Citroen C3 Pluriel 2003 Road Test

Wed, 28 May 2003

Citroen calls the Pluriel five cars in one. Or, a car for all seasons. Which was appropriate for the summer day on which we tested it, as you can see by the colour of the sky in the snapshots.

Car number one is a snug hatchback with a multi-layer insulated top to keep you warm on Arctic English summer days as well as in the depths of winter.

Car number two is a full-length sunroof saloon. You can open that top all the way to the back window or any stage in between. Buffeting is minimised by a little wind deflector that pops up on the screen rail, and eliminated altogether by opening a back window.

Car number three is a convertible. With the roof open to the back window, you can swing the window and folded roof assembly into a well in the boot floor. This is harder to describe than it is to do.

Car number four is a full convertible. Undo a couple of catches and both roof side rails can be removed. The other catch is you can’t take them with you separately, and without them you can’t put the roof up. But if you have the car in a place where sunshine is guaranteed, this is the way you will run it.

Car number five is a roadster pick-up. Fold the back seats and you have an open top pick-up bed with a drop-down tailgate, ideal for transporting surfboards from one beach to another. Only you can’t do this in the UK without replicating the rear number plate (an accessory pack for this must soon be on its way).

So that’s your five cars in one. All the windows and the hood mechanism are simple electric. They don’t rely on complex servos and pumps like a folding hard-top, so there’s less to go wrong. But be warned: though the folding, stowing and removing processes are simple, they aren’t idiot-proof. You have to do everything in sequence.

Turn the key and pretty soon you’re rattling along at a respectable rate. With no top and a drop-down tailgate, this is inevitable, but it’s no more your ‘flexible friend’ than the old SAAB 9-3 convertible. Handling is reasonable, though this is no sportscar. Of course, it’s no sportscar. It has two adult-sized rear seats. There is as much if not more room inside as in any small convertible.

The split folding rear seats mean you can run two, three or four up, sacrificing passenger space for luggage space as required. When you’re shopping, you simply pop up the rear screen and drop your bags inside the respectably sized boot, which gets even bigger when you use the hood well at the bottom.

If you were travelling, say to the South of France or Spain, you’d take the whole car including the roof rails and use the extra boot well stowage space for luggage. But you’d still be able to doodle through the Dordogne with the top back in ‘convertible’ mode, so you would not lose any luggage space at all which is quite a big advantage. Get there, strip the car down to its basics, and you’ll have the beach buggy fun car you want.

You don’t get aircon. That’s £500 extra on the 1.4 and part of a £900 extras pack on the 1.6. But you do get goodies like a trip computer and even a pre-settable speed warning buzzer.

Citroen doesn’t even ask too much: £12,000 for the 1.4 and £13,500 for the 1.6i Sensodrive paddle-shift semi-automatic. These prices were already discounted by £500 in mid May, so in the real world you’re asked to pay £11,500 or £13,000.

Not bad for five cars.

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