► Citroen’s facelifted C3 Aircross driven► Starts at £19k
► Angrier face, weird quirks
Citroen has undergone a proper transformation in the last few years. Its focus on comfort, its attitude towards installing interesting quirks into its cars to make them genuinely feel different and a sometimes-laissez-faire approach to even those most rigid of market segments – just look at the C4 X and C5 X – really makes it stand out.
Still, though, Citroen still needs to pay its bills – and having a car in the small SUV segment is a must. The C3 Aircross has been its entrant since 2017, offering a squishy and cutesy option for that huge number of potential buyers to ponder. Now, though, the C3 Aircross has gotten a little sharper.
Well, okay – I’m specifically talking about how it looks, and mainly at the front end. It’s a bit of a confusing one, really – the fact it was so cutesy looking before the refresh was a real differentiator to all of those angry-looking rivals out there. Now it’s just one of many others.
And, in the metal (and to our eyes… you may think differently when you see one) it looks frumpy and awkward. Like someone tried to design the kind of car a Martian would drive – but not in a cool, cyberpunk, space-age kind of way. It’s ugly. Plain and simple.
The interior has largely been left unchanged compared to the pre-facelift, apart from a new cupholder design and storage area in the centre console. Every C3 Aircross has alloys, LED headlights, cruise control, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning and CarPlay/Android Auto as standard. Prices start at just over £19k and top out at £25k.
As a whole, it’s a weird interior to spend time. There are squircles scattered around everywhere, funky instruments to look at, plus some useful storage in the shape of large door sills, useful cupholders and that handy aforementioned new centre storage area.
How is it weird, though?
The biggest clanger is a truly horrid infotainment system to navigate through. The latest Stellantis-based infotainment (seen on the C5 X, the Peugeot 308 and new Vauxhall Astra) hasn’t made it to the Aircross just yet, so you must poke and prod your way around software that feels like it’s based off Windows 95 – and if you pair your phone, it’s not that much quicker. This arguably is just a hangover of it existing for a few years now, but the infotainment software doesn’t get any less frustrating to use the longer it remains in service for.
Then there are ergonomic quirks, too. As well as the infotainment being slow to use, the climate controls are based on that screen. That would be fine if the system remembered your last climate settings, but it defaults to 21ºC with the fan on ‘auto’ every time you start the car – if you want anything different from the off, it requires you to use the laggy screen. Then there’s the daft handbrake with a top-mounted release button (which was used in the first-generation Vauxhall Mokka) which feels unintuitive – especially since it’s right next to the cupholders; if they’re in use, you’ll smack your hand against the cups/bottles in there every time you use the handbrake.
And I, personally, am not convinced by Citroen’s Advanced Comfort seats. You know when you’re in a hotel and you have a really soft pillow? In those first few minutes, you think ‘ahhh, this is nice,’ then in the middle of the night, you wake up with your head sank right into it, perhaps it even touching the mattress beneath. That’s how these seats feel – they’re far too soft to be comfortable over long periods. That’s just me, though – some folks in the CAR and Parkers team swear by them.
The rear bench, provided you pick the high-end Shine Plus spec, can be slid forward and back 60:40, allowing you to prioritise either rear legroom or boot space. However, even when slid fully back, a tall adult can’t sit behind a tall driver comfortably.
Boot space is reasonable, with 410 litres available if that rear bench is slid all the way rearward – that’s better than the Vauxhall Mokka, Ford Puma – or up to 520 if it’s slid furthest forward.
Will it win some points back in how it drives?
I’ll brace myself, then…
Please do. The C3 Aircross we’ve tested has the 128bhp 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine, mated to a six-speed automatic.
Let’s start with the engine. It’s a tried-and-tested one, being used by all brands in the PSA end of the Stellantis business; a three-cylinder that characterfully buzzes like a busy beehive and has a reasonable amount of torque available. Here, though, the engine sounds so rough you could mistake it for a diesel, and it’s linked to an automatic gearbox that has the reaction times of a drunkard. When actually in gear, it accelerates reasonably enough, however – keeping up with plenty of its rivals with similar power.
The steering is woolly and, at motorway speeds, the Aircross quite literally makes the air cross. Wind buffets the door mirrors and roof rails and, on windy days, it feels particularly liable to being pushed around by crosswinds. Tyre noise, too, is prevalent – our car is fitted with all-season tyres that transfer significant tyre roar into the cabin.
Then there’s the ride. The C3 Aircross doesn’t benefit from Citroen’s Progressive Hydraulic Cushions suspension, and it really shows. It’s all over the place, being oddly soft and squishy at low speeds but it crashes over sharp bumps at high speeds with surprising jolts. It’s not all that comfortable.
Citroen C3 Aircross: verdict
The biggest benefit to the Aircross is its value for money. A top-spec Rip Curl model clocks in at around the same list price as a basic Ford Puma, Peugeot 2008 or Vauxhall Mokka and, at the time of writing, its finance rates are competitive by comparison, too.
If you’re set on an Aircross, keep it cheap and get a manual model. If you’re more of a floating baby SUV voter and have a bit of financial flex, then a Ford Puma is far better to drive, a Peugeot 2008 has a far better interior, a Vauxhall Mokka is far more stylish, and a VW T-Cross is far more practical.
Citroen has made some great and truly interesting cars in the last few years. This isn’t one of them.
Specs are for a Citroen C3 Aircross Rip Curl 130 auto