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2022 Citroen C3 review, first drive - does the new SUV-themed hatch leave a mark?

Tuhin Guha Updated: June 15, 2022, 06:45 AM IST

The Citroen C3 is what counts for Citroen, and by extension, Stellantis in India. While the C5 Aircross served as a highlight reel for the brand, the C3 is what will establish it in the mainstream in India. No effort seems to have been spared, the C3 is over 95 per cent localized and makes its global debut here as Citroen's first push outside of its traditional markets. But it enters a segment that has been notoriously difficult to breach for new carmakers entering India. So does the Citroen C3 have what it takes to leave a mark?

2022 Citroen C3 dimensions, exterior

At first, it's challenging to tie the Citroen C3 into one specific segment. Not surprising considering Citroen has never been known to follow convention, but the company insists this is a B-segment hatchback. Through that lens, the C3 does leave a good impression. It looks substantial and attractive, mainly down to its size and overtly SUV-themed look. The C3 is marginally smaller than a Renault Kiger and has an SUV-like 180mm of ground clearance.

Citroen's design team have done a fine job of interpreting the brand's latest design philosophy into this constrained exercise. So you have the new face with the chevrons extending to the crossed DRL signature. The cuboidal theme is also well established with the large air dam and its contrasting layered look. The cross-motif continues with the silver scuff plates while the C3 looks beefed up with the substantial cladding, even the optional bright orange contrasting elements seen on the top trim here are well integrated. The bodywork is again typically Citroen with its soft surfaces and the cuboidal indents in the bonnet and side profile. The body panels are well fitted and the sheet metal itself is thick and hefty reassuringly.

Viewed in profile, the C3 doesn't look awkwardly stanced thanks to the well-judged proportions and the contrasting colours in this dual-tone variant, the signature air bumps have been nodded at here too. Although, the significant cost-cutting that went into making this car is apparent with the flip-type door handles and old-style fender-mounted indicators. Alloy wheels are also an optional extra but you can further spruce up the car with the many customisation options. The rear is again convincing as a crossover with the prominent rear haunches, the small but intricate taillamps and the heavy cladding.

2022 Citroen C3 interior, features

The expressive and unconventional theme from the outside of the Citroen C3 carries over to an extent on the inside too. The flimsy handles aside, you enter through some fairly hefty feeling doors which shut with a good thunk. The dashboard is again very well thought out with its layered look and the contrasting panels in the top half. The pockmarked panel in front of the passenger(grey or orange) does brighten up the space and the smaller silver element below doubles up as a useful tray.

The intuitive 10-inch touchscreen, backed by steering-mounted controls and wireless phone pairing, is the centrepiece of the cabin but it must be said that the different materials all feel convincingly put together. There aren't many stray panel gaps and the plastic, though hard and scratchy, feels tough and hard-wearing. Much of the switchgear also feels well weighted for this segment, aside from the flimsy air vents. In fact, the ambience inside does a good initial job of overshadowing what could be the C3's biggest flaw, its distinct lack of features.

The basic digital instrument cluster, again reminiscent of the slightly eccentric one in the C5, lacks a tachometer and has only a basic trip computer. You get manually operated mirrors, no separate central-locking button, and there's no driver control for the rear power windows. Although Citroen says some missing features will be available as accessories and more may be added as life-cycle updates.

But if you can look past this, the Citroen C3 impresses with its space and comfort. In this sense, Citroen has done well to recreate the essence of its brand at this price point. You are well perched in your seat, 100mm higher than a regular hatchback, there's height adjustment too. You can see out of the C3 very well and it's easy to find a good driving position. The front seats are especially comfortable with their heavy underthing bolstering and rich padding. Space too is not a problem with the large foot wells and shoulder room.

The situation is much the same in the rear, there's room for two here easily. The glasshouse is large and airy, there's good legroom and headroom, and like in the front, the bench may look bare but is supportive and well-padded. The only issue we faced is that the rear wheel well eats into the door opening, hampering ingress/egress.

Practicality is well-taken care of. You don't get rear AC vents but the India-specific AC unit seems to do a fine job of keeping out the hot, muggy Indian summer. There are thoughtful storage spaces in the centre console, although the plastic quality is a degree lower than the top half of the dash and you even get a clamp holder and guiding rails for your phone. The door pockets are large, there's a smattering of charge ports and the boot is a sizeable 315 litres.

2022 Citroen C3 1.2-litre N/A driving impressions, fuel-efficiency

The Citroen C3's biggest attribute is the way it feels on the move. It's clear early that Citroen has a solid mechanical package on its hands with this localized C-Cube architecture. The C3 drives with confidence that's difficult to find in this segment. It feels substantial on the move, there's none of that tinny or crashy feeling over broken roads that many rivals suffer from.

As you would expect of the Citroen, ride quality is exceptional. Only the sharpest potholes come through, but even this is a well-damped sensation. On smoother surfaces, the C3 feels solid and tied down with no twitchiness even at three-digit speed. Here, high-speed undulations don't unsettle the car either although there is some noticeable wind noise around the mirrors.

Despite the SUV-like height, the C3 feels stable around bends, there's not much body roll and body movements are progressive and predictable. The steering, though not the lightest, you'll find is well-judged in its heft and ratio. But it could do with a bit more directness at higher speeds.

The two 1.2-litre engines on offer complete this impressive driving experience, both locally manufactured and developed for this architecture. The base naturally aspirated motor will be the more popular choice, and with its demeanour, will cover most of your needs. There's no real inkling of it being a three-cylinder; vibrations are very well controlled, and even the thrum from the engine isn't harsh. This gets better on the move with the way this motor delivers its 82PS and 119 Nm. The low-end spurt of a small Maruti Suzuki is missing but the Citroen is equally easy to drive. The wide and linear powerband means that there's a steady supply of grunt on offer in most situations.

The performance builds naturally through the powerband and despite the efficiency-focused gearing you're never really left wanting for grunt say when you are crawling through traffic or making up a gap. Another positive of this set-up is that gear changes aren't a common occurrence, you can build revs from even higher gear than usual without the engine stuttering. The gearbox itself is reasonably easy to use. The gates are well-defined and the throws are not too long. Pair that with a light, progressive clutch and the lack of an automatic, another notable miss from Citroen, isn't too much to deal with. Also worth mentioning is the impressive anti-stall function on the Citroen C3, you'll find it very difficult to stall this car even on inclines! Fuel efficiency too is acceptable for this segment.

2022 Citroen C3 1.2 turbo driving impressions, performance

The 1.2-litre turbo is for those looking for a much brisker driving experience. The differences in the outright and in-gear acceleration times seen below make this immediately apparent. This motor is similarly linear and refined but the 110PS and 190 Nm feel even more accessible.

Overtakes and reaching three-digit speeds are far simpler and there is generally a livelier experience from behind the wheel with the added performance. You seem to be able to fully exploit the strong mechanical fundamentals of this car and should b your pick if you want a more elevated driving experience. There's little to choose between the two cars in terms of ride and handling charter but the faster one does feel just that bit better tied down. The braking performance is very similar in both versions and the C3 stops confidently with a progressive brake pedal.

2022 Citroen C3 safety

Safety is another point of contention with the Citreon C3. You only get the government-mandated safety equipment and features like ESC, a reversing camera(to be available as an option soon) or even a day-night mirror are missing. Although, the architecture seems inherently strong which should be a positive.

2022 Citroen C3 price, verdict

The Citroen C3 feels like a true Citroen, not just because of the way it drives but also in the way it breaks away from convention. The C3 impresses with the space and comfort it offers and the solid driving experience from both variants. However, the stark lack of features and the missing automatic will have to be offset by equally unconventional pricing(Rs 5 to 7 lakh) to make the Citroen C3 reach its full potential.

2022 Citroen C3 1.2-litre N/A real-world mileage, performance

Performance

0 to 100 kmph - 14.4s

30 to 50 kmph(3rd) - 4.5s
50 to 70 kmph(4th) - 6.1s
60 to 80 kmph (5th) - 8.1s

100 to 0 kmph - 44m, 3.4s

Mileage

Overall fuel-efficency - 16.73 kmpl

2022 Citroen C3 1.2-litre turbo real-world performance

0 to 100 kmph - 10.6s

30 to 50 kmph(3rd) - 2.9s
50 to 70 kmph(4th) - 4.0s
60 to 80 kmph (5th) - 5.4s

100 to 0 kmph - 44.6m, 3.2s

Also read,

Citroen to have 30 dealerships in India by 2022 end

2022 Citroen C3 to be a premium B-segment offering

Made-in-India Citroen C3 compact SUV makes global debut, launch in 2022

Citroen to launch its first affordable EV in India by 2023, C3 SUV-based

Image gallery: 2022 Citroen C3

Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 5.71 Lakhs
Displacement
1198cc
Transmission
Manual
Max Power(ps)
82
Max Torque(Nm)
115
Mileage
19.8 Kmpl

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