Being a North American the first thing that came to mind when leasing a Citroen was well ~ lemon. The second was the classic 2CV, the deux chevaux (literally 2 horsepower).
But alas the C3 we were leasing is not your fathers Citroen. The C3 has pulled all the aspects for driving in Europe together quite well. These aspects are Fuel efficiency, performance and compactness.
Many parts of Europe were not built with the automobile in mind. Parking can be a real challenge (hence the Smart Car). The size of the car also became important when driving in italy. A compact car allows one to stay on the road when a 5 ton truck is coming at you around blind corners on shoulder less roads.
The Citroen C3 is not what I would call a drivers car, no self respecting European Boy Racer would not be caught dead in a C3.
This rocket comes equipped with an inline 4 cylinder 1.6L diesel that had no problem doing the 130 km/hr speed limit on the Auto-strada. The car does have very good brakes and there were no issues in the stopping department.
However hill starting is a bit of a challenge which required the engine to be revved up quite high otherwise the car would stall. The lack of low end power was evident when driving in the back roads in Italy. One had to get into first gear negotiating the switch backs going up hill.
Over all – once in the power band the car had sufficient get up and go to move briskly in town as well as the auto strada.
The French make small cars that are big on the inside (as opposed to large North American Cars that have cramped interiors).
I found the suspension was fine for motorway driving. As soon as one got off road and experienced a few bumps you soon found out where your kidneys reside. Also the suspension was lacking on the freeways around bumpy corners – it felt like the car was going to twist an ankle. Like a lot of small cars the vehicle was fine if driving over short distances – I found that driving for more than four hours – resulted in my back aching for the next couple of days.
This is where the cars shines – our 1.6 L inline 4 cylinder averaged almost 65 mpg – this was important as we covered over 12 000 km during the three months we had the car. With diesel ranging between 1.35 to 1.85 euros per litre every bit of efficiency counts!
Citroen has incorporated a few cool features that helps with fuel efficiency. The version of the C3 we were driving featured a start-stop system system that stops the engine when you are stooped in traffic (such as lines ups at French Toll Booths) or red lights. The engine starts ups extremely quickly when you need to get going again..
I did find it odd that one could start the engine in gear – there were a few times I did this and fortunately there was nothing close by as the car lurched forward.
The other feature is the “Gear Efficiency Indicator” which recommends which gear should be used to optimise economy. I found this option useless on hills because the recommended gear would cause the car to stall. On flat roads the indicator was useful.
Even though my last car was a Mazda MX5 I was quit impressed with the C3.
Yvonne’s favourite feature was a pleasant surprise! The glove compartment cools down quite nicely when the AC is on, perfect for keeping your picnic cheeses cold!