A recent jaunt to Italy provided the opportunity to sample one of Citroën’s more conventional models. This second generation C3 has been out for a couple of years now and although the changes appear minimal, its looks are still fresh.
Unfortunately, once behind the wheel it brought immediate disappointment – both in its size (whatever Sixt car rental says, it is not a medium-sized car) and performance. While the first isn’t Citroën’s fault, the second is a serious failing. Just in case you think I had a duff one, Sixt had given our party a pair of these C3s – equally slow.
In the holiday hire car market, practicality is king. While smaller than we’d hoped for, the car itself has a sensible layout and is reasonably comfortable. I could write of the mediocre build quality or dull velour seats but these items don’t really matter when hauling luggage from the airport. What did matter was the feeble air conditioning – unable to fight the 30-odd degrees C outside temperature – and the almost complete lack of power, be that with four-up or just the driver on board. With a quoted time of over 16 seconds to reach 100kmh, it isn’t just slow, it’s dangerous. Revving the engine hard didn’t help either – it just made more noise.
Of all European countries, Italy is the one where an ability to jump out of trouble is paramount. Joining an autostrade, attempting to join the fast lane and even just keeping up with other vehicles all proved too much for this car. On mild inclines, I had to drop two gears and still often failed to maintain 110kph (68mph). Climbing into the lower Alps, first was the gear of choice; the gap between first and second was frequently just too great. Thankfully, driving in tandem on the autostrade allowed one driver to let out the other so we weren’t forever boxed-in.
It’s not a bad looking car. In fact in any colour other than grey, it looks neat and cheery, the fashionable large grill giving the small Citroën a purposeful nose. With a larger petrol engine or torquey diesel, this would have been very acceptable. In fact, bar the eight valve 1.4, this 1.1 (also only eight valves) has the highest CO2 emissions in the range so there are no tree-hugging arguments to favour this little petrol engine. What it re-enforced is that manufacturers still peddle out very poor engine choices for which there is no excuse. If insurers consider it a lower risk than its more powerful sisters, they should think again. Or try driving one in Italy.
Power: 61PS @ 5,500rpm, emissions: 137g/km, torque: 95Nm @ 3,300, 0-62 mph: 16.5s
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