In many ways, Citroën’s C3 Aircross is as conventional as they come. The driving experience isn’t going to encourage Porsche Macan owners to switch, while the practical cabin layout is unlikely to provoke any major criticism from occupants. But that’s not the case with the car’s exterior. I can’t help thinking that, with the growth of conventional SUVs and the strange fascination, to my mind, with coupé-like SUVs, that the days of upright, boxy cars like the C3 Aircross are numbered.
Until that time comes, I’m determined to enjoy the car’s stand-out-from-the-crowd stance. After some initial scepticism I grew fond of Skoda’s Yeti, and it’s the same deal here. Both cars buck current trends, but after you’ve spent some time with them you start to appreciate their strengths. The C3 Aircross isn’t the capable soft-roader that the Yeti is, but on a practical front there’s a lot to be said for a traditional straight-up-and-down tailgate. Sloping rear doors cut into a car’s available carrying potential and, just like a Berlingo, the C3 Aircross earns extra Brownie points from me if you need to stack the boot high with clobber.
Years ago, I moaned about the trend for elevated driving positions in even the most mundane of regular hatchbacks. Why did I need to feel like I’m sitting on a barstool when driving a Ford Focus or Renault Clio? Alas no one listened, but I’ve welcomed this same design ‘feature’ in cars with a legitimate reason to boast a higher-than-average ride height. The benefits are many, and it’s nice to be able to see over other regular cars to secure that prized parking spot, or just have a better view ahead of our crowded roads. And elderly relatives love the ability to slide straight in as the seats are just at the right height.
I’m not sure my elderly relative would approve of the car’s performance, though. For something unashamedly family orientated the C3 is brisk – and then some. Granted, economy should be the focus here, but the car’s pace is impressive. Maybe a little too much at times, as the engine’s torque can easily overwhelm the front wheels in the wet. And for a small car it punches well above its weight on the motorway, ensuring you don’t get bullied into lane one by the big boys.
What makes the driving experience more enjoyable is the car’s slick manual gearshift. Yes, such gearboxes aren’t long for this world, but I’d rather live with a manual than a sluggish automatic any day of the week. And I think I’ve discovered a plausible reason for the car’s average economy performance – my eagerness to shift up to fifth and sixth at modest speeds is proving to be counterproductive, as those tall ratios should be used more sparingly. Even fourth can be a stretch around town if the car’s real-time fuel consumption can really be believed.
The moral of this story? Don’t be afraid to let the engine revs rise a little, as the alternative is akin to struggling to pedal a bicycle in too high a gear – you’ll be making little progress but expending too much energy (fuel) getting to your destination. Plus, the C3’s diesel motor is pleasingly refined, which makes chasing better economy numbers a civilised affair.
Arrived 13th December 2021
Economy 56.2-67.2mpg (combined) 54.5mpg (on test)