Citroen C3 Aircross - Select Car Leasing
4.9 out of 5 35,999 reviews

Mon to Fri: | Sat:

Citroen C3 Aircross Review

Introduction

The Citroen C3 Aircross was once lauded as a front-runner in the compact SUV market, but time and an influx of high-quality rivals have seen it fall down the order. To try and arrest that descent down the leader board, Citroen has facelifted the C3 Aircross, giving it a styling update and a modified interior with which to combat the talented rivals.

Although the changes are largely aesthetic, the Citroen is building on relatively solid foundations, including an excellent petrol engine that has proved its worth time and time again. 

It’s also positioning itself as one of the funkiest, quirkiest and most comfortable cars in the segment, playing on the traditional strengths of the French manufacturer. The question is, does it work?

Select's rating score* - 3.6 / 5

At a Glance

The latest-generation C3 Aircross is instantly distinguished from its predecessor thanks to the all-new front end, which brings it into line with other models in the Citroen range. 

The narrow upper grille, more angular headlights and the concave lower grille all make the car look more mature and upmarket than before, without sacrificing too much character.


Inside, it’s pretty much the same as before, with a big central touchscreen, a chunky steering wheel and large air vents. Cabin materials are so-so, but that’s common in this part of the market, and build quality is generally good. There are even some smart touches such as the fabric on the dash and the door cards, as well as the grippy shelf on the passenger side.

As before, the C3 Aircross is relatively practical, with ample boot space and sufficient carrying capacity in the rear, but it’s also quite efficient. The engine range is pretty simple, and it mostly comprises 1.2-litre petrol engines alongside a 1.5-litre diesel

The basic option is a 110hp 1.2-litre petrol that’s more than sufficient, but customers can upgrade to a 130hp version of the same engine that comes with an automatic gearbox as standard. Or there’s the 1.5-litre, 110hp diesel that’s hugely economical, returning more than 60mpg.

Key Features

The C3 Aircross might not have outright driving pleasure, cabin quality or technology to write home about, but its appeal is more subtle than that. 

First up is the styling, which manages to combine ruggedness, maturity and, thanks to the little chrome wings at the front, a little class with the kind of cutesy appeal that made the original C3 Aircross so attractive.


Combine that with Citroen’s traditional strong suit of ride comfort and a dash of practicality, and the C3 Aircross manages to make a case for itself. 

The big seats are so soft you won’t want to get out when you reach your destination, and few cars can soak up the bumps around town in the way the Citroen can. Then there’s the massive boot that makes it such a useful car for parents or dog owners, and allows you to gloss over some of the less appealing features.

Performance & Drive

The C3 Aircross is offered with a choice of three different engines, none of which really put performance at the heart of their operation. The basic engine – the 1.2-litre PureTech three-cylinder petrol engine with a turbocharger and a manual gearbox – produces 110hp and is arguably the pick of the range, offering a 0-62mph time of around 10 seconds while achieving strong economy.


If you really want more poke, or you just need an automatic gearbox, you can choose the more powerful 130hp PureTech engine. It’s essentially the same engine, but it’s tuned to produce an extra 20hp and it comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. It’s only slightly less economical, but it’s also only a little faster.

The third option is the 1.5-litre, 110hp BlueHDi diesel engine, which is the motor of choice for those seeking outright economy on long drives. It isn’t the greatest diesel engine in the world – it’s a bit gruff and it isn’t that powerful – but it does feel chunky, and it’s very good on fuel.

For those seeking an SUV that goes off road, the C3 Aircross is not the car for you. All three engines only power the front wheels, and although there’s extra ground clearance over a supermini, there isn’t much in the way of off-road tech. There is a Grip Control system, though, which is basically traction control XL, providing slightly more purchase on snow and mud.


There’s no hiding the fact this is a road-orientated car, however, and while there’s no hint of sportiness, it’s a very pleasant thing to pootle around in. The steering is light and responsive, and though the car is quite tall, it doesn’t roll as much as you expect in corners, making it surprisingly good fun – particularly in urban environments.

It’s also very comfortable, thanks to the big seats and the soft suspension, which manages to stop most of the bumps permeating into the cabin. As is often the case with such small cars, it isn’t perfect, but it’s more supple than most cars in its class.

Running Costs & Emissions

Some company car drivers might be put off the C3 Aircross by the lack of an electric or plug-in hybrid option, but the little Citroen is still pretty cheap to run. The diesel is the obvious choice, with its 122g/km emissions keeping company car tax bills in check, as well as reducing fuel costs.


On the official economy test, the diesel returns 60.1mpg, making it easily the most economical model. However, for those doing lower mileages, the petrol options might prove more cost-effective. The 110hp engine manages almost 50mpg on a long run, while the 130hp version still claims more than 45mpg on the official economy test, despite its automatic gearbox.

Interior & Technology

The C3 Aircross’ interior is a funky and spacious place to be, with big air vents and instrument dials complementing the large touchscreen and the rounded, Tonka-toy looks of the dashboard. The overall effect is a mixture of modernity, cuteness and ruggedness, which fits with the overall design of the car.

Quality is, as you’d expect from a small French car, a little bit hit-and-miss, with some cheap plastics to be found all over the place – particularly in the rear and on the doors. 

However, the sofa-like Advanced Comfort seats are fabulous, offering tactile upholstery and plentiful padding to give the seats a really sofa-like feel. While they may not be especially supportive on long journeys, they’re brilliant for short jaunts around town.


Compared with the old-shape C3 Aircross, Citroen has done a little work on the cabin, changing a few details to bring it more up to date. 

There’s a new central storage bin in the centre console and a new cupholder design, all of which were necessary to accommodate the new handbrake lever. Now more conventional than the pebble-like handle in the old C3 Aircross, the new version looks like an ergonomic upgrade, until you try to use it. 

You need to twist your arm and wrist uncomfortably to get at it, especially when the driver’s arm rest is down.


But the biggest issue by a mile is the touchscreen infotainment system. We’ve seen similar screens used across the Citroen range for years, and they are beginning to show their age. 

Blocky graphics and sluggish responses blight the system, although it must be said the more simplistic features of the C3 Aircross suit the screen much better, making the menus cleaner and easier to navigate.

In its infinite wisdom, Citroen has left all the heater controls in the touchscreen, with predictably underwhelming results. Changing the temperature is a bit of a faff, but most customers will set the temperature once and forget about it, in which case it won’t be such an issue. Only if you and your partner like very different in-car climates will it become a drag.


Practicality & Boot Space

Practicality is important for any compact SUV, and the C3 Aircross is no different. With a 410-litre luggage bay, the Citroen is more spacious than a Seat Arona and only marginally less roomy than the larger Volkswagen T-Roc

It’s certainly more than spacious enough for most customers’ needs, and the tall, upright rear window means it’s more useful than the numbers might suggest. 

And if you fold down the back seats, you get up to 1,289 litres of carrying capacity.


Space in the cabin is adequate, rather than exceptional, but the C3 Aircross has no trouble carrying a family of four. Space in the front is good and headroom is excellent in the rear, but the short wheelbase of the car impacts legroom slightly.

It’s no worse than most small hatchbacks, and you can carry adults without too much trouble, but there’s more space in the back of a Skoda Kamiq.

Safety

The facelifted C3 hasn’t yet been crash-tested, but its predecessor achieved a very strong five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Solid scores across the board stood it in good stead – particularly in a part of the market where compact dimensions often count against cars in crash tests – although we aren’t sure the C3 Aircross would replicate that score today. 

That’s not because it’s any less safe, but because the test has moved on to keep up with modern crash prevention technology, and that might be an issue for the Citroen. Rest assured, however, it’s still just as safe in a crash.


It still has lots of safety tech, too. Even the most basic versions come with lane departure warning and a speed limiter, as well as electronic stability control (ESC) and traffic sign recognition. 

Cruise control is included, too, as are rear parking sensors to help prevent low-speed bumps.

Opt for a more upmarket model and you can add a reversing camera and autonomous emergency braking to the list, helping the car to stop if the driver fails to respond to a hazard.

Options

The C3 Aircross range is relatively easy to get your head around, with just three basic trim levels on offer.

Things kick off with the Shine, which comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows and automatic climate control, not to mention automatic lights and wipers, rear parking sensors and cruise control. You get the touchscreen infotainment system as standard, too, complete with satellite navigation.

For an entry-level car, it’s a very appealing kit list.

If you want some more equipment, you can upgrade to the Shine Plus, which comes with larger 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and a black contrasting roof, as well as a reversing camera. 

There’s some more safety equipment, too, but you aren’t getting a huge amount more for your money.


Finally, the range is capped by the Rip Curl model, which is part of a collaboration with the surfing brand of the same name. 

The car comes with much the same equipment as the Shine Plus, but it adds some blue exterior features and a panoramic sunroof, as well as black alloy wheels.

The options list is somewhat limited in terms of equipment, but Citroen has put the emphasis on style.

Customers can choose from a range of colours including an interesting khaki and sharp reds and blues, but there’s also the option of a contrasting roof (standard on Shine Plus models) and colour packs, which add some white, blue or orange trim on the door mirrors and around the bumpers. 

Add that to the option of colourful interior trim, and the personalisation options are numerous, if not always advisable.


Rival Cars

A vast swathe of rivals has come to compete with the C3 Aircross, and there are some seriously capable cars in the mix. Chief among these are the Seat Arona and Volkswagen T-Cross, two heavily related cars that manage to combine comfort, quality and a lashing of style, as well as ample interior space and technology.

They’re hard cars to beat, but several brands have tried, including French brand Renault, which has produced the Captur compact SUV. Like the Volkswagen and Seat, it’s a very competent, well built small crossover with a stylish touch. Other cars fitting that bill include the Kia Stonic and Hyundai Kona, as well as the Mazda CX-30, although that’s a little larger.


Then there’s the Ford Puma and the Toyota Yaris Cross, both of which are very good, and the Vauxhall Crossland, which looks better than its predecessor and feels marginally better, too. It’s just a shame it started from such a low baseline. Elsewhere in the world, there’s the Nissan Juke, which is considerably better than its predecessor and easier on the eye, too.

If you want something with a bit of off-road prowess, you could choose the slightly larger Jeep Renegade, or you could go for the sportier and cuter Fiat 500X. But the real off-road champions are the Fiat Panda, which is available with all-wheel drive and a chunky body kit, and the Dacia Duster, about which you can say much the same thing.


Verdict & Next Steps

The C3 Aircross is no longer the best compact SUV you can lease – it lost that crown a while ago – but it’s still a strong contender. In a world where cars are becoming increasingly bland, it manages to mix character and practicality in one comfortable and quirky package. 

So while it might not be the best in its class, it is among the most characterful, and that counts for quite a lot.

Where to next?

View our latest Citroen C3 Aircross lease deals  - from just £234.49 per month inc VAT**

Looking for a great leasing deal? Check out our incredible range of Special Offers

New Hatchback? Read our latest Car Reviews and find the right model for you

Want to know more about leasing? Take a look at our comprehensive Leasing Guides

Interested in everything motoring? Why not catch up on all the latest Car Leasing News.

*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Citroen C3 Aircross

**Correct as of 30/08/2022. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £2,110.41 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

Useful links

Other reviews