Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic First Drive Review: Best Budget SUV Or Just A Compromise?

The Citroen C3 Aircross is not new to India. Earlier, with a great price tag and brilliant ride quality, it offered a significant value-for-money proposition. And now, it gets a new automatic variant to sweeten the deal even further!

By Karan Mathur | Photography Sunil Chauhan | on March 8, 2024 Follow us on Autox Google News

If you are someone who has not been following the prices of mid-size SUVs, you might be in for a shock. Top-end versions of mid-size SUVs like the Seltos, Creta, Grand Vitara, and Taigun now command prices north of Rs 20 lakh, excluding registration costs for on-road use. Call me old fashioned, but in my opinion, if you're a senior citizen driving a car as large as the S Class, you may benefit from ADAS, or if you think that sticking your head out of a hole in the roof at 60km/h is cool, perhaps you do need a sunroof, the rest of us, however, don’t have time or resources to spend on such luxuries. 

What most of us truly require is a premium design, enough space for the family, smartphone connectivity, and a price tag that doesn’t make you want to rob a bank. With that in mind, let me reintroduce you to the Citroen C3 Aircross, now available with a 6-speed automatic transmission. So, is the new C3 Aircross automatic the budget SUV we’ve all been waiting for or just a plain compromise compared to its competitors? Let’s find out.

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Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic First Drive Review: Design and Features

Without wasting too much time on its appearance, since you might already be familiar with it, let me just say that the C3 Aircross’ design can simply be described as quirky – It has a distinctively French aesthetic. However, there is no visual difference between the automatic and manual variants – not even a badge to indicate the variance. The only way to identify the new automatic C3 is to look inside. Even here, the design and layout remain identical to the manual version, with the central tunnel housing the tiptronic gear lever being the only distinguishing factor between the two. Now, while it might be fair to say that the new C3 may not dazzle you with its interior design and features as much as it does with its exterior design, it, nevertheless, covers all the bases in terms of features, which includes an impressive 7-inch instrument cluster. It looks clean, and I particularly like the minimalist mode, which only displays speed, distance to empty, and tell-tale lights – a neat touch in my opinion.

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Moving on, another highlight here is the 10.2-inch infotainment system with wireless smartphone connectivity. The user interface is intuitive, and the graphics are clear and easy to read, not to mention that the display remains visible even in direct sunlight. The touch response of the infotainment, however, isn’t as snappy as I would have preferred. While it’s not the slowest system in the industry, it’s also not the fastest. Overall, it offers everything you need, but, then, it does have its fair share of limitations. One of the most significant issues is the lack of an auto AC option, which is simply inexcusable. Another problematic aspect is the short driver handrest – my elbow bumped into it multiple times while driving, causing a serious inconvenience. Other shortcomings include the absence of wireless charging, the all-white upholstery, which can get dirty pretty easily – in fact, it already was at the time of the review – no rear armrest, and the fact that ORVM’s aren't electronically adjustable.

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However, these are minor issues, which you may arise if you compare the Citroen C3 Aircross’ features directly with those of its competitors, like the Kia Seltos, Hyundai Creta, and Maruti Grand Vitara. As an SUV equipped with modern features aimed at appealing to budget-conscious buyers, it does offer all the essentials. Moreover, the Citroen C3 Aircross also excels in terms of practicality –  it offers plenty of storage spaces in the front- and second-row seats, ample space to accommodate everything that an urban professional in his 30s may need, multiple charging points, and seats designed to ensure your comfort over long journeys.

Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic First Drive Review: Engine and Gearbox

The new C3 Aircross continues to be powered by the same 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine, which develops 110bhp and a peak torque of 205Nm. Although the internals of the engine haven’t undergone any significant changes, the engine has been tuned to produce 15Nm more torque than the manual version. Now, in my opinion, an SUV in this category must deal with four types of situations regularly – slow or city-speed driving, rush hour traffic, high-speed highway cruising, and mixed hilly terrains. 

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In terms of city driving, there is a noticeable hint of low-end hesitation or lag, which can get tiring in traffic. However, the C3 Aircross comes into its own after that, exhibiting a significant improvement in terms of performance. Its strong mid-range power delivery is its forte. Step on the throttle, and the car surges ahead promptly and decisively. With a generous amount of torque at your disposal, reaching and maintaining triple-digit speeds is quite a simple affair. That said, it does have its fair share of gruffness and vibrations, as expected from a high-strung three-cylinder turbo unit. One of my biggest gripes is the jerky on-off throttle transitions, which can get quite annoying but tend to smooth out as you pick up speed.

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Nonetheless, compared to the manual version, the 6-speed torque converter Aisin gearbox is a major improvement. The transmission works well in sync with the engine, offering smooth shifts with minimal hesitation regardless of going up or down one gear. Whether you are starting from a standstill or accelerating in gear, the gearbox remains fairly intuitive, keeping you in the right gear in most situations. However, if you like more control, there is always the option of manually shifting gears. I think that while Citroen seems to have cut corners in terms of creature comforts, it has given us the best and most robust automatic gearbox available. If I must point out a flaw, it would be the sticky tiptronic function of the lever. Nonetheless, the overall performance of the unit is commendable and would be my preferred choice over the manual transmission.

Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic First Drive Review: Ride and Handling

Now, let’s talk about the most impressive aspect of the new C3, i.e. its smooth ride quality. The new C3 Aircross offers Citroen’s signature ‘flying carpet’ ride quality, and boy, does it impress! The suspension feels tailor-made for Indian road conditions, excelling at absorbing bumps, undulations, and rough roads with ease. During my time with the car, never did I feel the need for better suspension performance – it truly stands out as the car’s biggest highlight. Even in terms of handling, the Citroen C3 Aircross seems well-balanced – the only manoeuvre that tends to throw it off course is extremely sudden steering inputs. Speaking of which, the steering feel does have some room for improvement – I couldn't help but feel that the steering lacked precision and seemed disconnected. Overall, the C3 Aircross offers a strong package. And while it may not match its rivals in terms of handling, its ride quality is second to none, making it a compelling option in the segment. 

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Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic First Drive Review: Verdict

Now, I seem to have left out a key feature of the new C3, i.e. the option of three rows of seating, which can potentially sway customers towards choosing the C3 Aircross. Overall, the car offers everything you need at an affordable price. While it does have its quirks and limitations, and its competitors may offer a better-equipped cabin, when you consider its pricing and driving dynamics, the C3 does present itself to be an excellent value-for-money proposition.

  • Citroen C3 Aircross

Fuel: Petrol, CNG

Engine: 1,199cc / Inline-3 / Turbocharged

Transmission: 6-Speed automatic

Power: 108BHP @ 5,500RPM

Torque: 215Nm @ 1,750-2500RPM

Price: ₹12.85 Lakhs (Ex-Showroom)

X-Factor: A value-for-money offering, with a smooth automatic ‘box

•  Practicality

•  Suspension

•  Gearbox

• Feature starved

Tags: Citroen C3 Aircross Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic Citroen C3 Aircross

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