The Citroen C3 has been designed in India for India, but does it offer a compelling package for Indian customers?
If automotive history is not your strongest subject, let me fill you in on what Citroen stands for. One of the oldest carmakers in the world, Citroen has always been at the forefront of innovation in the automotive world and has produced some of the most iconic cars of the past century. With cars like the 2CV – which revolutionised mobility in France during the post-WWII period of economic and material scarcity and in much of Europe later on – and the sublime DS – which, even after seven decades of its debut, still looks futuristic and is one of my all-time favourite cars – Citroen has had an eventful past, something that any automotive brand would be incredibly proud of. Citroen’s innovation, however, is not just limited to iconic cars but also extends to technologies like hydropneumatic suspension. It was also one of the earliest adopters of front-wheel drive.
Now, when the brand decided to enter the Indian market, it knew it would have to come up with a product designed and built from scratch for the Indian market, for a European product was unlikely to succeed in the vastly different Indian market. Enter the brand-new C3 hatchback. But the question is – does the C3 suit the needs of the Indian consumer and offer worthy competition to its Japanese and Korean rivals? We spent some time driving it on a wet and windy day in Goa to find out exactly that.
Hatchback or Crossover?
When you first look at the C3, you can’t help but wonder if it’s a typical hatchback or a new-fangled crossover. Well, depending on who you ask, the answer is somewhere between the two. Citroen’s officials say that their goal was to deliver a true-blue hatchback to Indian customers, but looking at the ground clearance, the roof rails, and the amount of plastic cladding, I think the design is definitely inspired by a crossover. Overall, though, I think the C3 is an attractive-looking car – a superb combination of French styling, contrasting colours, and quirky details, all of which make it look very distinctive.
For instance, the 180mm of ground clearance not only makes the car very practical but also gives it a high stance. The front is dominated by a double-chevron grille and a big air dam. Interestingly, the scooped-out sides on both the front fender and the rear quarter panel, which seem to have been inspired by bigger Citroen products, work really well and make the C3 stand out. The other thing that I really like is the orange contrast roof, along with orange accents peppered all over the car, which add character to the car’s design and give it a stylish touch. The 15-inch wheels also add to the appeal and nicely fill the arches. However, surprisingly, alloy wheels are optional – steel wheels with wheel covers are offered as standard.
Spacious but sparse
One of Citroen’s hallmarks has been its focus on making the interior of its cars as comfortable and pleasant as possible for occupants. Now, in the C3, Citroen has managed to achieve its goal in some areas very well, but there are areas in which it has clearly fallen short of the existing benchmarks in the Indian market.
With a wheelbase of 2,540mm – which is quite good for a car under 4 metres – the interior of the C3 feels spacious. The front seats are large and comfortable, and you will not regret spending long hours in them. Similarly, the rear seat has a lot of support for passengers. And even if you are over six feet tall, you’ll find the legroom and headroom in the rear seat to be quite adequate. The boot, courtesy of the large wheelbase, is also quite spacious at over 300 litres.
The C3’s unique exterior design has also been carried over to the interior of the car. Once you get in, the first thing you’ll notice is the 10-inch multimedia touchscreen mounted on the dash, which also offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Our test car, which was equipped with an optional pack, had orange details on the dashboard and contrast stitching on the seats – both of which looked gorgeous.
Now, despite the fact that the cabin is spacious, comfortable, and equipped with some great features, there is a lot of room for improvement. For instance, there is no climate control, which should certainly be offered on the top trim variants. Similarly, there is no manual day-night switchable rear-view mirror – which I think is not acceptable at all. Plus, the exterior rear-view mirrors are manually adjustable, and the instrument cluster is rather plain, which displays only the most basic information. In fact, Citroen also missed out by not offering a rear-view camera, which I think will also be a turn-off for a lot of customers.
So, while the C3’s interior offers enough space, great seats, and good ergonomics, it loses out on a lot of equipment, which could be a deal-breaker for many customers.
On the road
One of the best aspects of Citroen cars has always been their exceptional ride quality, and the C3 is no different. The suspension of the car has been set up very well – it tackles bad roads with fabulous control and, at the same time, behaves wonderfully on smooth and twisty roads. The steering is also quite linear and offers decent feedback.
The C3 is offered with a couple of petrol engine options – while both are 1.2-litre units, they differ significantly. The naturally aspirated unit produces 80bhp, while the turbocharged unit pumps out 108bhp. While both are 3-cylinder engines, their NVH levels, on the move, are well controlled. You do, however, feel a hint of vibration at idle, which is a classic characteristic of three-cylinder motors.
Of course, on the move, the 108bhp from the engine can be quite fun. The engine revs well, and the 190Nm of torque pulls the car along quickly. On Goa’s tight and twisty roads, it was really fun to drive. One might think that with only 80bhp, the naturally aspirated unit would be dull, but that is not the case. Sure, there’s a bit of a flat spot at low revs, but once you’re above the 2,500 – 3,000rpm mark – it’s hard to be precise, for as the C3 doesn’t have a rev counter – the engine pulls cleanly and offers enough power to make driving quite easy. The C3 will only be offered with two manual transmission options – the naturally aspirated unit gets a 5-speed manual, while the turbo engine gets a 6-speed unit. There’s no automatic gearbox on offer, for now.
A balanced package?
Being the brand’s first tailor-made product for the Indian market, the C3 gets many of the basics absolutely right. For starters, it looks unique and stands out for all the right reasons. A lot of things, including the detailing of the design, optional design packs, customisation options, spacious interior, comfortable seating, fantastic ride quality, and overall driving appeal work in the C3’s favour. So, more or less, it has all the basics covered. But, when it comes to features, the Indian market has moved beyond any other market in the world, and it’s here that the C3 seems to fall short.
Overall, while a very promising package, the C3 needs better standard and optional equipment lists to be truly competitive. And yes, the pricing, which is yet to be announced, will be the final piece of the puzzle, which will decide the C3’s fate in the Indian market.
- Citroen C3 Puretech 110
Engine: 1,199cc / 3-Cylinder / Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 108bhp @ 5,500rpm
Torque: 190Nm @ 1,750rpm
X-Factor: The C3 offers a good combination of a striking design, comfort, and fantastic ride quality.
• Striking looks
• No automatic