Bettered with Time Like Wine 

★★★★

Citroen came to me and said “take your pick of our current range of motor vehicles” so l opted for the C3. For a start, the C3 has been with us for 14 years and l wondered if during that time the C3 as l remember it, had got better to still justify it as a viable supermini in today’s current crop of little city runners to the buying public.

The original C3 was frightful. I have driven several over the years and if it did give you feelings they were of gratitude that you got to your destination and were able to walk away from it. It wasn’t that it was a bad car but it was so very cheap in every way and not very engaging. So has it got any better?

It sat parked in the work’s carpark all bright and purple on shiny 17” alloy wheels lost in a myriad of great machinery we had on that day. We called it the Bruise but it gave you anything but a bruise. It bristled with verve on its little 3 cylinder 1.2cc turbo engine. I usually have a problem with 3 pot engines, in that they resonate and jerk around in such a way that I get motion sickness. None of this was evident in the 200 miles I did shooting around the world of Surrey in my purple machine. From low expectations, they rapidly rose with every mile I took to where it excelled itself.

There is a lot of praise to be thrown at the little Citroen so I’ll start with the negatives first. Firstly the rear door openings are small for that of a car its age. Getting in and out isn’t a problem for anyone small like a child. The more rotund of us will complain and then there is poor headroom. Despite its high sides there is limited height in the back for anyone 6 foot and over. And that is my only real complaint which for a car that has seen developments and 3 facelifts over its 14-year life is quite good.

Today in Britain want our cars with a Germanic ride, all taught and poised. Sadly this transfers into the cabin as harshness on the ride. True to say this is no roly-poly Citroen from yesteryear but the ride is compliant and smooth giving no cause for bruises on the bottom. And the handling is fun – though sadly hampered by an over sensitive traction system that kicks in too readily even when switched off. However, what it doesn’t take away from you is the fun of torque steer when all that power of 151lb.ft torque is applied to the front wheels from a lowly 1500rpm.

It’s a hoot to drive. Mind your step though because that little engine will propel it in a forward motion to 60 in 10.6 seconds at a great alacrity that you will get points on your licence!

The rest of the performance figures are impressive too. It loves to rev and at 5500rpm it is pumping out all of its 110bhp. Used in the way that the C3 allows itself to be motored it will kick you in the nuts at the pumps. The urban cycle of 47.9mpg is impressive but you have to drive like the boot is full of eggs to get it. The higher 30’s is where I got it to while enjoying its rapid ability. l don’t doubt the 60mpg combined figure Citroen state if used at its torque maximum.

The fit and finish have been greatly improved. It wasn’t the flimsy C3 I remember. On this model, we get handsfree Bluetooth connectivity that once mastered for it will ask for your PIN number first it works quietly away in the background. In operation, it was clear to use and couldn’t have been any simpler. We also get a reverse camera with guiding lines and the stereo will only mute a notch if the sensors go off. It also had leather seats that while not Aston Martin in quality was up to spec for a top of the range supermini.

The dashboard layout was totally logical and everything fell to hand. What was poor was the glovebox. It is only half the width of the draw. Thankfully you won’t need to put your satnav in there when you park up because it has one built into the infotainment system. Again it isn’t the best out there but l was able to find another route from the garden centre that l didn’t know existed because of the clarity of the screen and colours. I’ve only lived here for a year and it takes a 14-year-old car full of new tricks to show me. And it coped well with that trip to the garden centre. The tall Caprea Kilmarnock fitted nicely laying down and soil spilt was hoovered up without fuss from the hard-wearing carpets.

And that is that. The C3 like all things French has got better with age. It will never have the lustfulness that the DS3 has but then again it doesn’t carry a £4000 premium for 2 fewer doors. And does it still manage to be a viable proposition to those on the lookout for a city runner? Yes, it does. The range starts at £11000 and rises accordingly. The model I was given was the flagship in the range and its price isn’t cheap. If it was more reflective of its ageing design and in view of the newer crop of little wonders out there I would have given it 5 stars.

Likes

Build quality

Ride

Specification and equipment

Loathes

Limited room in the rear

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Glovebox

Some quality issues with paint in the door shuts

The Lowdown

Car – Citroen C3 Exclusive PureTech 110

Price – £17,009 (as tested)

MPG – 60.1 mpg (combined)

Power – 110 bhp

0-62mph – 10.6 seconds

Top Speed – 118 mph

Co2 – 107 (g/km)

Find out more from Citroen.co.uk