Review: Citroen C3 Aircross (2017)
Very spacious with a flexible cabin. Soft ride quality means it's mostly comfy. Interesting looks.
Dull driving experience. No four-wheel drive version. Many of the practicality and personality flourishes are optional. Not as cheap as it once was.
Citroen C3 Aircross (2017): At A Glance
- New prices start from £15,085, brokers can source from £12,157
- Contract hire deals from £136.79 per month
- Insurance Groups are between 12–18
- On average it achieves 75% of the official MPG figure
In the classic Citroen spirit of being knowingly different, the company has called its C3-based crossover SUV the Aircross, rather than sticking an X on the end of it, or using the word ‘sport’ in addendum, like most manufacturers do.
Different it may be, but it’s actually quite the apt name: ‘air’ denoting spaciousness and ‘cross’…well, they’ve stuck an X on the end of it, basically. Still, this is one very airy crossover, designed very much in the spirit of a compact MPV – indeed, it replaces the C3 Picasso and Citroen has no intention of losing any of those customers when their leases run out.
The change from MPV to pseudo-SUV is a pure marketing move: the compact crossover is an ever growing market. That said, the Aircross is in no way an SUV because you can only get front-wheel drive versions, albeit a fancy traction control system with a setting for muddy surfaces is available plus there’s a good bit of ground clearance – 17.5cm more than a C3.
Still, while it’s pretending to be an off roader on the outside, inside it makes a good case for being a proper MPV. The Aircross has a bigger boot than the C3 Picasso it replaces, has just as much cabin space and the same sort of modular flexibility. That includes a sliding rear bench, roof rails and a front passenger seat that folds flat.
Sadly much of that is confined to either top spec versions (the sliding rear bench) or the options list. Pick a basic C3 Aircross and not only are your rear bench and passenger seat fixed firmly in place, but the boot capacity drops from 520 litres to 410.
The looks you can make your own mind up about, but it’s probably indisputable to claim this as one of the most interesting looking of the small SUVs. Sometimes forcefully so – on the one hand, 85 possible combinations of paint and contrasting roof colours is a good thing, but on the other some of the detailing is challenging, to say the least. Like the ‘venetian blind’ motif on the C-pillar.
The same goes for the interior. If you're willing to spend extra money brightening things up with a colour pack, that will do a decent job of masking what is otherwise a fairly uninspiring concretion of moulded grey plastic. In fairness to Citroen, the company has had a go – some of the shapes are interesting and there’s no lack of cubbyholes in which to deposit the litter that you and your trendy, urban lifestyle (so Citroen would have it) create.
There’s always a ‘but’ with Citroen though, right? So here it is. The driving position is still flawed, the touch screen is still a finger-bashing frustration and the handling is from the Limp Bizkit school: keep on rollin’. Usually side-to-side.
And yet, there’s a joy about the C3 Aircross that you don’t get with most of these small SUV things. It’s different. It’s fun. And it is so while being one of the most practical of the lot - possibly the most practical. And for many, that will be a winning and definitive combination – the fact that it doesn’t corner as flat as a Ford EcoSport is irrelevant. It’s big, bold and bouncy.
It’s cheap to run too, with power from either a three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol or a 1.6-litre diesel and average economy therefore ranging between 50-70mpg. Choose wisely and it’s relatively cheap to buy as well, starting at around £18,000 and topping out at around £20,000. As usual, the closer to the top end of that scale you buy, the more this feels like a high-tech, high-personality car.
But whatever you spend, the basics of a spacious, idiosyncratic small crossover are intact. And for that reason it’s quite easy to recommend the C3 Aircross.
What does a Citroen C3 Aircross (2017) cost?
Buy a used Citroen C3 Aircross from £16,995
Citroen C3 Aircross (2017): What's It Like Inside?
As with the exterior, the ambience of the C3 Aircross you’re presented with depends very much on how far up the range you’ve bought. Basic Touch cars come with grey cloth as standard, no contrasting colours and no touchscreen.
The design is pleasant enough, but without any colour to break it up – which you’ll have to pay anything between £350 and £750 for, regardless of trim – it can feel a little like it was all moulded from the same blob of grey plastic.
The surfaces are all cost-appropriate too, meaning nothing soft touch. However, the cubbyholes are stretched out a bit compared to the C3 and there’s a little shelf above the glovebox – both small but useful practicality additions.
Unfortunately, much of what makes the C3 Aircross so impressively modular isn’t standard fit. The sliding rear bench is available only with top level Flair cars, so although the claimed boot space is 520 litres, that’s only with the bench at its foremost. With the bench all the way back the capacity drops to 410, which means that’s what basic (Touch) cars get. The fold-flat passenger seat is also an option.
All cars do get 60/40 split-folding rear seats and when you drop them the loading bay is both large (1289 litres) and flat-floored, so loading big things is as hassle-free as possible. It also has plenty of headspace throughout and legroom at the back is especially generous.
All cars get air conditioning, DAB radio and a fair number of safety features – this is a five-star car, says Euro NCAP – including lane departure warning, ESP and speed-limiting cruise control,
And in fact, sticking with a basic Aircross is in one sense a blessing because it means you don’t have to deal with Citroen’s fidgety touchscreen, which not only handles media but also the air con controls. So, if you’re following directions with the nav, say, and you’re a bit cold, turning the temperature up means leaving your map screen. Not catastrophic, but irritating all the same.
Still, the Aircross generally blends practicality and intrigue – even in the most basic versions - in a way that no other small crossover does. And most will be able to overlook their quibbles because of that.
Touch comes with 15-inch steel wheels, cloth seats, DAB radio, Bluetooth, two rear Isofix mounts with top tether, Lane Departure Warning System, speed limit recognition, speed limiter, coffee break alert, cruise control and a speed limiter, automatic headlights.
Feel adds 16-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, front fog lights with cornering, heated & electrically adjustable door mirrors, rear electric windows, seven-inch multimedia touchscreen, space saver spare wheel, LED daytime running lights, leather steering wheel and gear knob, Mirror Screen including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Flair adds climate control, 17-inch diamond cut alloys, auto dimming rear view mirror, automatic wipers, body coloured door handles with chrome insert, keyless entry and start, sliding rear bench, central rear armrest and ski flap, City Pack (incl. rear parking sensors), cost-free choice of roof colours and exterior colour packs.
Child seats that fit a Citroen C3 Aircross (2017)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Citroen C3 Aircross (2017) like to drive?
- Engines range from 1.2 Puretech 82 to 1.6 BlueHDi 120
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 30–64 mpg
Oh how we wish Citroen would spend less time in the design studio discussing the finer points of avant-gardism and more time on the mundanity of driver ergonomics and suspension geometry.
If you’ve spent any time in any Citroen over the last decade, you’ll know how this relatively short, relatively high-sided one will drive. Citroen claims it's aiming to become the "automotive benchmark for comfort in the industry" and while the Aircross certainly isn’t uncomfortable, to call it a benchmark stretches the limits of credulity.
The suspension is on the soft side and the chairs are flat and squishy – so far, so Citroen – but true comfort is about more than slack springs. The problem the C3 has, as per almost every other small Citroen in recent memory, is an awkward driving position. As usual, the pedals are set up poorly because they’re too close to you and there’s nowhere to rest your left foot, other than underneath the clutch.
The steering wheel feels big and cumbersome. And even though the seat is of one-size-fits-all flatness, that also means there’s little lateral support – something you’ll be crying out for whenever you turn the wheel.
Body roll is a primary characteristic of the Aircross driving experience. Lots of small crossovers manage to have a high driving position while also giving the driver the hunkered down sort of feel of a hatchback. This one does not. It feels tall - and you're perched high.
You might like that, though, because it does afford you good forward visibility and makes the car easy to place. Over the shoulder visibility isn’t great though, particularly if your car features the unusual ‘Venetian blind’ decal.
The handbrake is odd too, not only by virtue of an aircraft-style handle that seems to make operating it more cumbersome than a normal stick would be, but also because it catches the end of the foldable driver armrest.
But, keep your driving leisurely and the Aircross is indeed comfortable. Its controls are all light and for such a high sided vehicle it keeps wind noise down quite impressively. Like the regular C3 it suffers from a quite sharp biting point on the clutch, which adds to an occasional sense of overall clumsiness, but you’ll get used to it.
Although there’s no four-wheel drive option here, you can pay £400 for Grip Control on Feel and Flair models (mid- and top models, that is), which is a fancy electronic stability programme with selectable modes pertinent to particular surfaces – snowy, muddy, etc. It improves the car’s chances on such ground, but needless to say it doesn’t turn the Aircross into a Land Rover. Or even a Skoda Yeti for that matter.
The engines are relatively quiet unless they’re wrung out and although the 1.6-litre diesels do offer remarkable economy – there are two of them, with 100PS or 120PS – we prefer the tone and character of the three-cylinder petrol engine. Plus you don't have to worry about DPFs.
It comes with 82PS, 110PS or 130PS and we’d recommend the later pair, mainly because their far superior torque figures make them much more flexible at low revs – the 130PS version has almost twice as much torque as the 118Nm served up by the 82PS one.
|1.2 Puretech 110||52–59 mpg||10.1–11.3 s||109–115 g/km|
|1.2 Puretech 110 EAT||50 mpg||11.8 s||126 g/km|
|1.2 Puretech 130||54 mpg||10.4 s||119 g/km|
|1.2 Puretech 82||57 mpg||15.9 s||116 g/km|
|1.5 BlueHDi 100||71 mpg||10.8 s||105 g/km|
|1.6 BlueHDi 100||71 mpg||12.8 s||104 g/km|
|1.6 BlueHDi 120||69 mpg||10.7 s||107 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Citroen C3 Aircross (2017)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
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