Citroen C3 (2023) Launch Review

Citroen C3 (2023) Launch Review

Stellantis South Africa is hoping to make a big splash with the new Citroen C3, which appears to be the ideal product with which to advance the French brand’s resurgence. We drove the award-winning newcomer at its local launch in Johannesburg.

What’s new with the Citroen C3?

It’s not often that a manufacturer launches a new vehicle at a far lower price point than its predecessor, but Citroen has done just that with the new C3, because the Double Chevron has made the decision to go back to basics and offer the model as a budget crossover rather than a quirky compact hatchback.

Citroen C3 side profile
The Citroen C3 now offers 180 mm of ground clearance.

Those who recall the previous-gen C3 will remember it as a hatchback, but this model is now a budget crossover. That’s clearly in line with what most modern consumers want; the Citroen squarely targets the likes of the Renault Kiger, Nissan Magnite, Suzuki Ignis and even the Renault Kwid and Suzuki S-Presso.

One of the reasons that Citroen was able to reduce the price of this new model is the establishment of a new factory in India, which produces the C3. Reimagining the entire package, including the engine offering, also helped. Don’t assume Citroen has skimped on everything to make it cheap either – the C3 was recently awarded the World Urban Car of the Year title, so the brand may well be on the right track.

Full specs and pricing can be found here

What engine does the Citroen C3 have?

Citroen C3 rear
Citroen’s 1.2-litre petrol engine compares favourably with its competitors.

As of May 2023, there is just 1 engine available in the C3 range. It’s a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre petrol engine with 61 kW and 115 Nm of torque. If you look up the Citroen’s rivals by using our comparison tool, you will see the C3 has one of the most powerful engines in its segment. We drove the newcomer at the Reef (about 1 600 m above sea level), where it could have felt lethargic, but with 2 occupants aboard, the C3 performed adequately. It has perky acceleration in the first 3 gears, so should nip around town easily.

A 5-speed manual is the only gearbox available, but bosses at Citroen have confirmed that automatic (and possibly turbopetrol) versions of the C3 are on the cards for 2024. As it happens, the manual ‘box ably facilitates smooth progress; it has a light shift action and the clutch pedal is easy to modulate.

What’s the interior like?

Citroen C3 interior
The interior blends a soupçon of typical French design with practical and budget-friendly plastics.

Citroen is world-renowned for its quirky and stylish interiors and while there isn’t much room for “French flair” on a budget crossover, Citroen has done an admirable job of endowing the new C3 with distinctive design elements. I quite like the ornate rectangular air vents and the “anodised” dashboard trim.

The 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system is a benchmark for the segment (size-wise), although the panel does have a matte finish, which makes it look as if it’s lined with one of those aftermarket phone screen covers. Still, it supports wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto, which is almost unheard of at this price point. There is 1 USB-A port at the front and 2 USB-A ports in the rear for charging devices.

A height-adjustable driver’s seat is also a rarity at this price point, although I feel Citroen may have missed a trick by not offering reach adjustment on the steering column – it only adjusts for rake (up and down). Nevertheless, the driving position is quite natural, even without the reach adjustment. 

Citroen C3 Touchscreen
The 10-inch touchscreen features wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto.

The seats feel suitably comfortable with firm side support, which, again, is a luxury in a new vehicle positioned at the C3’s level. The same goes for most of the trim in the cabin, which, while almost 100% plastic, seems neatly installed; when you prod or pull on them, they don’t seem noticeably loose-fitting. 

The manually adjustable mirrors, meanwhile, are a bit of a throwback – I can’t remember when last I had to ask a front passenger to adjust the left-hand side mirror on my behalf, manually nogal.

The load bay seems reasonably sized and the rear seatback can fold forward as a single piece. The rear passenger space looks acceptable, but might be marginal with the front seats pushed all the way back.

What’s the Citroen C3 like to drive?

Citroen C3 static
Ride quality appears to be reasonably good after our short first drive.

I was pleasantly surprised by the new C3’s road manners. The ride quality seems quite good, even over Gauteng’s numerous speed bumps and patchy backroads. The driving experience won’t excite spirited drivers, but as a runabout, the Citroen corners dexterously and has a nicely weighted steering setup.

There is a bit of body roll (if you corner at slightly higher velocities), but that’s to be expected in a softly-sprung small crossover. Suffice it to say, it’s one of the better vehicles to drive at this end of the market.

How safe is the C3?

Citroen C3 orange dash
2 airbags are standard along with ABS and EBD.

The number of standard safety features in entry-level and budget cars has mercifully increased through the years and while the new Citroen C3 offers ABS with EBD and dual front airbags, the lack of electronic stability control is a pity – and something we simply cannot overlook. A quick look at the competition reveals that, of the comparative models we mentioned at the beginning, only the Suzuki models offer stability control across the range.

Rear parking sensors are fitted, but there isn’t an option to add a reverse-view camera for added peace of mind (especially if the driver is inexperienced). The omissions will probably be amended when more C3 derivatives are added to the lineup. For now, the entry-level 1.2 Feel is the only version available.

Citroen is offering some very keenly priced options for the new C3 in an Elegance Pack (R2 200), which incorporates chrome detailing on the door handles, bumpers, tail lamps and fog lamps. The Energy Pack (R2 700) comes with a distinctive rear spoiler and -skid plate. Alloy wheels will cost you R8 300 extra.

Citroen C3 Price & after-sales support

After-sales support has not been a virtue of French car manufacturers in South Africa, but Citroen’s local subsidiary has taken steps to ensure that parts will be readily available and distributed efficiently (when they’re required). The C3 is sold with a 5-year/100 000 km warranty and a 2-year/30 000 km service plan. I think if Citroen really wanted to show its commitment to service, it would have offered a 3-year/45 000 km plan as standard. In saying that, the 2-year service plan is in line with those of the C3’s rivals.

Citroen C3 1.2 Feel R229 900


Citroen C3 wheelspin
At its current price, the new C3 appears to be a good option in the budget car segment.

This new Indian-built C3 might be the product that puts Citroen back on the map locally… It’s very keenly priced and has the right blend of modern interior technology and distinctive design to get heads turning.

The quality produced by the French brand’s Indian factory appears to be on par – if not slightly above – that of Renault/Nissan, but we’ll have to see if that still rings true after a thorough evaluation of the C3.

The engine feels perky enough to deal with our high-altitude cities (which host the biggest car markets in the country) and the good gearbox-clutch synchronisation makes it very easy to get used to the C3.

My only notable criticism pertains to the safety spec (the C3’s lack of electronic stability control), but the newcomer’s rivals also tend to lack that feature (because it’s a pricey feature to include). To sum up, at a time when interest rates are high and bargains are hard to find, the new C3 makes a good case for itself.

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