Citroën C3 Aircross review: ‘French finesse with a wodge of common sense’
Citroën C3 Aircross compact SUV
Price from £14,745
0-62mph 9.3 seconds
Top speed 115mph
MPG up to 70.6
“I’m just a Coventry girl,” says Linda Jackson with a smile. Modesty is clearly one of her more obvious traits. Others describe Citroën’s CEO as a “formidable operator” and as having created a “French Revolution” at the Gallic carmaker. She’s also the first woman ever to be inducted into the Auto Express Hall of Fame. They named her as: “The most influential Briton working in the global car industry.” It’s an incredible achievement – especially when you consider that Fortune magazine estimates that male CEOs outnumber females by 20 to 1.
“The first hint I got I was going to be offered the job,” she jokes, “is when they asked if I liked travelling.” Since taking the reins at Citroën, she has crisscrossed the globe, working tirelessly to reinforce the marque’s image as a modern and innovative brand that lives up to its “Be Different, Feel Good” promise. And her Anglo-French vision has paid dividends – last year she oversaw the firm’s highest-ever sales across Europe.
One of the driving forces behind her success has been the brand’s bestseller: the voguish C3. But if it’s really being different and feeling good you want, you’ll be even more tempted by Linda’s latest offering – the radical Aircross compact SUV – a butch version of the C3.
You’d think by now designers would have done all they can with the basic template of a box on wheels. But our appetite for novelty twists and quirky styling is insatiable. In the overcrowded compact SUV market, you really need a product that stands out from the crowd – and the Aircross attracts attention effortlessly. But then that’s what happens when you bless a small, chunky car with three wacky grilles and two sets of mismatched headlights. Then there are the high rims, roof rails and colour-slashed rear windows. In this fashion-led sector of the car industry, the Aircross has a look that is either “characterful” or a “dog’s dinner” depending on your sensibilities.
Step inside and the sense of mischief continues – everything from the dials, to the seats, to the handbrake lever has been inspired by cubes. It’s an homage to the 70s. Citroën calls this “modularity” and it certainly feels cool. But it’s not just a fun place to sit with lots of buttons and dials for you to fiddle with. It’s practical, too, with plenty of space and storage. There’s a high level of safety: it earned five stars in its Euro NCAP tests. And, despite the affordable price, it boasts all 12 of the latest driving aids from Citroën. One that will catch your eye is its “grip control”, a system which deals with everything from mud to sand and snow (it snowed the week I borrowed the car, and it didn’t put a foot wrong on the icy surface).
Engines range from a 1.2-litre PureTech turbocharged petrol unit with either 81, 109 or 129bhp up to a larger 1.6-litre diesel. The small petrol is all you’ll need, unless you are covering vast mileages. The juicy suspension ensures you retain your composure at all times, with only the occasional pothole disturbing your reverie. In corners, the car is equally well composed, resisting any stomach-churning body lean, despite having plenty of grip to remain on your chosen trajectory.
It’s a combination of French finesse and a decent wodge of common sense from Coventry. Go Linda!
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