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Tested: Citroen C3 1.6 HDi

2011-07-11 10:07

SEAT WITH A VIEW: If you're not entertained by the C3's turbodiesel engine, you may be more taken by the airy hatchback's large glass areas. Image gallery

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Citroen
Model C3
Engine 1560cm3 four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power 66 at 4000rpm
Torque 215 at 1750rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 11.0 seconds
Top Speed 180kph
Fuel Tank 48 litres
Fuel Consumption 4.3 litres per 100 km
Boot Size 300 (seats up, below parcel shelf)
Steering Variable power assistance
ABS with EBA
Airbags Driver and passenger front and lateral, plus curtain airbags
Tyres 16" alloy with space saver
Front Suspension Pseudo MacPherson strut
Rear Suspension Deformable beam
Service Plan four-year or 60 000 km service plan
Price R209 900


Usually when pleasant, unsuspecting strangers compliment me on my choice of car, I smile sweetly, chirp, “Thanks, but it’s not mine!”

Not so with the Wicked Red metallic C3. I’d respond with a beaming “thanks!” before hurling out a useful, “isn’t it cute?”

Total girl gush, I know, but the Citroen’s latest C3 is mighty delightful; certainly a lot better-looking than its bubble-shaped, high-riding predecessor.

And recently the handsome “new” C3 range (can you believe it’s been one-and-a-half years since it was launched in SA?) has received an update in the form of a new turbodiesel engine.


Of course, diesel motors in small cars are not the thing of dreams for South African car buyers but Citroen must have seen enough of a gap in the market to introduce its 1.6 HDi in mid-range “Seduction” spec. Indeed, French diesel engines have traditionally been so good, it would be almost sad to miss out on it.

This means there are no real surprises when it comes to the 1.6 HDi’s performance. Maximum power of 66kW is available at 4000rpm and, as a diesel, its 215Nm at 1750rpm makes this engine pleasurably torquey. In something as small as the C3, all that torque, more often than not, makes it feel as though you’re steering a rocket.

Not that the C3 is fast in any way. Citroen reminds that it has a top speed of only 180km/h (the slowest in the range, barring the 54kW 1.4i) and similarly ambles to 100km/h in 11 seconds but without a stopwatch in the cabin to verify these claims, you’re not likely to be too concerned since the diesel C3 certainly feels faster than it is.

The five-speed manual gearchanger is not the snappiest, though, and seems to prefer a soft touch and gentle changes.  

Besides, the 1.6 HDi’s hardly about out-and-out speed. Its really useful points are its combined fuel consumption of 4.3 litres/100km and its CO2 emissions rating of 110g/km.

The C3’s Macpherson-like strut and deformable rear beam arrangement allow for a hatchback that is nimble and seriously chuckable, though, as a Citroen, its comfortable and quite soft; bearing in mind that the C3 provides the basis for the sublime DS3. Luckily the front disc and rear drum brake combination help to keep the little diesel honest.

COLOURFUL COMPACT: The five-door hatchback C3 is quite the entertainer.


Steering through the electrically assisted system is light and a 10m turning circle makes light work of low-speed manoeuvres.

Indeed, safety is one of the many aspects Citroen doesn’t skimp on. ABS plus EBD and EBA, six airbags and automatic activation of the hazard lights under hard braking or in a collision are standard in the diesel C3. IsoFix child-seat mountings are fitted for the two outer rear seats.

In the Seduction spec, there’s not much to ask for in this C3. All the bells and whistles for which Citroens are renowned are there, including the super-cute panoramic windscreen. In truth, from outside, it looks like the little C3 is battling the effects of male pattern baldness, but of course, it’s a different story from the cabin, especially at night when the “fairy lights” in the beading running between the roof proper and the rearview twinkles.

This windscreen, along with the smaller window in the C pillar, allow quite a lot of light into the cabin, which doesn’t make it feel as claustrophobic, especially for its rear occupants, as its rivals.

On the downside, in full sunlight, don’t look for the sun visors when the ultra-cool Xenith windscreen’s blind has been manually retracted – they're attached to the blind.


There are the Bluetooth and USB connectors, auto headlights and rain sensors, cruise control and air freshener. When Citroen introduced its built-in air-freshener in the previous C4 I tittered a little at the thought and had a ball punching the button that releases more gas into the cabin but, with years and age, I've come to appreciate a car that smells nice.

The Seduction spec’s chromed inserts on the front bumper, door handles, along the window beading and the tail door give the sporty-cute diesel hatch its needed attitude injection but the C3 is not merely about appearances, it is also extremely refined for a car in this class. For example, the diesel C3 was so quiet and comfortable, with all the doors and window closed, an unsuspecting person inside the cabin probably wouldn’t know there was a diesel engine chugging away up front.

In keeping with the car’s small exterior dimensions, the arrangement of instruments and controls within the roomy cabin is compact and clean, with glistening black finishes adding a touch of sophistication. Although used extensively through the cabin, the plastics feel soft to the touch and fabrics choices are warm and cosy.

Thing is, the C3 is littered with little oddities that appear to make travelling by car more pleasant. If you’re looking for a hatchback that happens to make a style statement – on the move or just parked – and is fun while not causing too much damage to your wallet come fuel stop, the charismatic C3 may just be your thing. Plus, it's way more fun to be in than its closest rival - the middle-of-the-road, see-them-everywhere Volkswagen Polo 1.6 TDI, which, with 77kW on tap, also happens to be more powerful.

R 209 900

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