C3 and DS3 Cabriolet

CITROËN C3 (7)

 

A bit of Citroën fun

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No one does weird like Citroën. The brand had a rebirth early in 2013 when Sime Darby, importers of sister brand Peugeot, took the reins. The previous importer had allowed poor Citroën to sit quietly in the corner to gather dust. There was no investment, no promotion and no love.

C3:

Yes Yes Yes: hot looks, uber spacious cabin, quality look and feel

Oh Dear Me No: odd driving position, outdated 4 speed auto

The C3 has only a passing resemblance the previous model.

Sadly, the uppy-downy suspension is only available in a few of the top of the range Citroëns now. This was once the hallmark of a Citroën and something those in the know loved dearly.

You could select the ride height, and little gas filled spheres would pump up or down raising or lowering the car. With it came a luxurious wafting feeling even in the sporty models.

I was surprised when that excellent ride came to the smaller Citroëns again without that fancy-schmancy stuff. They feel like a much bigger car and are very comfy even over nasty bumps and they have done it sans the expensive gas/oil system.

The C3 has a new body and interior. It feels much better in both quality and build than its predecessor. Attractive 8-spoke alloys and LED’s front and back are highlights and have given the exterior a real lift. It’s meant to be a light and breezy entry-level Euro hatch, and so it is.

A stylish lad is going to love the weirdness which adds a certain verisimilitude to his lifestyle. My favourite touch of je ne sais quoi is the windscreen which has been stretched so that it wraps right and over the heads of the front passengers.

From inside, it feels like being in the cabin of a 70’s Bell Jet-Ranger. The sense of space is monumental with the windscreen shade back, however the cabin feels almost as spacious with the screen shut. It’s a clever piece of design and one that most car makers try for but rarely achieve.

For those who fancy occasional protection from road-melting Australian summers, the sensible internal shade can be drawn across with a quick flick a well-practiced wrist. It isn’t electric so gives you something else to play with on those long drives.

Agusta Bell206B jetRanger II Belgium 1977

The 1970’s Bell Ranger

The roomy cabin is classy and minimal without being an austere featureless box. The centre stack is neat with piano black surrounds and chrome highlights. It manages to look modern and retro simultaneously. I don’t know why but the C3 and DS3 remind me of the old 2CV. Perhaps this is what the 2CV would look like had it been in continuous development for 50 years? The 2CV had many supporters and I can see those chaps liking the C/DS 3 very much.

My only beef is that the LCD screen is at the top of the stack and the control knobs at the bottom. The climate controls are between the two and it looks odd. It would make more sense for the climate and infotainment controls to be swapped. For me, it’s a quirk too far and there are times when using the system feels clunky because of it.

The Satnav works well, but entry via a twist/push knob falls behind the touch screen ease I’d expect from a premium auto interior. A buyer is going to be having a thorough rummage around in the gusset of auto retail and they will not pay over the odds.

They will also want the latest whiz-bangery with gadgets that would make Captain Janeway green with envy. Self-parking systems are cheap so perhaps a few luxury touches wouldn’t might be in future models?.

However, in true Citroen style, there is a deodoriser the left of the centre air vent, another touch of French silliness.

The Drive is a bit of a mixed bag. Small Peugeots, Citroëns, Fiats and Alfas seem to be made for smaller chaps. If you have big gangly old legs like mine, you can’t get the seat in the right spot. In order to be really comfy the seat needs to be farther back but the steering wheel doesn’t adjust out far enough. Moving the seat closer is fine for the wheel but makes the legs feel cramped especially in a manual.

Of course the seat further back also means the centre console is a bit far to reach without leaning forward. I put this to the test and asked my height challenger hubby to take to the driver’s seat. He doesn’t actually drive so a static test was the best we could manage. As I suspected, everything was tickety boo with someone under 5’8” at the helm. This misdemeanour would be sorted out on a test drive one assumes, so a buyer of the right size is going to be fine and dandy.

The C3 comes in 2 engine specs: the 4 speed auto comes with an 88kw non-turbo 4cyl petrol and the manual gets 60kw. We had the auto so let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first, it has a paltry 4 speeds. The standard these days is 6 at least, with 8 becoming more common and a 10 speed due soon. This puts the C3 a bit behind the times. 88kw doesn’t sound like a lot in the days of 150kw hot hatches, but remember 20 years ago? I remember owning an E36 318i which had a commanding 83kw and I thought I was Jackie!

The C3 feels leisurely but never slow. The auto shifts smoothly considering the slightly Jurassic number of gears. On the highway however, she needs another cog or two. You simply can’t hide the fact that 4th is simply not high enough. The same goes for the manual which is a 5 speed in a time where the minimum expectation is 6.

The place where Citroën always exceeds is ride, and the C3 is as smooth as a baby’s bottom. It’s a great pity that it has’t the famous Hydropneumatic system on-board. It’s expensive, and so good that it has been used under licence in Mercedes Benz and Rolls Royce motor cars for many decades.

PSA, Citroën’s big daddy, is experiencing financial pain meaning both Peugeot and Citroën may have to make a few savings. I wouldn’t expect the fancy suspension in the smaller models anytime soon.

The steering has just the right weight and the brakes are super sharp. Small cars have come a long way so small no longer means mean and nasty. She is a bit twitchy encountering bumps in corners but is generally well behaved. In the town, the C3 is right at home where small means easy to park.

Some of the lads asked me about the plastics, which in their own early C3’s was subject to frequent failure. In other words it was cheap and broke a lot. If “feel” is anything to go by, the quality has improved out of sight.

C3 and DS3 CabrioletIt’s cute and fun to drive and at the end of the day what more can you ask for?

Price: from $25,990
Engine: 1.6-litre four-cylinder, 88kW/160Nm
Transmission: 4-speed auto, FWD
Thirst: 7.0L/100Km, 160g/km CO2

DS3 Cabriolet

Yes Yes Yes: Cool looks, Cool roof, expensive feel

Oh Dear Me No: The roof takes getting used to as it blocks rear vision, 4speed auto

Like her fixed-roofed sibling, the DS3 Cab is the sexier “sister” of the C3. They share the PF1 platform with various other PSA models such as the Peugeot 208/2008/207/1007 and Citroën’s C2 and previous gen C3 as well as the 301. We have written extensively on the DS3 Cabriolet here and love the concept of a “bespoke” range within a range (DS3 existing within the C3 range). The drive is similar but the engines have a bit more beef. Because the base models are so good, the difference between top and bottom is not what it once was. Buying a DS gives you access to a smart lounge in the dealership where you can discretely make your choices. There will be a few examples from which you can choose for immediate delivery, but the idea of the DS range is to pick what you want and have it made to order. It’s a great concept.

The only real downside of the DS 3 Cab is the roof which doesn’t completely fold away so blocks your rear vision. You get used to it quickly so is not really the deal breaker you first imagine. There is surprisingly little turbulence in the cabin and even with the roof fully retracted remains fairly quiet.

The cabins share a classy layout with the C3 and both have vastly improved quality over previous generations. The DS3 Cab follows on from the slightly awkward C3 Pluriel. The concept was good but the execution not so much. The roof worked in a similar way to the DS but you could also remove the roof’s side rails, and leave them at home. That meant there was no way to raise the roof should the weather turn septic. The panels were hard to re-fit and as a result few were sold and those who bought them never took the panels out, why would you?

The DS range has much to recommend it not the least being the fact that you feel special driving one.

Price: from $30,990 (D-Style) $32,990 (D-Sport)
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol or turbo petrol, 88kW/160Nm, 115kW/240Nm
Transmission: four-speed auto (D-Style), six-speed manual (D-Sport)
Thirst: 6.7L/100km (D-Style), 5.9L/100km (D-Sport)

I can picture a couple of well-dressed boys with picnic baskets and acres of gingham as we speak. Either car provides oodles of room for two with enough left over for a few of life’s little gorgeous things.

Would I buy a DS3 Cab of C3? Sure, if I was in the market for a small car, but there is plenty of competition.

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