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Review

First Drive: Citroen C3 1.0 VTi 68 PureTech car review

03/01/13

THE C3 has been around for a long while now, evolving with the times and providing stylish supermini transport for a very modest outlay.

In recent times its engines have begun to fall off the pace of development as far as efficiency goes, so to redress the balance Citroen has created two new small-capacity petrol engines for its big-selling small cars.

There are 1.0-litre and 1.2-litre options under the new ‘PureTech’ umbrella with 67bhp and 81bhp respectively. They are essentially the same basic unit with some cost-related technical differences, chief of which are capacity and that the 1.2 has a balancer shaft to reduce vibration and noise. Not that you’d think the 1.0 needs it.

Presented in the latest incarnation of the C3 it represents a huge step forward. Moving down to three cylinders has reduced weight, cut the number of moving parts and vastly reduced the associated friction with the help of new cylinder surface coatings. As a result fuel economy is way up, emissions are way down and everybody wins because power is up significantly as well.

Although the ancient four-cylinder 1.1, which harks back in its earliest form to Citroen’s own AX, is still in the line-up in much changed and improved guise, the new boys are taking over the heartland of the 2013 C3 range with a much better set of stats. On steel wheels the 67bhp 1.0-litre C3 emits 99g/km of CO2, making it road tax-free.

Among the many small petrol engines that have switched to three cylinders the C3’s is somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to smoothness versus vibration and charisma. It’s a very good balance in the real world, offering surprisingly quiet power when cruising while giving you that slight off-beat character when you put your foot down. The three larger cylinders, as opposed to four smaller ones for the same engine size, create more natural torque and a zippy, willing feel behind the wheel.

Three trim levels are available; VT, VTR+ and Exclusive, with an especially healthy equipment boost between the first two. VTR+ is the most popular and for good reason. As well as the basic VT’s remote central locking with deadlocks, CD player with auxiliary input socket, height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel and height-adjustable driver’s seat, the mid-range model adds a panoramic windscreen, air conditioning, cruise control, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and on all but the super-efficient HDi 70 AirDream model, alloy wheels. The eco-diesel gets ESP as standard to compensate.

It’s an impressive everyday specification with many of the key features that are often optional in other cars being standard here. Exclusive trim adds even more, like climate control, part-Alcantara seats, an alarm and larger 16-inch alloy wheels, but arguably VTR+ is the one to go for.

On the road the perky and cheerful engine is mated to a relatively old-fashioned but simple and functional suspension setup that provides good ride quality, partly helped by the latest C3’s lighter front end when the new petrol unit is installed.

One thing worth noting is that while the entire C3 range uses five-speed gearboxes the actual ratios are different and make some models better than others in certain environments. This new 1.0-litre VTi has the lowest gearing in the range, quietly thrumming away at 2,300rpm at 70mph compared to the older – and less powerful – 1.1’s 2,000rpm or so. It’s an odd mismatch at first glance, but this model of C3 is designed for urban speeds where you can make the most of the lower ratios and shift up to a higher gear sooner, keeping fuel consumption down.

The cabin of the VTR+ and Exclusive models is a light, airy place with the panoramic windscreen rising up far ahead of the steering wheel and sweeping up over the front seats. From above the car looks a little odd, like it has a receding hairline, but the effect inside is great and that’s what counts. You don’t realise what a nice feature it is until you step into a car without it.

A light and fashionable range of colours works in its favour as well, helping to give the C3 the air of a car that doesn’t take itself too seriously. But it looks great; its most recent visual updates working wonders to keep the model fresh and stylish in a tough, tough market segment.

The C3 was starting to lag behind the competition but the PureTech engine has given it a new lease of life. It’s an enjoyable drive, affordable and a great looking car to own.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Citroen C3 VTi 68 Exclusive, £TBC.

Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol producing 67bhp and 70lb.ft.

Transmission: five-speed gearbox driving the front wheels.

Performance: Top speed 101mph, 0-62mph in 16.2 seconds (steel wheels 14.2 seconds).

Fuel economy: 64.2mpg (steel wheels 65.7mpg).

CO2 rating: 102g/km (steel wheels 99g/km).

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power2 (lower than average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy4 (better than average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups4 (lower than average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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