Buyers love SUVs, which is why Citroen has replaced the C3 Picasso compact MPV with this C3 Aircross small SUV. It has chunkier looks, but all the same versatility, so it's a win-win sort of car.
In the metal
The bold and chunky Citroen C3 Aircross hits the right balance of SUV-lite and supermini, with a bit of MPV in there, too. The stance is pure SUV, even if the off-road looks aren't actually backed up with any models offering four-wheel drive. That just doesn't matter, as the C3 Aircross's toughest task is likely to be the school run, and the kids will love the cool rear lights and the colour combinations that are like a lipstick counter in a department store. It's cute, but not so cuddly that you'll be embarrassed by it, which is helped no end by the smart alloy wheels.
It's more of the same inside. There's some really neat detailing, how wild it is being down to your personal preference. Sure, there are lots of differing plastics in there (we lost count after a while) and the quality of which isn't always at the upper end of the tactility spectrum, but it all looks great, which will be enough for most. Usefully, the C3 Aircross still has some C3 Picasso DNA in there. Indeed, it is MPV-like in its space and versatility, especially if you tick the options that bring a sliding rear seat and folding back for the front passenger seat. The boot's huge for the class, there's plenty of passenger space and, aside from the chunky A-pillars, the view out is good, too.
None of the current crop of small crossovers, the Nissan Juke, Renault Captur and Peugeot 2008 included, drives with any real verve. That's really not a complaint, because after all these cars are bought with practicality in mind, not driver appeal. What the C3 Aircross exhibits then is competence, and plenty of it, as it rides comfortably on well controlled suspension, and is relatively hushed on the move. The turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine provides adequate performance and the automatic transmission shifts smoothly, too.
Actually, that last point is notable, as the six-speed gearbox is now exactly that, a proper auto, rather than the automated manual that Citroen has been using for years. What that means is a fine shift, without the head-nodding gap between gears that defined the clumsy changes of old. Grip levels are good and, surprisingly given its greater height, there's less roll in the bends than in the Citroen C3 hatchback. Just don't expect to be thrilled, or find any part of the driving experience memorable. But none of it is intrusive or frustrating, which is very much a good thing.
Don't take it too far off the beaten path, because while there are SUV looks, the Aircross is only available in front-wheel drive. Citroen will offer its Grip Control package that adds a hill descent system and a switchable ESP setting tuned for things like Sand, Snow and all-road. But really, if you're after something properly off-road capable, then you'll be better served elsewhere - a Dacia Duster, perhaps.
What you get for your money
In Ireland there will be three grades: Touch, Feel, and Flair. The standard specification for the entry-level Touch model will include air conditioning, electrically folding mirrors, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning and electric windows all round. The C3 Aircross Feel adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a leather trimmed steering wheel, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone connectivity, privacy glass, an alarm, electric child locks and the Family Pack. Top-of-the range Flair cars get 17-inch alloys, the ‘Urban’ red interior, keyless entry, satnav, wireless phone charging, Safety Pack 2 and more exterior colour choice.
Prices start at €20,695 for the C3 Aircross Touch 1.2 PureTech 82 petrol model. The entry-level diesel price is €23,195 for the same specification. The Feel line-up starts at €21,995 with the 82hp PureTech engine. There’s also a turbocharged variant of that 1.2-litre petrol unit offered, producing 110hp and available with manual or automatic transmissions (as tested here).
Good looks, almost certain value and a respectable drive add up to a compelling package alone in the new Citroen C3 Aircross. Factor in the spacious cabin and it has even more appeal. Expect to see a few of them around, although you'll see plenty of its rivals too as this sector explodes this year and into 2018.