Citroen is on something of a roll, design-wise, and the new C3 Aircross builds on that. Compact crossovers can sometimes look awkward, but this latest addition to a burgeoning segment looks great. Even better news is that it drives and handles better than many of its rivals.
In the Metal:
For a relatively small car, the Citroen C3 Aircross makes a big impact. It features design elements from other cars in the range, like the C4 Picasso and C4 Cactus. As is becoming the norm for the segment, Citroen is offering a wide variety of personalisation options, including 85 different colour combinations. Buyers can alter the colour of the roof bars, headlight surrounds, alloy wheel inserts and door mirrors, as well as choosing a contrasting roof colour and a distinctive Venetian Blind effect on the rear quarter window that sees the colour heat treated into the polycarbonate panel.
From almost any angle the C3 Aircross looks substantial. It features a high bonnet and shoulder line, which is one of the reasons Citroen says there are no funky 'airbumps' on the side. Mid-range models upwards also get more rugged looking front and rear bumpers that are painted to give a metal-like finish along the base.
The colourful and chunky styling continues inside. Citroen has improved the quality of the materials used throughout in comparison to the C3 Picasso before it, and while the rear doesn't feel quite as fancy there are decent amounts of knee and headroom. It is available with a 60/40 split-folding and sliding rear seat bench that can help boost cargo capacity up to 1,289 litres, too.
Up front, it's a familiar Citroen story with a colour touchscreen that manages most of the primary controls including air conditioning, as well as the phone and infotainment systems. The driving position is good, and the seat is adjustable for height and reach. However, the front passenger seat is set high with no option of height adjustment.
Buyers have the choice of a petrol C3 Aircross, and while there is growing interest in a return to that fuel, diesel remains popular in Ireland. The engine we test here is the 1.6-litre diesel called the BlueHDi 120 - although Ireland will only be getting the slightly less powerful BlueHDi 100. With little mechanical difference, it still gives us a good idea of what the diesel C3 Aircross is like.
While not quite as smooth as the petrol engine, the diesel is more refined than we had expected. The turbocharged four-cylinder has enough torque once on boost to make the C3 Aircross feel swift. Yet it still just sips fuel at a rate so slow, it may have you questioning if the fuel gauge is working correctly.
Other positives are the manual gear change, which feels far better assembled than before, and the chassis. It's not often that we get to experience genuinely good ride quality in this segment, but the Citroen nails it. On a variety of different surfaces, it feels better-resolved than the Peugeot 2008 and Opel Crossland X, two cars that this shares many of its chassis components with. Yes, it can feel just a little on the stiff side, but the direct steering and lack of understeer, even when driving with greater enthusiasm, make this one of the more appealing crossovers.
What you get for your Money:
In Ireland there will be three grades: Touch, Feel, and Flair. While pricing has yet to be confirmed for the range, the standard specification for the entry-level Touch model will include 16-inch wheels, roof bars, DAB digital radio with USB input and Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, cruise control and speed limiter and electric windows all round.
Upper trims levels bring the seven-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a reversing camera, LED daytime running lights, 16-inch alloy wheels and the 60/40 split rear seat. When the full pricing structure for the Irish market is confirmed, we will update this section.
The Citroen C3 Aircross is a surprisingly good small crossover and delivers a drive that exceeds expectations. Its massive amount of personalisation and chunky styling is sure to be a hit with buyers, as are the fuel-efficient engines.