New Citroen C3 2022: Our observations after a day of driving

The Citroen C3 dissipates shocks very evenly over the front and rear which gives you a feeling of gliding over the bad roads. Moreover, the suspension works silently too when going over bumps.

Driving the Citroen C3 1.2L Turbo-Petrol MT

1.2L turbo-petrol engine makes 109 BHP @ 5,500 rpm and 190 Nm @ 1,750 rpm:

The C3 is powered by a 1.2L turbo-petrol engine belonging to Citroen’s EB family of engines. This straight 3-cylinder unit is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission and puts out a strong 109 BHP and 190 Nm. These numbers are easily the best in the segment and when you consider the car’s kerb weight of 1,035 kg, the power-to-weight ratio & torque-to-weight ratio are a whopping 105 BHP/ton & 184 Nm/ton. To put these figures into perspective, it’s higher than the Hyundai Grand i10 Nios Turbo Petrol (101 BHP/ton & 176 Nm/ton), which is a very quick hatchback. So, when we describe this C3 turbo-petrol as a fun-to-drive car, we really mean it.

Start the engine by pressing the clutch and turning the key. The C3 moves off the line smoothly. Throttle response is good too. Driving about at city speeds, the car feels smooth despite the high power output. Good driveability is the key here and the C3 clears the second gear speed breaker test easily. What you need to be careful of is the anti-stall feature here. While this is a good feature to have, drop your speed too low for a speed breaker in 2nd gear and the car will accelerate to keep the engine from stalling. This caught us off-guard on a couple of instances. Turbo lag is well masked and you don’t feel that the car struggling at low revs. Given the high torque produced by this motor and the fact that peak torque comes in early @ 1,750 rpm, you have a good bottom end as well as a punchy mid-range. This means you can actually get away with being in higher gear at low speed. We were on a steepish incline in 3rd gear with speedometer reading ~25 km/h and on pressing the accelerator, the car got up to speed without even a hint of getting bogged down. This turbo-petrol is a really strong performer. Bury the throttle and you will love the way this car lunges forward when the turbo kicks in. The second and third gears are tall enough for you to nip through the city traffic quickly. All this combined with a small footprint and light steering makes the C3 very nimble to drive around in the city.

Out on the highway, the C3’s performance remains strong. This is where you can use the mid-range very well. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to overtake on the highways with this turbo-petrol engine. If you have the budget, this is definitely the engine to choose over the naturally aspirated one. However, while the engine has a good bottom end and punchy mid-range, like most turbo-petrols, the power dies down in the top end. The gear ratios are spread out nicely for you to use the powerband efficiently. You can push the car in 3rd or 4th gears when in the mood for some fun or just slot it into 6th and cruise comfortably at 100-120 km/h. Shift down to 5th for a comfortable overtake or to 4th for a quick one. It’s too bad the C3’s instrument cluster doesn’t have a tachometer, and you will be dependent on the engine sound for your shifts. But spend some time with the car and you will be able to enjoy this pocket rocket thoroughly. The accelerator pedal needs a special mention for its fine tuning. It has a progressive feel to it and isn’t snappy, which allows you to drive smoothly.

The 6-speed manual transmission is slick to operate and much nicer than the notchy Renault-Nissan 5-speed unit. We appreciate the fact that Citroen gave a different gearbox for this turbo-petrol and did not use the 5-speed MT from the naturally aspirated variant. This gearbox compliments the engine very well and just elevates the driving experience multifold. The throws are smooth and sure-slotting. Vid6639 especially liked its nice, faint and reassuring audible click when shifting. Moving through the gears is a pleasant experience, but we noticed a whine in the 2nd gear. It’s not present in any other gear. While most people won’t notice it, keen eared BHPians surely will. The clutch is light and the travel range isn’t too long, but we found the bite point to be a bit too low, which means the car takes off as soon as you start lifting your foot off the clutch.

Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)

At idle, the turbo petrol is surprisingly silent and the typical 3-cylinder vibrations are masked quite well. There’s not much noise too and the cabin is pretty silent. While driving around calmly, the engine sound doesn’t intrude into the cabin. However, revv the engine hard and you’ll hear the engine a lot more in the cabin. Unfortunately, the engine note is not something enthusiasts or regular folk will like. It sounds more strained than sporty at high revs, which is sad as this motor likes being revved hard. At highway speeds, wind noise is kept at a minimum, but road noise and tyre noise does creep into the cabin.

Mileage & Fuel Economy

As we are already aware, turbo-petrols are sensitive to throttle input and you will be visiting the fuel station more often if you have a heavy foot. But drive sedately and you should see some acceptable FE figures. The C3 turbo-petrol’s ARAI-certified fuel efficiency is 19.4 km/l which is at par with the competition.

The turbocharger is placed on the front of the engine and you also have a cold air intake:

Vertically mounted intercooler is placed next to the radiator:

The bonnet gets insulation underneath and helps keep the noise levels low:

Driving the Citroen C3 1.2L NA Petrol MT

The 1.2L naturally aspirated petrol engine makes 81 BHP @ 5,750 rpm and 115 Nm @ 3,750 rpm:

While the turbo-petrol engine is for people who enjoy performance, the naturally aspirated unit is for those who are conscious of the price and fuel efficiency. The C3’s naturally aspirated engine also belongs to the same EB family of Citroen engines and is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission. The powertrain puts out a decent 81 BHP and 115. These numbers are very much comparable to the 1.2L Tata Punch (85 BHP & 113 Nm).

Start moving and you will realise that the city driveablity is good and the car feels very user-friendly at slow speeds. The highlight of this engine is its driveability and not the power on tap. You have enough grunt at the lower end of the power band to move about in the city comfortably. Going over a speed breaker in 2nd gear isn’t an issue at all. Given the relaxed nature of the engine, I found myself upshifting to higher gears subconsciously, to extract more fuel efficiency on the narrow roads of Goa. Although relaxed, you will get around in the city comfortably with few gear changes. Sedate drivers will appreciate this motor very much. If you do need to close a gap in traffic or make a quick overtake, you will have to drop down a gear or two and the C3 will get by just fine. In a broader perspective, the performance is very much acceptable in the city, where you would be driving at under 80 km/h. 

The average performance of this engine is evident on the highways as well. It takes its own sweet time to reach triple digit speeds and beyond 100 km/h, there’s not much to extract from the engine. Cruising at 100 km/h is where the engine is in its comfort zone. Mid range performance isn’t bad, but just about satisfactory. But unlike the turbo-petrol, the power doesn’t taper off at the top-end. Power delivery is quite linear. Do note that while cruising, overtaking another car that’s doing 90-100 km/h will take some planning. What’s more, with a car full of passengers and luggage, this will be even more difficult. You will definitely miss the turbo.

So, all in all, this engine is best suited for sedate driving. If you really want to extract some performance from it, you will have to be in the power band which, to be honest, is narrow and in the upper reaches of the rev range. This means that you will really need to rev the engine hard. That will lead to the engine noise in the cabin getting too loud (louder than the turbo-petrol) and you’ll find yourself easing up on the throttle just to avoid listening to the strained engine note.

The 5-speed manual transmission is way different than the 6-speed unit of the turbo-petrol. It’s not just the missing 6th gear, it’s the shifts as well. There’s a notchiness in the gearbox and while the gates are well-defined, it’s not as sure-slotting as the 6-speed MT. Even the shifts aren’t as smooth and it just doesn’t feel that great to use. The clutch is light and very similar to the turbo-petrol car.

Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)

The 3-cylinder characteristics of this engine are very much pronounced here. Compared to the turbo-petrol engine, the noise is pretty much the same at low revs. But since naturally aspirated engines usually have higher redline than turbo-petrols, they get louder too.

Do note that the engine mounts are different for both engines, so the vibrations on the naturally aspirated engine are felt more in the cabin. At idle itself, you can feel the vibrations on the steering wheel, gear lever and the pedals as well.

Mileage & Fuel Economy

The ARAI-certified fuel efficiency of the naturally aspirated 1.2L engine is 19.8 km/l, which is just 0.4 km/l more than the turbo-petrol. To be honest, that’s not much of a gain for the sacrifice you will make in terms of the performance.

There’s a lot of free space around the engine. The naturally aspirated engine also uses a smaller battery in comparison with the turbo petrol and gets a cold air intake too:

Suspension

Ride Comfort

The C3 comes with a McPherson strut suspension at the front and a twist-beam suspension with coil springs at the rear. Right off the bat, this is a very likeable suspension tune. There’s a hint of stiffness in it, but overall the setup is very compliant. The ride over small potholes and uneven roads in the city is pretty good. The C3 dissipates shocks very evenly over the front and rear which gives you a feeling of gliding over the bad roads. Moreover, the suspension works silently too when going over bumps. Large potholes do register themselves in the cabin, but the C3 handles them well. Overall the ride quality is very absorbent.

The C3 rides on 15-inch wheels with 196/65 section tyres and the recommended tyre pressure is 32 PSI. You won’t really find the need to lower it down as the car rides well in the city and is pretty good on the highways too.

Handling & Dynamics

This is where the C3 springs a pleasant surprise. With most of the recent cars being either too stiff or too soft, a good all-round suspension setup is like a breath of fresh air. The French sure know a thing or two about tuning the suspension just right. Straight-line stability is good for a car in this segment. The passengers will be relaxed and probably won’t even know that you’re cruising at 120 km/h.

The car holds its line nicely in long curves and body roll is well controlled too. Hit an unexpected expansion joint on the curve and the C3 doesn’t get unsettled easily. Start pushing the car on twisty roads and you will appreciate the balance of the chassis. The turn-in is sharp and there is little understeer. With the turbo petrol under the hood, you can really enjoy the car with this suspension. Changing directions from one corner to the other also doesn’t unsettle the car and the transition is pretty smooth. I found myself carrying about 10-15 km/h more speed into corners on the same stretch of road in Goa compared to the Renault Kiger last year. There’s just more confidence that you get in the C3 while truly attacking the corners. The 195/65 R15 Ceat tyres will probably be the only thing that will hold you back as they struggle for grip in tight corners. That said, they work just fine with the naturally aspirated engine. Turbo-petrol owners should definitely upsize.

Steering

The C3’s electric power steering is a very user-friendly unit. It’s light in the city and most owners will appreciate that. The compact dimensions of the car, light steering and a tight turning radius of 4.98 meters make the C3 very easy to drive in the city. While it does weigh up as you gain speed, we’d have liked it to be more hefty as it still feels light while cruising at 100 km/h on the highway.

Enthusiasts won’t like the disconnected feeling of the steering and the vagueness in the center. There’s a peculiar behaviour of this steering wheel when you are taking a bend that requires additional steering input mid-corner. The steering is light on the turn-in and when you start increasing the steering input for the second part of the corner, the resistance increases! We’d have liked the steering to be more consistent, which translates to a more predictive drive through the corners.

Braking

The C3 is equipped with disc brakes at the front and drum brakes at the rear. The performance is as expected and the car comes to a halt without much drama. The pedal feel is very progressive and smooth. Interestingly we were told that the braking setup on the turbo-petrol was beefed up to handle the additional power (i.e. bigger disc, drum and booster). However, we didn’t feel that much of a difference in terms of braking feel and visually as well, the size of components looked pretty much the same.

Niggles & Problems

As a brand, Citroen isn’t particularly known for reliability. Google it up and you’ll see several reports from UK & Europe that reliability can be patchy. In case of the C3, about 90% of the component suppliers are within 50 km of the vehicle assembly factory. The naturally aspirated engine is built from scratch while the turbo-petrol is currently just assembled in India. Citroen plans to localise the turbo-petrol as well soon. So, by the looks of it, and given some time, the components should be readily available across India. Even aftermarket parts will soon start making their way into the market. Hence with the high level of localisation, the component availability shouldn’t be an issue if everything goes well according to Citroen’s plan for all the problems that might arise in the C3. It’ll be interesting to see how Citroen handles the issues on the first batch of cars and thereon. As a buyer, get the maximum extended warranty coverage without even giving it a second thought.

 

 

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