The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 2.8

The Citroen C3 is a decent car, combining style and quality with affordable purchase prices (so long as you get a good discount) and low running costs. Unfortunately for Citroen, the supermini class is full of exceptional cars, and ‘decent’ just doesn’t cut it when the competition is so fierce.

Reasons to buy

  • Looks good
  • Massive discounts available
  • Economical range of engines
Pick of the range
C3 1.2 VTi 82 VTR+
Enough kit, and affordable to buy and run
Most economical
1.4 e-HDi 70 Airdream EGS VTR+
Official figures suggest fuel economy of 83.1mpg
Best avoided
1.6 VTi 120 Automatic
Thirsty on fuel and far too expensive.

How good does it look? 3/5

Citroen has a knack for producing cars that stand out in the looks department – and
the C3 is no exception. The nose has some funky details, such as the deep grille and the Citroen chevrons that run right across the front, connecting the two intricately-shaped headlamps. The rear light clusters are also pretty interesting in their shape and colouring, making the back of the car look just as smart. True, the high roofline makes the car look rather conventional in profile, but there’s enough going on at either end to keep things lively. Entry-level models miss out on the alloy wheels and chrome door handles that the other models get, while the top-spec car has a windscreen that continues up and over the driver’s head, allowing more light in.

What's the interior like? 3/5

The C3’s interior is much like the DS3’s, which means it’s a nicely-styled, high-quality environment. The plastics on top of the dashboard are hard, but they’re pleasantly textured and there’s a glossy panel in a contrasting colour to inject a bit of style. High-spec models also get glossy centre-console finishes to jazz things up even further, but on low-end models, the console looks and feels rather more drab due to the hard, dark plastic on display. Most of the dials and switches are easy to use, but you might get more confused if you specify the optional sat-nav unit. All models have adjustment for both the driver’s seat height and the reach and rake of the steering wheel, so finding a comfortable driving position is easy. All round visibility is pretty good, too.

How practical is it? 3/5

Compared with other superminis, the C3 has an impressively large boot at 300 litres. It’s also a usefully square shape, but there’s a large lip that you’ll need to haul heavy items over and the rear seats don’t flatten completely when you fold them down. Headroom in the rear is adequate, if not exactly generous, but rear legroom is very tight: if you regularly carry rear passengers, even kids, you might want to look elsewhere.

What's it like to drive? 2/5

The C3 doesn’t exactly dazzle in this area. The steering is rather heavy at low speeds, which makes parking manoeuvres harder than they need to be, and the suspension doesn’t deal particularly well with low-speed bumps. The ride is also fairly jittery on the motorway, and there’s a fair amount of road and wind noise to endure at 70mph. The C3 isn’t the most agile-feeling car you’ll ever drive, either; the body leans over a bit too much in bends and the steering is slow. Thankfully, there’s always plenty of grip.

How powerful is it? 3/5

Three petrol engines are available: a three-cylinder unit with 67bhp, a four-cylinder 1.2 with 80bhp and a 1.6 with 118bhp. Unfortunately, we haven’t driven a C3 with any of these engines as yet. We have tried the range-topping diesel, though, a 1.6 with 113bhp. It’s a touch leisurely at low revs, but get above 1,800rpm and you’ll be surprised by just how brawny it feels. It also stays quiet unless you really work its socks off. The other diesel choices are a 1.4 producing 67bhp or another 1.6 with 91bhp.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

Citroen’s list prices are similar to those of many mainstream rivals, but it’s worth remembering that Citroen dealers are more willing than most to cut you a deal, so massive discounts can be had. You’ll need to get as much off the list price as you can, because the C3 has rather weak resale values; a decent discount will help offset your depreciation losses. Fuel economy and CO2 figures are very competitive, with most versions of the C3 ducking below the 100g/km mark and returning more than 60mpg. All the diesels beat 70mpg according to official figures and the most efficient version will better 80mpg.

How reliable is it? 3/5

Citroen’s reputation for reliability isn’t exactly sparkling, but the French firm currently sits in the top half of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer rankings, so that reputation might not be entirely deserved. The C3 itself has a rather patchy record, though, recording a fairly low score in the Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index. Suspension issues and electrical problems seem to be the main sources of trouble..

How safe is it? 2/5

The C3 achieved only four out of five stars when it was last crash-tested by Euro NCAP, where today’s norm is five stars. What’s more, the test was carried out in 2009 and, since then, the tests have become much tougher. Perhaps more alarming is the C3’s shortage of safety kit. All versions have front and side airbags, but you have to upgrade to the second-rung trim for curtain airbags and to the top trim for stability control.

How much equipment do I get? 3/5

The entry-level VT car comes with a limited amount of luxury kit; you get electric front windows and remote locking, but not much else. VTR+ trim adds essentials such as alloys, air-con and Bluetooth, along with cruise control, a leather steering wheel and daytime running lights. Top-spec Exclusive trim gives you climate control, powered rear windows and an anti-theft alarm, along with more styling goodies inside and out.

Why buy? 2/5

Because your local Citroen dealer will give you a massive discount and your C3 will be impressively cheap to run. However, there are many other superminis out there that do most jobs considerably better than the C3, which will push it down your shortlist.