A swish,‘SUV’ish hatchback

A hatchback with SUV looks, which blends aspiration with affordability.

A hatchback with SUV looks, which blends aspiration with affordability. This is how French automaker Citroen’s global best-seller ‘C3’ is going to stand out in the crowded Indian car market.
I got to take this beauty for a spin during a media test drive event organised by Citroen India in Goa recently. Driving by the erstwhile Portuguese colony’s remarkable landmarks, such as heritage mansions and churches, and through the narrow roads across the green villages has always been a joyful experience. This time, with C3 -- the boxy hatchback with a flying-carpet-like driving comfort -- the journey was even more enjoyable.

Truly Indian,with French DNA
Citroen C3 is manufactured with high level (90 per cent) of localisation in Thiruvallur, Tamil Nadu. The car was launched after putting through a 25-lakh-km test and 250 quality checks. The company proudly says this hatchback was made by Indians, for Indians.

Do note that ‘C3’ is Citroen’s global trademark Citroen for all its B-segment hatch cars. C3 has a proven track-record across the world, boasting an impressive sale of five million units. Insiders tell me Citroen India plans to export C3 to ASEAN and African countries, too, soon. The company had initiated an investment of 1 billion Euro, in 2019, for establishing the brand in India.

The exterior
Simply beautiful French flair styling with the brand logo in the face, and linear chrome grill as a continuous strip ending in DRLs. The heavily sculpted bonnet, big hexagonal air dam and the faux skid plate in brushed silver tone give the hatchback’s front a robust SUV look.

The bulgy character element in the fender and hood make it more muscular. The 15-inch steel wheels with covers come standard; alloys are optional. C3 shares many design principles of the C5 Aircross, launched a year ago in India. The segment’s best ground clearance of 180mm is a big plus.

Cleverly designed interiors
The highlight of the interior is the 10-inch touch screen of the infotainment system. The horizontally set screen gives a feel that is usually available in one or two segments up. With an orientation towards utility and clever cost-cutting, all other elements in the dashboard and centre console are quite impressive.

Wireless Android and Apple CarPlay connectivity are a youthful addition. The minimalist instrument cluster is neat, and gives all necessary information; but skips the not-so-necessary info such as RPM.
The steering wheel is compact with audio-control buttons on the right spoke. The AC vents are neatly designed with a curved rectangle theme.

Seats are high-set; the driver seat has height adjustments. They are well-cushioned and comfy. Headrests are not adjustable, probably another cost-cutting measure.The space between front seats as well as the slightly higher position of the back seats facilitate good road view from the rear, too. Plenty of head and leg room for four passengers make the cabin pleasant.

Your car, your style
For those who want to make their car a style statement, Citroen offers a lot of colour and customisation options in this small car. Ten exterior colour combinations -- four monotone colours (polar white, zesty orange, platinum grey and steel grey) and six dual-tone shades. Three customisation packs -- Elegance, Energy and Convenience -- that offer 56 options.  Two interior trims: the dashboard comes in either pretty anodized grey or anodized orange.  One can also embellish the car, choosing from a range of 70 accessories.  

The engines
‘PURETECH’ 82 is the naturally aspirated 1.2 litre, three-cylinder petrol engine with a power output of 82 HP, and 115Nm torque. It comes with a 5-speed manual transmission, and claims 19.8 kmpl mileage.
The 1.2-litre turbo-petrol 3-cylinder engine ‘PURETECH’ 110 offers 110HP power, and comes with a six-speed manual transmission. It offers a torque of 190Nm, and the company claims 19.4 kmpl mileage.Well, as of now, the both versions come with a manual gearbox. The automatics will join later, says the company. This may be a strategy to introduce the new brand at a killer price.

I believe this hatchback, specifically crafted for India, would be brilliantly placed within a price bracket of Rs 5 to 8 lakh. That’s what the cost-cutting pruning suggests. Citroen has kept it simple for budget buyers. For those who want the luxe quotient, there are customization packs and accessories.
Established models such as Tata Punch, Nissan Magnite, Renault Kiger and Maruti Ignis definitely pose a big challenge to Citroen C3. The limited number of sales points is another concern. For example, in Kerala, there is only one La Maison Citroen showroom now (in Kochi).

Company officials say the second one would be opened soon in Kozhikode. To overcome the shortage of physical presence, the company plans a lot of digital sales channels. For after-sales service, too, Citroen offers digital and remote access modes. Anytime-anywhere-assistance, pick-and-drop for service and maintenance, genuine spare parts supply in 24 hours, etc., are their key promises.

I drove the PURETECH 82 HP and the PURETECH 110 HP models. Both the engine- gear box combos work pretty well.Though there is a difference in the power delivery pattern, the naturally aspirated engine seemed fine for day-to-day use. Citroen is known for its wonderful suspension.  The steering is well-weighted and precise. The high ground clearance of 180mm gives confidence to take the car through bad roads, too.  The ‘tropicalised’ AC works well. An official explained that the company had specifically opted for a powerful, fast-cooling AC unit to take on India’s hot climate.

The writer is a freelance auto expert who hosts tv shows and anchors the youtube channel ‘car kaduva’

A radical approach in style and looks make the Citroen C3 different. The segment-best 2,540mm wheelbase is one of the highlights. And that is evident in the space inside.
Length - 3,981mm
Width - 1,733mm
Height - 1,586mm/1604mm (with roof rails)
Boot space - 315 litres
Turning radius - 4.98m

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