Citroen C3 Aircross First Drive Review | A Different Approach?

  • Nov 9, 2023
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We finally drive the Citroen C3 Aircross and get to grips with what it is, where it fits and who should consider it

Citroen is taking a unique approach in the world of compact SUVs. They're prioritizing practicality over flashy features. Will this approach work for them?

In the market, you'll find a plethora of small SUVs like Creta, Seltos, Taigun, and more. So, what sets the C3 Aircross apart? Well, it's different in more ways than one.

The Citroen C3 Aircross isn't trying to dazzle you with high-tech gadgets or a striking design. It focuses on versatility, comfort, simplicity, and offering good value for your money. Can it succeed in delivering on these promises? Is it worth your attention?


The C3 Aircross is an attractive SUV. It embodies the classic SUV style with a bold front grille, a muscular hood, and pronounced wheel arches. It's arguably one of the most authentic-looking SUVs in its category.

However, it doesn't get carried away with fancy features. The lighting isn't extravagant, and it lacks some of the high-tech frills. If you appreciate a straightforward and uncomplicated appearance, this might be right up your alley.

Boot Space

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One standout feature of the Citroen C3 Aircross is its cargo space. It's available as a 5-seater or a 5+2-seater. In the 5-seater configuration, you'll find an impressively roomy and flat trunk. Perfect for family trips or accommodating business needs.

In the 5+2 seater setup, there isn't much luggage space behind the third row, offering a mere 44 litres. Yet, if you fold these seats flat, you open up ample space for multiple large suitcases. However, Citroen could consider providing an accessory to cover the exposed seat mount brackets.

Fold the second-row seats, and you're looking at a flat cargo area, suitable for transporting sizable items like furniture and washing machines.

Third Row Experience

Getting to the third row is a breeze. Simply pull a strap on the left second-row seat, and it folds forward, allowing easy access. Despite being a small 3-row SUV, the seating positions are fairly comfortable. While the seats are placed somewhat low, it doesn't present a significant concern. My knees, for instance, didn't come into contact with the front seats, and you can even slide your feet under the second row. Headroom is a tad compromised due to the vehicle's size, but it's practical for city trips. The width accommodates two adults comfortably without much shoulder contact.

Adding to its practicality are features such as rear passenger cup holders and USB chargers. In the 7-seater version, you get roof-mounted AC vents over the second row with individual blower controls. The airflow is efficient, ensuring even third-row passengers stay cool. However, these are purely air circulation vents, and the cabin needs to cool down first for them to blow cold air, which might take some time on hot days. The primary downsides are that you sit close to the rear windshield, and overall visibility isn't the best, with small quarter windows and tall front seats.

Second Row Experience

The second-row experience is surprisingly comfortable, with generous legroom and knee room. Seat base extensions enhance under-thigh support, and the backrest reclines at a relaxed angle. The only minor gripe is the lack of seatback bolstering. While this is good for accommodating three passengers, it can be less supportive when only two occupants are seated.

Seats and space aside, the C3 Aircross does fall short in the features department. The absence of a center armrest with cupholders is a notable omission, and roof-mounted AC vents are exclusive to the 7-seater versions, meaning 5-seater variants miss out on rear AC vents. These are features you'd expect, especially in a vehicle priced above 15 lakhs, like this one. The sole features you'll find are door armrests, two USB chargers, and a door-mounted bottle holder.

Cabin Experience

From the driver's seat, the C3 Aircross closely resembles the C3. The dashboard design, elevated driving position, and most elements like the steering wheel and features are shared. Consequently, the cabin doesn't feel as spacious as some competitors but is more akin to that of a sub-4-metre SUV.

Although the cabin maintains a minimalist feel, Citroen has skillfully used quality materials in the right places, elevating the overall experience. The seats are semi-leatherette, the driver's armrest feels premium, and the door pad's leather covering provides a pleasant touch. The steering wheel is wrapped in leather, adding a touch of sophistication. However, these enhancements are limited to these areas, and the rest of the cabin remains relatively basic.


The C3 Aircross excels in practicality, featuring well-sized door pockets, a dedicated tray for your mobile phone, and a deep pocket for storing your wallet and keys. There are also two cup holders, a cubbyhole located behind the gear shifter, and a spacious glove box. The small area above the glovebox is primarily for aesthetics and doesn't provide additional storage. In the rear, a bottle holder is situated in the center console, with two more in the third row. Charging options include a USB port and a 12V socket in the front, along with two USB chargers in the middle and two in the third row. The addition of a Type C port would have been a welcome enhancement.


The C3 Aircross isn't attempting to win you over with a slew of features. While it covers the basics, such as steering-mounted controls, manual AC, electrically adjustable ORVMs, a digital instrument cluster with various modes and themes, and a 10.25-inch touchscreen equipped with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, as well as a 6-speaker sound system, it falls short in the 'nice-to-have' department. Features like cruise control, ventilated seats, automatic climate control, auto day/night IRVM, or a sunroof are conspicuously absent. Consequently, it's crucial for this car to be priced competitively. In essence, the top variant of the C3 Aircross offers an experience similar to lower to mid-spec variants of rival SUVs.


It's somewhat challenging to discuss safety since neither the C3 nor the C3 Aircross has undergone crash tests yet. However, let's examine the safety features it offers. The C3 Aircross comes with dual airbags, ABS with EBD, and an electronic stability program. Currently, it doesn't provide six airbags, but that's expected to change when regulations mandate six airbags in all cars, coming later this year. Offering just two airbags for this period may not sit well, especially at this price point.

Engine And Performance

The C3 Aircross is powered by a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine (110PS/190Nm) coupled with a 6-speed manual transmission. There is no automatic option or a naturally aspirated petrol engine available at the moment, although an automatic transmission is anticipated in the future.

This turbocharged engine doesn't prioritize heart-pounding performance but aims to deliver a smooth and effortless drive. It provides ample torque at lower RPMs, offering good acceleration even from low revs. It's particularly convenient for city driving, where you can comfortably cruise in second or third gear without frequent shifting. When you do decide to downshift, you'll experience brisk acceleration, ideal for overtaking and navigating traffic gaps. This character translates well to highway driving, with smooth cruising capabilities. Even at 100 km/h in fifth gear, the engine offers enough power for accelerating and overtaking. Shifting to the sixth gear results in excellent fuel efficiency.

There are a couple of aspects where improvement would be appreciated. The 3-cylinder engine exhibits some unrefined characteristics, with engine noise and vibrations occasionally seeping into the cabin. The gear shifts can feel slightly imprecise and not as crisp as one might prefer. This aspect makes the absence of an automatic option more noticeable.

Ride and Handling

Citroen has a reputation for producing comfortable cars, and the C3 Aircross is no exception. It excels in cushioning passengers from uneven roads and potholes, maintaining a smooth and flat ride. Although there is some cabin movement at lower speeds, it diminishes as the speed decreases. The suspension consistently provides a plush ride, a feature all occupants will appreciate.


The C3 Aircross is a distinct offering. However, its appeal depends on your particular needs. Let's consider the most common scenarios. If you're looking to move up from a hatchback or a smaller SUV, the C3 Aircross might not feel like a substantial upgrade. It presents a basic and low-key cabin experience.

However, if you're already eyeing the mid to lower-end variants of other compact SUVs and are ready to trade off some features for affordability, the C3 Aircross comes into its own. While the basic variants of other SUVs might leave you feeling like you're missing out, the C3 Aircross stands out with its alloy wheels, dual-tone paint, a sizable touchscreen, and a proper digital instrument cluster.

Lastly, if your main requirement is a spacious car that can occasionally seat seven passengers and boasts a roomy cargo space, and this need outweighs your desire for a feature-rich experience, then the C3 Aircross becomes an appealing choice.

However, the feasibility of all these scenarios largely depends on its price. We anticipate that the C3 Aircross should be priced between Rs 9 to 15 lakh. If it exceeds this range, the value proposition weakens, and the compromises become more noticeable.

In essence, the C3 Aircross shines when space, comfort, and versatility are your top priorities, and you're willing to forgo some high-end features. However, it must be priced competitively to fulfill its potential in this competitive segment.

Citroen C3 Aircross Video Review

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