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Thursday 23 November 2017

Citroen's little star gets a sprinkling of DS3's magic dust, but will it scare Fiesta?

With well over three million sales since its launch in 2002, the Citroen C3 is the brand's biggest-selling model and only a fool would tamper with it.

Adapting the old "if it ain't broken, don't fix it" approach, the French car giant stuck with the winning formula and simply improved on its weaknesses and played to its strengths.

So, what you have here is one of the most comprehensive facelifts (because of the all-new petrol engine line-up) we've seen in years.

Now, run-of-the-mill mid-life refreshers generally consist of a tweaked grille, alloy upgrade and a few other cosmetic changes.

Not here... non monsieur.

Our Gallic friends have given the little hatchback the Full Monty (sorry, de Gaulle didn't have the same ring to it) and even comes in a distinctive new shade called 'Encre'.

She now has a body with curves that would rival Vicky Michelle and an interior that Jean Paul Gaultier would be proud of.

Throw in a host of uber efficient new engines and suddenly the motoring press begin to take notice.

A slick advertising campaign accompanies the new offering and it's been billed as the new C3 which will take you 300kms further on a tank of fuel than its predecessor and comes with three years' free servicing.

A bold statement indeed, and one we were looking forward to picking holes in as this reviewer had less than fond memories of its older brother.

Now don't get me wrong, the old C3 was more of a melon than a lemon and simply lacked excitement. It had the handling ability, drive dynamic and urgency of the same rotund fruit. Since then though, we've had the pleasure of the DS3 and the monstrously fast DS3 Racing, so we figured a little sprinkling of magic dust might just do the trick.

From the front, the new offering gets a 'smiley' new face with restyled grill featuring the larger double chevron and bumper-mounted LED daytime running lights.

Inside we start to see the influence of the DS with a similar strip running around the dash and available in different colours.

Build quality in the cabin has noticeably improved, with the use of more inviting, soft-touch materials and the white dials look sporty and smart.

The entry level VT is fairly basic and standard kit includes front electric windows and mirrors, ABS with EBD/EBA (emergency Brake Assistance) and multi-function onboard trip computer.

Opt for the mid-range Connected model and she comes with air con, Bluetooth/music streaming/USB connectivity, LED lights and front fogs.

The top-end VTR+ gets 15-inch alloys, cruise control, leather steering wheel and interior chrome package.

But it's under the hood where you'll find most of the changes and mainly in the guise of the 3-pot petrol engines. There is a choice of a 1.0 litre or 1.2 litre churning out 67 and 81bph respectively and CO2 emissions of 99g/km and 107/gkm – bringing 7 of the 8 C3 models on offer here into Tax Band A3 (€190 a year).

It also means fuel consumption of between 4.3 and 4.5l/100km (63-66mpg) which is impressive (18mpg or 300kms per tank more than the old 1.1 VTi).

It's a pity the same can't be said about the ride, which is sluggish to say the least. It lacks the refinement, precision and downright fun of the Fiesta, which is also packing a three-cylinder under the bonnet.

That said, it is one of the most comfortable superminis on the market and the Zenith Panoramic windscreen (a €400 option) which slides almost back to the B pillar is nearly enough to sway you the other way.

A huge improvement, but its biggest flaw is the fact that it's not a DS3.

Prices for the C3 start at €16,025.

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