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C3 - is this the car for you?

31.08.2003 (07.02.2004)

Funky looks, fantastic mpg, smooth ride, spaciousness

Shockingly bad dealer service, succession of minor niggly faults

Recommendable Yes:

Detailed rating:

Road Handling




Value for Money

Fuel consumptionExcellent

7 Ciao members have rated this review on average: very helpful See ratings
exceptional by (14%):
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  2. Badge2000
  3. jofoster
very helpful by (82%):
  1. damionh
  2. Agape_
  3. newquayboy
and 15 other members
helpful by (5%):
  1. fluffchillin

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I've owned my C3 for just over 4 months now - it's a 1.4HDi Desire in metallic Posedion Blue.

I really, really like the car, but I'm not sure if I could wholeheartedly recommend it to you...read on and you'll find out why!

The C3 is an all new car for Citroen and it slots into the range between the soon to be replaced Saxo and the bigger Xsara.

It's a compact 5 door supermini, which competes against familiar models such as the Vauxhall Corsa, Ford Fiesta and Renault Clio. Don't be fooled by the word "compact" though, as it is suprisingly spacious inside with ample room for 4 adults, or 5 for shorter journeys. The 5 doors make access easy and the boot is large for the class - how many "supermini's" only have a boot big enough for a few bags of shopping? The C3 swallows luggage with aplomb and has lots of handly storage in the passenger compartment too - even a hidden tray under the drivers seat!

The car is also funky looking - there are design cues from some of the classic Citroens of yesterday. The side profile (especially towards the rear) is reminiscent of the legendary 2CV, whilst there is just a hint of the DS in the headlights.

The C3 is available with a wide selection of engines, ranging from 1.1 to 1.6 litres. There are also two 1.4 turbo diesel options - the 70bhp HDi as fitted to my car, and a more powerful HDi 16v which produces a whopping 92bhp.

Before we bought our car we roadtested a 1.4 petrol model and found it drove well, but went for the diesel on economy grounds due to my high-ish annual mileage . We haven't been dissapointed with the diesel, with fuel consumption remaining steady between 62-65mpg in a good mix of different traffic (my journey to work includes local, "A" and motorway class roads). On a recent trip to Scotland over the bank holiday weekend we managed a massive 71.7mpg in normal driving - thats simply amazing, considering much of the journey was completed at motorway speeds.

Whilst the HDi engine is no racer, it is certainly more than adequate for anyone in the UK - the car will quite happily sit at around 70mph in 5th and doesn't need continual gear changes on inclines or to get around traffic due to the engines impressive torque, always a strength of diesel engines. The car also happily accelerates away from junctions with a surprising turn of speed and you need to watch that you're not creeping up over the limit. The car is equipped with a handy warning buzzer that you can pre-set to the speed of your choice to give you a warning you're going too fast! I've had what would be considered as "fast" cars in the past and certainly don't feel that I'm missing out with the C3.

The car also scores highly on the comfort front - both front seats are fully adjustable, including for height, which is unusual in this class, and the ride is smooth on all but the roughest of roadsurfaces. There is a small trade off in that the car can feel a bit soft in corners, but you'd really have to be pressing on to make this feel uncomfortable. It's a worthwhile compromise in my opinion. On our trip around Scotland we covered nearly 1,000 miles in 3 days and didn't suffer from any aches or pains whilst driving, stepping out of the car as fresh as when we'd got in.

On the equipment front, the Desire model is in the middle of the range - the L and LX models are below it, with the SX and Exclusive models above.
Citroen cannot be accused of skimping on standard equipment as all C3's come with power steering, 4 airbags, RDS stereo, front electric windows, tinted glass, speed sensitive windscreen wipers, remote central locking with deadlocks, an engine immobiliser and a fully adjustable steering wheel.
The Desire model adds a single CD player and air-conditioning to this comprehensive list.
Higher spec models feature toys such as automatic headlights and windscreen wipers that switch on when needed, or a multi-CD player. The car gets a 4 star NCAP safety rating, which is pretty impressive too.

So the car scores highly on the value front - well equipped, fantastic mpg and being a Citroen you should be able to negotiate a sizeable discount from the dealer. In fact Citroen are currently offering to pay the VAT on new cars - now that is a good deal, even if it won't do the residual values too many favours! Bear in mind the list price for our car was £10250, a bit of negotiating and haggling and we got £2000 off, including the Citroen discount - now thats a bargain!

So, why am I unsure if I can wholeheartedly recommend the car?

Well, the Citroen dealer in Leeds has been an absolute nightmare. There were delays in the car arriving at the dealer, the car wasn't ready for us when we arrived to collect it, the first (free) service which we were advised would take half an hour took a full afternoon (whilst we waited in the showroom) and a list of minor faults still haven't been fixed. The dealership have, to be fair, tried to sort things out for us once we got Citroen involved, but I cannot recall ever receiving such poor service from any company. I'm certain to consider taking the car elsewhere for it's next service - hopefully the Leeds dealer will be a one-off!!! That said with service intervals of 12,500 miles (or 20,000 miles on petrol models), visits to the dealer should be few and far between.

The car also has a few minor, but niggly faults that the dealer seems unable to fix - there is a wind noise from the mirrors at speed (still awaiting parts to book in), there are several plastic trim rattles (we've been told these are fixed, but clearly they are not) and the car has already had to have attention to the paintwork under the warranty. In fact the paint does seem very thin as it chips or scratches at apparently the slightest mark - I shall be keeping a close eye on this.
This is all minor stuff though - the car has always started first time, done whatever we've asked of it and we enjoy driving it. That is the important thing and Citroen have got that right.

When all is said or done though, this is a fantastic car for the money - spacious, good looking, very economical, comfortable, reliable and well equipped. I think if you found a good dealership then you'd be as pleased as punch with your car.

And that is the basis that I am going to recommend the car - my experience has been tainted by poor aftersales service, I hope yours isn't.

***UPDATE - Feb '04***
Well, we've had the car for 10 months now, so hows it doing?

Well everything I liked about it is still good, but we've given up on the Leeds dealer. It was in before Christmas for a couple of bit looking at under warranty and we were promised that the parts for the wind noise were on order would be in soon. They haven't phoned, so I'm not phoning them!

I've tried using Dixon Citroen in halifax - what a revelation. Polite knowledgeable staff, the car was ready when promised and I even got a phone call to tell me what they'd done and that it was ready early!

Faults - mainly minor niggles, really. One of the rear door handles stopped working - a clip had come loose and this was fixed under warranty and we still have the wind noise from the doors / mirrors..

One more worrying point is that the heater struggles to cope with really cold weather. The other week when temperatures were sub-zero for several days it only got warm, never hot, on my 25 mile drive to work. The engine didn't reach normal operating temperature either, until I was nearly at work. Dixon's checked this and advised it's normal for the model, but I'm not so sure - i'll be keeping an eye on that!

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Comments about this review »

Igloo_Vindaloo 22.01.2005 23:49

Top review. Just looking at buying just that car, and you've confirmed my suspicions about Citroen main dealers. I guess that's why there are so many independents across the country, despite the plethora of servicing equipment they needed historically. Apparently now the warranty is still covered if the servicing is done by an independent - should put some pressure on them! Just hope to push that decreciation up to the point where I can actually afford one!

Legodevil 14.07.2004 14:26

It seems that you are very appreciative of this car. However... The leeds dealer seems to have let you down. And un fortunately another dealer has almost spoilt another decent car's reputation. Thankyou for this very high quality report Pete :)

Badge2000 06.06.2004 15:08

Covered every aspect in detail, giving a concise appraisal of the car and followed up with a long term report, very professional.

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Product Information »

Manufacturer's product description

Citroen present the C3 1.4i SX 5dr Hatchback with 5 Speed - (Man) / 4 Speed - (Auto), Front (FWD) running on Unlead...

Product details

Manufacturer Citroen
Boot Capacity (litres) 282
Weight 1005, 1044, 1039, 1014, 1051


Listed on Ciao since 30/01/2004

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This review of Citroen C3 1.4i has been rated:

"exceptional" by (14%):

  1. Igloo_Vindaloo
  2. Badge2000
  3. jofoster

"very helpful" by (82%):

  1. damionh
  2. Agape_
  3. newquayboy

and 15 other members

"helpful" by (5%):

  1. fluffchillin

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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