Astonishing deals such as cashback and free insurance seem available on a near permanent basis; no one pays list price for a C3. The 1.4 HDi is especially impressive: punchy, refined and, above all, economical. But all engines are responsive and deliver reasonable performance. The only concern is the quality of the interior – there are too many sharp edges and flimsy plastics.
Entry-level L has power steering, remote central locking and twin front and side airbags. LX has electric front windows, height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, and remote audio controls. SX models add air conditioning and rain-sensing wipers, while the range-topping Exclusive has climate control, cruise control and heated door mirrors. XTR models have faux 4x4 looks with matt black plastic bumpers, a higher ride height and roof bars. VTR models arrived in 2005 with a bodykit and 16in alloys.
C3 feels comfortable around town and on the motorway, but not so good on the backroads where it feels wallowy and unrefined over potholes. Grip can be a problem around greasy roundabouts and C3 rolls more than other superminis.
Upright driving position is commanding and almost MPV-like, while the well-laid out dash is intuitive and easy to use; all controls are light and logical. Front passengers should have no complaints: it’s light, airy and spacious. But those in the back don’t have it so good. It’s too tight for three adults, headroom is restricted and the seats are too spongy for long journeys. C3’s boot isn’t particularly impressive as it’s smaller than rivals and difficult to access because of a high sill. Fixed rear seat base means seats can’t fold totally flat.
Great selection of petrol and diesel engines kicks off with the economical 1.1. Most refined is the 1.4 16v petrol unit: it’s responsive and copes well with motorway speeds. 1.4 diesel is punchy and astonishingly economical – 65mpg is achievable in everyday driving. Stop & Start technology, which switches off the engine when the car is at a standstill, is offered on 1.4 SX models from 2005.
A four star Euro NCAP rating is as good as you’ll get on a supermini. ABS and side airbags on most models is reassuring. The C3 won supermini category at the 2004 British Car Security Awards, run by Thatcham and the Department for Transport; strong locks and immobilizer are standard.