REVIEW DATE: 03 Oct 2007
The 1.6-litre Exclusive model resides at the sharp end of Citroen's C3 range. Andy Enright tries it for size.
If one was to nominate the friendliest supermini, the very antithesis to in-your-face dynamism, the Citroen C3 would probably get more than a few votes. With its grinning visage and cute curves, it's about as threatening as the Tweenies. Therefore it comes as something of a surprise to find that in plush 1.6-litre Exclusive guise, it's got a bit more attitude than you'd at first give it credit for.
It's largely down to the excellent 110bhp sixteen-valve engine that's found beneath the C3's snub nose. Offered solely with the SensoDrive paddle shift gearbox in Exclusive form, it's one of those engines that barely puts a foot wrong. Punting the car to 60mph in 12.6 seconds, it makes the C3 Exclusive a reasonably lively partner. The top speed of 118mph is evidence that the Exclusive has a good deal in reserve when travelling at usual motorway speeds. The average fuel consumption figure of almost 46mpg gives the opposition little hope whilst the 148g/km CO2 emissions are similarly admirable.
The C3 Exclusive sports a suitably unthreatening but nevertheless neat set of 15-inch alloys along with chrome effect door handles and rear number plate surround and a two-tone half-leather steering wheel. Automatic digital air conditioning helps alleviate the unwanted side effects of all that glazing, whilst multiplex wiring sees to it that the C3 gets big car features like automatic rain sensing wipers and cruise control. There's a refrigerated glove box to prevent your chocolate bars turning into astronaut food, an additional storage bin under the driver's seat, electric heated and folding door mirrors and an anti theft alarm.
Twin front and side airbags also feature. The C3 Exclusive's brakes deserve a special mention. Fitting the standard C3 disc and drum setup obviously wasn't going to wash with a car that was not only quicker but a fair bit heavier than the other models. Therefore the Exclusive gets some ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear. This system is augmented not only by standard 4-channel anti-lock, but also electronic brakeforce distribution and Emergency Brake Assist. One suspects the guy working in Citroen's braking department was looking for a promotion.
"It's doubtful the C3 Exclusive will live up to its name."
And the Sensodrive gearbox? Well, it does make this C3 supremely easy to pilot in urban traffic. The gearbox features a mode whereby it defaults to a conventional automatic transmission, thus saving you the bother of shifting yourself. When the road opens up, you can switch it to sequential mode and flip up and down the gears using paddles behind the steering wheel or the centrally mounted gear lever. It's not one of those clever clutchless manual systems - there's still a conventional automatic torque converter - but it does offer three different programs (Normal, Sport & Snow) as well as that fully automatic mode. Also worthy of note is that fact that SensoDrive has been tweaked in the latest C3 models. It now features revised shifting paddles with a higher-quality feel and a chrome-topped gearlever that slides around its gate rather than centring itself after a mode has been selected.
The interior is adventurously styled - which makes a change from all the other makers who seem to be slavishly aping VW Group products. As a result, instead of a dull Teutonic cabin, we've got one that goes its own way, light and airy with low window lines and bold, sweeping curves. More importantly, there are enough bins, cubbies and boxes to make locating a carelessly stowed bunch of keys the work of several minutes.
ISOFIX child seat mounting points feature strongly and such is the C3's family orientation that an optional 'Child Pack' is available. No, this isn't a lockable trunk that stows problematic sprogs safely in the boot, it's a selection of extras that will hopefully offset just such an outcome. A child safety indicator on the dashboard monitors whether seat belts have been unclipped whilst safety locks can be activated or deactivated via a dash-mounted switch. A 12-volt socket at the rear, previously the preserve of MPVs, allows junior to play Gameboys without the ticking time bomb that is a battery failure/high score moment. Aircraft-style trays can be fitted to the back of the front seats with clip-in pen and cup holders and plastic bag hooks. The greatest feature is probably the simplest. A swing down mirror that's usually stowed behind the standard rear view allows you to keep an eye on the offspring without impeding your forward vision too badly.
Clever safety-conscious electronic features have been borrowed from the larger C5 - things such as speed-sensitive intermittent wipers with rain sensing activation, hazard lights that deploy automatically under severe braking as well as comprehensive pedestrian safety features. Side window airbags feature on the options list alongside other Exclusive options including an electric sunroof, grey leather upholstery, heated front seats, a rear parking sensor and even satellite navigation.
Given such an impressive showing, it's doubtful the C3 1.6 Exclusive will live up to its name. Citroen's stock shows no sign of peaking just yet.
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