Car Review: Citroen - C3  Series 09 (3 stars)

Far better than the first generation, but the handling still isn't great

Despite a less than euphoric reception amongst the motoring press, Citroen managed to shift two million previous-generation C3s during its seven-year lifespan. The replacement model provides a totally fresh design, and tackles the last car's weaknesses such as the poor cabin finish and chunky exterior design.

Styling-wise, new C3 is most definitely an evolution of the last, with characteristic proportions and familiar shapes, but it has an altogether more mature, refined look combined with interesting details, many of which also appear on the upmarket DS3.

One of the cabin's most notable features is the 'Zenith' front windscreen, which comes as part of the VTR+ and Exclusive trim packages, providing a panoramic view, greatly adding to the feeling of space inside. In case you're worried about cracks, Citroen says replacing the glass is no more expensive than a normal screen. Storage is a strong point, with lots of useful cubbyholes, and a 300-litre boot that's one of the biggest in this class. Thanks to the C3's tall stance, headroom is good, and while the rear bench will accommodate two adults in reasonable comfort, adding one more would create a real squeeze. The interior finish is much better than the previous car's, with high-quality soft-touch plastics, robust, stylish switchgear and a logical, user-friendly setup.

A comprehensive choice of seven engines includes three oil-burners, and output varies from a miserly 61bhp to a sprightlier 120bhp. We're already fans of PSA's 1.6 HDi engine, and it's available here in 90bhp and 110bhp forms to offer a frugal but fairly rapid heart for the C3 that will surely be the most popular choice. The mainstream diesel engines return excellent economy of between 63 and 67mpg, while the petrol options are still commendable, registering in the forties. The incredibly efficient Airdream 1.6 HDi emits just 99g/km of CO2, meaning zero road tax.

Take the C3 to some twisty rural roads, and you'll find it tends towards understeer on faster bends, and there is a fair amount of body roll. It's not a patch on the Ford Fiesta (or several other competitors) for fun and driver engagement, but it's not docile to the point of grating. The ride is very good, though, even on bigger rims, and the C3 is a respectable cruiser that benefits from excellent road and wind noise deadening.

Despite its underwhelming handling characteristics, the new C3 benefits from improved design and build quality, plus those impressively efficient engines, making it a serious contender at this price.

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