BY ANDREW MUZAMHINDO
IT IS a fanciful French offering.
Whilst others associate the French with perfumes, wining and dining, I associate the French with their car brands, namely Peugeot, Renault and Citroën.
In addition, you cannot forget the famous British sitcom ’Allo ’Allo, which is about the life of a French café owner in Nouvion, during the German occupation of France in the Second World War, who has to deal with complications caused by a deceitful German officer, a local French Resistance leader, a stolen painting, and a pair of trapped British airmen, while concealing from his wife the secret affairs he is having with his waitresses.
I know the Citroën brand disappeared locally. Nevertheless, who can forget the Citroën DS model from the 70s when we were kids. It was amazing watching a car that looked like a handsome frog with pneumatics that enabled its body to slide up and down.
The Citroën DS are, front-wheel drive executive cars manufactured and marketed by Citroën from 1955 to 1975 in sedan/fastback, wagon/estate and convertible body configurations, across three series.
They were a marvel to watch. The brand has gone on to be strong in other countries. We all have our own biases and these can often stand between you and something wonderful. Put your reservations aside and join me as we take a closer look at the endearing Citroën C2 1.2T Shine.
Trying to remain unbiased is rather tough, it is just human nature to favour one item over another. While our parents assured us that they love us all equally, we cannot help but feel that one is getting the short end of the stick.
It is for this reason that figure skating has several judges and a panel of experts for talent shows like AGT or The Voice. Our personal preferences are largely influenced by experience and complete objectivity is virtually impossible.
I know, my job is to be as impartial as is humanly possible and even I still get it wrong. You see, I have a soft spot for the Frenchies because of encounters with the brand as a child.
For me, it was the comfort levels, quality of the drive and the unconventional approach to the controls that I found endearing. It also taught me about inherent design flaws and weaknesses that certain brands possess.
The facelifted C3 challenges the likes of the Polo, Fiesta, and Mazda2 in the hard-fought B-segment hatchback field. While there are a lot of features that are common to these offerings, it is the styling of the C3 that makes it stand out; this one is certainly for the adventurous.
The three-tiered lighting arrangement in the front incorporates DRLs, fog lamps and new LED headlights that flank the front grille and Citroën chevron whose chrome spars run wide across the front to create the impression of width.
Contrasting colours is the name of the game and the two-tone colour scheme, with the roof in a dark black (as was the case with our test model) and the controversial Air bumps on the doors, lends itself to the unique styling of the compact C3.
A clear rear profile with new LED element taillights make the model instantly recognisable and the unpainted black rear diffuser adds a sporty touch to proceedings. The range-topping Shine derivative rolls on a set of sensibly sized 16-inch alloy wheels, also sporting a bi-tone theme.
The French design flair extends to the interiors and this will be one of the more polarising aspects of the compact Frenchie. Carrying over the luggage styling that we first saw in the C4 Cactus, this includes door handle straps that are styled to look like luggage handles with satin silver endplates, light coloured door pockets and detail stitching.
The broad dashboard element is finished off in a glossy piano black and surrounded by a satin silver trim piece and accentuated by the chrome air vent rings that all tie into the rounded rectangle design theme. Everywhere you look, you will find this theme and motif carried through.
Overall, the cabin is cozy and cosseting and one may feel as if there is a little more space in the opposition. Citroën has tweaked the driving position and provided additional reach on the steering wheel, allow those with longer legs to feel more at home.
The same cannot be said about the rear seats though and passengers in the back will feel the low headroom and limited legroom. Fine for younger children, but a touch on the uncomfortable side for adults.
If there is one thing the French get right, it is comfort. This has been their brand signature, albeit to a lesser degree than the French offerings of the 70s and 80s and Citroën has redesigned the front seats to provide additional comfort.
It is complemented by the advances in noise-cancelling insulation that makes this cabin quieter than it was before.
The C3 is fitted with a 7-inch floating infotainment screen that houses Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities but is also responsible for the HVAC control system.
This vehicle-centric system houses numerous vehicle functions and many of the vehicle’s settings. The primary interface is the touchscreen with touch areas on either side, but a rotary volume knob is also provided as a tactile interface. The driver also gets the convenience of a multifunction steering wheel for basic audio control.
Under the hood is the tried and tested 1.2-litre 3-cylinder PureTech engine. Shine models benefit from a turbocharger that sees this mill produce 81 kW and 205 Nm torque.
Feel models have to do without the forced induction and only manage to muster 60 kW and 118 Nm torque. The entry-level Feel model sees this engine mated to a 5-speed manual while the Shine is only available with the self-shifting 6-speed automatic. Both power the front wheels.
The engine in the Shine derivative is peaky and enthusiastic and seems to have no problem complying with your demands when overtaking or looking to gap traffic.
The overall weight of 1090 kg means that this engine does not have to work too hard to get you moving and this makes it a joyous experience. This light kerb weight also means that the C3 is nimble and agile, changing direction without too much protesting. This, however, is not it is forté and it would rather do the casual commute while keeping with traffic.
The inherent benefit of a smaller displacement engine and light bodyshell means returns on your fuel consumption. Citroën claims that you can see an average fuel consumption of 6.0 l/100km and while not terribly far off, we managed to see figures in the mid-7s. A slightly more conservative approach to driving will see that number improve.
The claimed range from the 45-litre fuel tanks is calculated to be 790 km.
Safety is not in short supply either and the C3 has the usual array of acronyms; ABS, EBA, EBD, TCS and ESP In addition, you will get 6 airbags and features such as Speed Limit Recognition and Recommendation, Cruise Control, and ISOFIX mountings in the outer rears. The Citroën C3 also scored a 4-star Euro NCAP rating, narrowly missing out on the fifth star with an adult occupant safety rating of 88%.
The C3 challenges the likes of the Volkswagen Polo, Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, KIA Rio, and the recently released Honda Fit. Some of these present stable brands with a large dealer network but this would not sway us too much. Citroën, as part of the fresh Stellantis group, has assured the market that their products will continue to be represented for the foreseeable future.
If you discard the misconceptions that Citroens are unreliable, expensive to maintain and a parts nightmare, then the Citroën C3 could be the interesting vehicle for you. The C3 — it is different and bold, it breaks away from the stereotypical B-Segment design and execution and for that very reason alone, it’s worth considering. Of course you would have to cross Limpopo to purchase it.