Citroen’s take on the compact SUV is a typically distinctive effort from the French masters of quirk.
After a wilderness period of bland offerings like the Saxo and Xsara in the 90s, the last decade or so has seen Citroen regain its mojo and cars like the C3, the Cactus and the C3 Aircross stand out from the competition with bold styling, bright colours and a peculiar mix of retro/futuristic styling.
Citroen C3 Aircross
Price: £18,935 (£21,855 as tested)
Engine: 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, turbo petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Top speed: 124mph
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
I tested the range-topping petrol engine, the 1.2-litre Puretech 130.
It’s a punchy, turbocharged three-cylinder unit which is fun to drive around the town and powerful enough for comfortable cruising on the motorway.
The chunky gear knob attached to the shift might be in keeping with the rest of the interior styling, but I found it annoying that it didn’t fit nicely in the palm of my hands.
The six-speed transmission itself is very vague, and changing gear feels like stirring soup with a biro at times.
The clutch is high and heavy, while the accelerator feels very light – and I’m blaming that combination for my jerky stop/start driving in the city during the opening days of my test.
As is often the case, however, a couple of days at the wheel was enough to get used to it ,and on the whole I found the light accelerator pedal, combined with the zippy engine and light steering made for a fun and carefree drive.
This isn’t car tuned for the Nurburgring and the high and narrow profile and soft suspension combine for a rolling, bouncy, corner-leaning ride.
At city speeds, the soft suspension and typically-shapeless Citroen seats mean the Aircross is a comfortable drive.
At higher speeds, particularly on rougher terrain – and by ‘rougher terrain’ I mean the potholed main roads of the Central Belt rather than a rally stage – it’s less forgiving.
The interior is probably a love it or loathe it affair – but I loved it. It’s not going to trouble premium competitors on build or material quality, yet the quirky look channels classic 60s aircraft styling and there are countless clever little cubby holes for storing your bits and bobs.
There’s also a sliding rear bench – so if you want to prioritise rear leg room you can give your passengers an extra couple of inches and, if you’d prefer to pack the boot, you can do the opposite.
In terms of practicality, it’s hard to fault the Aircross and while the handling and ride might not be the last word in dynamics, there’s enough to like about the engine and low-speed maneuverability that it should win over many looking for a good-looking, reasonably-priced family runabout.