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Five- and six-speed manual and six-speed automatic
Citroen has big growth plans over the coming years and aims to sell 1.6 million cars globally by 2020, compared with 1.2 million today. The French carmaker is therefore going on an SUV offensive with the launch of the C3 Aircross and the C5 Aircross, the latter joining the line-up in the second half of 2018.
The C3 Aircross replaces the C3 Picasso and moves away from the previous car's MPV roots into popular SUV territory with a 5cm-higher ground clearance than the C3 hatchback.
Its funky looks and numerous personalisation options aim to appeal to a younger demographic, while the impressive PureTech petrol line-up helps keep running costs in check for company fleets.
Although it's not expected to be a hugely popular choice, we opted for the 100hp 1.6-litre diesel as we've already driven the 1.2-litre petrol. It has some very compelling running costs, with a combined fuel economy of 70.6mpg and CO2 emissions of 104g/km.
The engine is characterful, with enough pulling power to make decent progress, although it's not as refined or smooth as others we've tested and a little clatter can be heard when pushed. Overall, the engine does little to offend and adds to the overall personality of the car.
Despite my scepticism, the five-speed manual gearbox also performed very well during the test, proving light and slick in its changes and long-geared enough not to feel too hampered at motorway speeds.
Excellent comfort levels
Handling isn't where this car excels; that said, the C3 Aircross is composed, and easy to drive, with nicely weighted steering. Citroen is, however, keen to be something of a benchmark setter when in comes to comfort and the new C3 Aircross delivers on all fronts. The suspension does an excellent job of soaking up all the potholes and bumps in the road, while interior space also impresses, with plenty of head and legroom throughout.
You can also specify a sliding rear bench that can be moved forwards by up to 15cm as well as tilted a number of ways to allow more space in the rear or the boot. Speaking of the boot, there's 410 litres available (which can be expanded up to 520 litres using the flexible bench).
There's no height adjustment for the front passenger seat, though, which means your partner has little choice but to sit very high in the car, and the panoramic sunroof should probably be avoided too as it impedes headroom.
Although very much geared towards the road, the C3 Aircross can also be specified with the Citroen's Grip Control system, which offers extra traction and peace of mind on trickier surfaces or when the weather takes a turn for the worse. We tested this system on a previous occasion and came away very impressed with the car's capabilities.
Choices, choices, choices
As we previously mentioned, personalisation is a key aspect of this new car. In addition to the numerous kit options available, the SUV can be brought in 85 different colour combinations courtesy of eight different body colours, three roof options and four colour packs that add a splash of colour to the roof bars, the headlamp surrounds, wing mirror caps and venetian blinds.
There's also the usual choice of three trims - Touch, Feel and Flair - with the top-of-the-range Flair expected to take the lion's share of sales here in the UK.
Standard equipment is a little on the stingy side for entry models; however, move up to Flair and there's a reasonable amount of value to be had. The interior offers a good mix of quality materials and finishes, with only a few cheap plastics to be found, while the cabin offers lots of vibrant colour and character, making it a very pleasant place to be overall.
Whole-life costs are competitive thanks the car's low P11D value, while residual values for diesel models surprisingly perform slightly better than petrol options, with our car retaining 33.5% of its value after three years and 60,000 miles.
Admittedly though, this isn't the engine we'd go for - we'd opt for the more characterful and refined 1.2-litre PureTech.
However, engine aside, the C3 Aircross has bags of character, is a practical, affordable and stylish addition to the compact SUV segment and definitely earns a spot on the fleet user chooser list.