A real life Tonka Toy.
Everyone has a good idea sometimes. Take the car industry. Someone at Nissan came up with the idea of designing & then manufacturing a small & a medium crossover – normal cars that look & feel like an off-roader – & with the sweep of a designers mouse, both the Juke & Qashqai were born. So successful has the Nisan idea been, that pretty much all car manufacturers including Bentley, Maserati & Jaguar now have a version. Coming a little late to the party are Citroen, one of the homes of very successful MPV’s, who have bitten the bullet & launched their first SUV, the B sector C3 Aircross.
Inspired to join a sector that saw 1.2 million worldwide sales in 2016, of which 91,000 found homes in the UK, Citroen wanted a slice of the pie. With the PSA purchase of Vauxhall- Opel, the new model is built in Zaragoza on a shared platform with Vauxhall- Opel & in 2018, Citroen will launch the larger C5 Aircross to capitalise on the SUV C sector. Both models are expected to help push Citroen to 1.6 million world wide sales by 2020.
Newly added technologies involve Grip Control with Hill Decent Assist which minimises risk of slipping or acceleration as the vehicle descends in forward or reverse gear. Citroen has provided another 12 optional driving aids which include: the Colour Head-up Display, Speed Sign Recognition and Recommendation, Active Safety Brake, Intelligent Beam Headlights, Park Assist, Top Rear Vision Reversing Camera, Keyless Entry and Start as well as Lane Departure Warning & Blind Spot Monitoring Systems.
Citroen has always built quirky cars, but in the 21st century, cars need to be more than this. Mixing the practicality of it’s MPV range whilst designing a car that looks like an SUV was Citroens modus operandi & with their latest creation, the C3 Aircross, Citroen have made a car that ticks both boxes.
‘Citroen Inspired by You ‘ is the tag line the brand are using to describe themselves & the C3 Aircross is the first new Citroen model to be promoted this way. It’s looks are a progression of those first seen in the DS3 & the C4 Cactus, both of which utilised the idea of personalisation, as well as satisfying the Citroen ideal of being different.
Offered with one standard trim, but with four design choices, the Aircross comes with 85 exterior colour mixes, so there should be one for everyone. There are three models in the range; Entry level Touch, from £13995, mid-range Feel from £15100 & top of the range Flair, from £16900. Citroen expects the Flair to be the UK best seller.
Touch spec offers buyers 16″ steel wheels, DAB, Bluetooth, air con& auto headlights. Feel adds alloy wheels, Citroen’s 7” touchscreen infotainment system incorporating Android Auto & Apple CarPlay, a leather steering wheel, LED daytime running lights & aluminium-effect trim at the front & rear bumpers. Top spec flair comes with large 17″ diamond-cut alloys, dual-zone air-con, auto wipers, electric rear windows, rear parking sensors, keyless entry & ignition, with SatNav integrated into the touchscreen. It also gets a contrast-colour roof & a style pack as standard, with Flair offering the kind of goodies that appeals to UK buyers.
In a sea of similar offerings, the C3 Aircross actually looks refreshingly different. It’s not as sharp to look at as either the Nissan Juke or Mazda CX-3, nor is it as soft around the edges as the Peugeot 2008, Renault Captur or KIA Stonic. No. The Citroen ploughs it’s own path offering customers their unique take on the sector.
From the front, the Aircross is clearly a Citroen. A high bonnet front features the brands signature narrow light cluster whilst underneath are a pair of a rectangular LED lights, which also include built in fog lights on the top of the range Flair. From the side the Aircross looks more like the C3 although the option of Venetian blind strips in several colours, make the rear quarter windows different. The rear is not quite as pretty, making the car seem higher rather than wider & not looking unlike the back of the Fiat 500X & Mini Countryman.
The colour options enhance Citroens take on the SUV sector, with contrasting colours for the roof, headlight surround, wing mirrors, roof rails & rear quarter window Venetian blinds.I particularly like the Soft Sand colour with contrasting orange.
C3 Aircross has a sizeable boot space of 410-litres,which can be extended up to 520-litres with the sliding rear bench option available on the Flair trim level. And, inside the cabin, Citroen have given customers a decent array of cubby hole storage & drinks holders. Front seat passengers will enjoy the roomy feel, with plenty of leg & headroom & in the rear, the Aircross’s high roof line gives taller passengers a bit more room to stretch out in, than in in most of it’s competitors.
Inside the cabin, Citroens designers have created a neat & tidy package. The central touchscreen works well & connecting my iPhone to the to Bluetooth & Apple Car Play functions was seamless. I don’t like the touchscreen heating controls though, which are fiddly & encourage the driver to take their eyes of the road, a they are controlled from within the touchscreen.
Although the C3, Aircross’s interior is most definitely funky, the large handbrake handle being a good example, some of the fit & finish are a little disappointing, with cheap feeling plastics on the door’s, top of the dash & centre console. Where contrast colours are offered, on the air-vents & seat covers for example, this really shines lifting the usual blacks & greys & is another plus point in the Aircross’s favour.
We drove the Feel S&S Blue HDi manual 100 model on every type of road. It’s set up well to handle urban driving, with an easy to use clutch & in our test cars case, 5-speed gearbox. The steering is well weighted & it’s purposeful to drive in town. The seats are supportive & configuring a comfortable driving position is straightforward. Around tighter corners there is some body roll, for the Aircross feels quite tall. Despite this, we didn’t find this car an unpleasant place to be, with the overall ambience most definitely positive.
On the motorway, the Aircross eventually gets up to speed, with our test car taking 12.8 seconds to reach 62mph. There isn’t much mid-range pull & this lack of power kind of spoiled the fun, as with only two of us on board, I would imagine that fully laden, this version will feel very slow. indeed. On the plus side, the 1.6 diesel 100 offers an impressive combined fuel economy of 70.6mpg, backed up with attractive CO2 emissions of 104g/km
Better to drive was the petrol engined automatic version the Flair S&S PureTech 110 auto, which felt sprightlier. As auto’s go, it was very good & we certainly utilised it on the inclines found in the southern Cotswolds. With a 0-62mph time of 11.8 seconds & a top speed of 114mph it was more enjoyable to drive than the lower powered diesel. I’m not sure how well the auto will sell in the UK though, especially to user-chooser SME fleets as the combined fuel economy is only 50.4mpg & emissions 126g/km.
The more powerful diesel though, is the best to drive. This is the BlueHDi 120 manual, which by adding just that little bit extra oomph, has the effect of making the Aircross a bit zippier. Top speed is 114mph with a 0-62mph time of 10.6 seconds. Importantly, this version comes with a bit of mid-range pull & although the temptation currently is to big-up petrol cars, for company car drivers looking to have an Aircross, the superior fuel economy, 68.9mpg on the combined cycle, with emissions of 107g/km on this diesel, plus this version’s extra power, would make this my model of choice.
With more choices than a tin of Roses, the sector that the Aircross sits in is becoming ever more crowded. Citroens version is perhaps the most strikingly different model in there & if you want to customise your car, the Aircross will really stand out. It also offers more internal space than most & comes with spot-on tech for Millenials. Whilst retail customers will buy the petrol version, for us as a fleet publication the winner is most definitely the diesel. In truth, none of the lower powered petrol or diesel engines are much fun to drive, so we’ll stick our necks out for the more expensive Blue HDi 120, which is great fun. It may be unloved by the national press, but it really is loved by us.
A Tonka Tough 3.5/5