft furniture while the boot takes up to 410L of cargo.
The rear seats can slide forward for a quick 110L of extra space while the rear bench can be folded over for even more carrying capacity. Most doors and windows move or lock electrically, some models offer a glass roof while all relevant safety goodies (like ABS, driver aids and airbags) are also present.
A couple of niggles worth noting are the initially cumbersome operation of Citroën’s media screen; which also houses the climate controls. This means you won’t find the ventilation settings without a practised hand, nor will they respond as well as physical controls when used in a dirty, bright or bouncy situation.
If I may nit-pick a little more, I find the choice of paint colours (grey, white or beige) rather limiting but at least they’re beautifully contrasted by the orange “Exterior Colour Pack”. I’d complain about black being the only available interior hue but that also goes for 95% of the C3 Aircross’ competition. And they don’t have limited supply lines…
Never mind. Let me quickly sum up my driving experience with this bulbous-looking soft-roader. Its front wheels are driven by a 1.2-litre turbo-petrol 3-cylinder (81kW & 205Nm) via a slow but butter-smooth six-speed automatic gearbox. Visibility is good for a modern car and so are the headlights and brakes.
100 to 0km/h took 2.95 seconds and just 38.68 metres.
Outright performance is so-so, our best 0-100km/h attempt took a sub-par 11.14 seconds while 400m fell in 17.72 seconds at 125.22km/h. Thanks to superior turbo-torque and that aforementioned transmission, civilised speeds around town and the countryside are easily achieved or maintained.
Citroën claims an average of 5.1L/100km from the 45L tank although we saw high sixes with our mixed route driving. The 205/50R16 tyres fitted here provide excellent grip while their generous side-walls harmonise well with a soft-ish suspension which eventually produces body roll and front-end under-steer.
So, should you buy this over Japanese competitor A or German rival B? If you’re after resale values, dealer count and brand stability… probably not. But if your life needs a bit of brightening up after that whole virus debacle, why not treat yourself to a well-priced, well-spec’d and orange-clad pavement hopper?