Citroen C3 Aircross SUV drive review: Brave attempt to challenge the champions
- Peppy turbo engine across variants
- Comfortable cabin
- Third-row seats as option
- Feature list rather bare
- No automatic gearbox
The mid-size SUV space in the Indian car market is absolutely buzzing and almost every single vehicle manufacturer has an offering in the segment. And those who do not yet have a model here are all set to storm in to mount a challenge. Among these players is Citroen India, one of the newest car brands to have entered the market. The Citroen C3 Aircross will be its fourth model here but one that holds the maximum potential.
Citroen India entered the market in 2019 and launched the C5 Aircross as its flagship model in 2021. This was followed by the C3 hatchback in 2022 and the eC3 all-electric vehicle earlier this year. But its absolutely serious intent for customers here may manifest only now as the C3 Aircross mid-size SUV is making some very big promises.
The mid-size SUV segment in India is unique because it has challenges and opportunities in near equal measure. The likes of Hyundai Creta, Kia Seltos, Mahindra Scorpio-N and Tata Harrier dominate the field but Maruti Suzuki, Skoda, Volkswagen, MG Motor India and Toyota have solid options here too. Honda is all set to join the fray with its Elevate as well. To carve out a niche space then - and offer a compelling model - is no easy task. ButCitroen underlines it isn't in India for the easy tasks even as it highlights its models as value propositions.
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What does the Citroen C3 Aircross bring to the segment then and does it possess the ingredients to cook up a fresh new storm? Here is our first-drive review of the incoming Citroen C3 Aircross SUV:
Also watch: Citroen C3 Aircross SUV: First drive review
Citroen C3 Aircross: Exterior Styling
The C3 Aircross is a smart looking SUV that assimilates sporty styling cues with muscular aesthetics within the overall design dynamics that make Citroen vehicles distinct from those of other brands. And while perceptions obviously wary from person to person, the C3 Aircross is more than likely to receive positive response to its exterior cues.
The face of of the model where much of the design elements have been carefully imbibed. A solid front grille gets the Citroen logo on top and is flanked on either side by Y-shaped LED DRLs. The headlight sections sit just below although these are fitted with halogen bulbs, not LEDs. There is also a silver skid plate towards the bottom for a bit more visual character.
From the side, the C3 Aircross' 200 mm ground clearance is very evident while the 17-inch diamond-cut alloys look quite appealing as well. There is cladding on the side doors while roof rails complete the profile here.
As far as the rear is concerned, the SUV gets 3D jewel-effect tail lights, rear spoiler and grey skid plates towards the bottom. The 'Citroen' and 'C3 Aircross lettering is placed prominently on the trunk.
Overall, since the C3 Aircross and the C3 are both based on the C-cube platform, there are several similarities in the design language of the two models. But where the SUV also excels in is its best-in-class height and wheelbase which gives it a good road presence and offers the promise of more space in the cabin.
|Citroen C3 Aircross: Dimensions|
|Height||1,665 mm/1,669 mm|
|Boot space||511 litres|
Citroen C3 Aircross: Cabin Highlights
If the C3 Aircross is a bag full of aesthetic goodies from the outside, the cabin is a mixed bag at best. The starry highlight here is, of course, the third-row seats which would make it ideal for a certain niche set of buyers looking to pack in more family members but unwilling to compromise on the SUV body type.
That wheelbase of 2,671 mm is important here regardless of whether one opts for the conventional five-seater version or the five plus two. And the company is underlining that this here is ‘five plus two’ and not seven because space in those last row seats is at a precious premium. Getting in and out is quite easy but the two adult occupants would still be crammed once locked into their places. To be fair, having the option of these seats is great even if being confined here - especially on long drives - surely won't be.
The two seats can be easily detached from their respective clip holdings and velcro straps and stored away when not needed. The entire process of detachment and re-attachment won't take much time or effort - around a minute for us during the process of this review.
The five plus two seat version also gets roof-mounted AC vents for quicker cooling but quite strangely, there is no rear AC vent in the conventional five-seat set up - roof or behind the center console. Thankfully, there is decent space on these second-row seats with generous amount of leg space, knee space, feet space and head room. Ideal for two, three adults seated side-by-side, however, would be a tight fit. In the five-seat layout, there is an armrest in the middle and the seats themselves can be folded down in 60:40 split. This opens up even more options for cargo even if the over 500 litres of dedicated boot space is the best in the segment.
But the business end of any car cabin is the driver and front passenger area, and the C3 Aircross delivers only partially here. The 10.2-inch main infotainment screen is par for the course and puts out a clear rear-view camera feed with guidelines. It also supports wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay even if there is no wireless phone charging option. Old-school USB ports mean that iPhone users will have to carry conversion cables or power banks.
The dashboard, complete with two colour options to choose from, and center console is well designed and so is the steering with its mounted controls. The seven-inch driver all-digital display puts out clear information even if the layout is still a tad too arcade-ish.
The seats have decent amount of cushioning but the front two seats are a tad bit narrow. However, a relatively high drive height helps elevate the experience of being inside an SUV indeed. But where Citroen misses the proverbial bus is in the additional feature list. No sunroof of any size is a big miss, considering it is a crowd-pleasing highlight. There is also no seat ventilation. Or electronically-adjustable driver seat. Or air-purification system. Or ambient lighting. Or even a roof handle for the front passenger. Some of these are essential and some of the others are for bragging rights and a meaty brochure. For those measuring the C3 Aircross with its Korean rivals, the bare-ish feature list would be a put off even if some of what is mentioned above are likely to be offered as optional at additional cost.
Overall, the C3 Aircross offers a spacious cabin and benefits from that segment-first option of third-row seating. All the seats are quite comfortable but the feature list on the model straight out of the factory leaves much to be further desired.
Citroen C3 Aircross: Drive Dynamics
The Citroen C3 Aircross gets the same 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine that also finds placed under the hood of the C3 hatchback. The clever bit is that the company will offer this turbo motor right from the base variant up.
This engine has already earned the repute of being a solid workhorse and despite the larger dimension of the C3 Aircross, retains its punchy and peppy traits. It comes mated to a six-speed manual gearbox which has large throws and the pairing is quite ideal for a spirited drive.
The C3 Aircross is a fun car to pace forward or even push, responding to the each gear shift well. Triple-digit speeds come up fairly quick and even at high speeds, the SUV remains quite composed. The steering wheel is also nicely balanced and the C3 Aircross is at home whether being driven within city limits or beyond.
Another big feather in the cap is a beautifully tuned suspension that makes the C3 Aircross a very comfortable car, regardless of the road conditions. It does not have 4x4 capabilities but for almost every kind of Indian road challenge, the SUV sails through.
Overall, the C3 Aircross shines and shined quite bright with its drive traits and the only blemish here is the unavailability of an automatic gearbox of any kind.
Citroen C3 Aircross: Verdict
The Citroen C3 Aircross benefits enormously from many of its segment-best or segment-first highlights but at the same time, is let down in many ways because of some missing elements. Novelty is in its favour but the C3 Aircross is definitely not an all-rounder that will bring down the champions.
Then again, maybe it is not even trying to snatch the crown but enter as a strong proposition for a brand that is still looking to gain a larger appeal among buyers in India. In that sense, how well the C3 Aircross is priced would have a deep impact on its fortunes and that of Citroen here in India. The company is known for over-stretching its prices but an aggressive surprise with this SUV would work like a charm.