Citroen C3 1.4 e-HDi 70 VTR+
Airdream EGS review
by David Finlay (10 September 2012)
It is of no great significance that this particular Citroen C3 has a CO2 rating of under 100g/km, because nearly half of them do. If, therefore, you were to go into a Citroen dealership and buy a C3 at random, you have a nearly even chance of picking one that's exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty and the London congestion charge.
At present, all those models are also subject to the 100% First Year Allowance for business cars, but that's going to change next April when - as a result of Chancellor George Osborne's 2012 Budget - the threshold will drop from the current 110g/km to 95g/km. That will wipe out part the advantage of buying a great many low-CO2 cars, including most of the C3s. But not this one.
This one has official CO2 emissions of 87g/km, so it's safe for now, and it's about to become by far the most sensible C3 for a business buyer to consider. If you're a private customer who doesn't have things like First Year Allowances to consider, you may be intrigued by the spectacular combined fuel economy figure of 83.1mpg. Unfortunately I can't say how relevant this is to real-world conditions because this test was too short for me to investigate, but even at a very grudging estimate it should surely be possible to maintain an average in the high 60s.
How has Citroen achieved such impressive numbers? Well, to begin with, this is the least powerful diesel in the C3 range, with a modest 68bhp, and it also comes with the EGS automated manual gearbox.
EGS is a beastly horrid system which takes forever to change from one gear to the next, hence the dismally slow 0-62mph time of 16.2 seconds - the car actually feels quite a bit quicker than that. It's possible to accelerate smoothly by selecting gears manually (using the gearlever or the paddleshifts on the steering wheel) and easing off the throttle at the crucial moment, but if I'm going to put that amount of work in I'd rather have a conventional manual.
The 87g/km car isn't available with a conventional manual, though, because EGS is far more efficient on the EU test, so if you want this level of official fuel innage and CO2 outage you're just going to have to live with it.
There are compensations, though. The steering is very light and beautifully smooth, making this an exceptionally easy car to drive in town, while the soft but well-damped suspension is - I quote from my notes here - "fantastic at soaking up bumps". I even tracked down some really severe bumps and attacked them as fast as possible (which, given the 68bhp maximum output, wasn't actually very fast at all) and the C3 simply giggled, as if I'd stroked the soles of its feet with a feather.
The C3 is available with this engine and gearbox only in conjunction with the mid-range VTR+ trim level, so it comes as standard with air-conditioning, cruise control, a leather-covered steering wheel, the ESP safety system, curtain airbags, Bluetooth connectivity, a USB socket and front foglights.
It also has the celebrated Zenith Panoramic windscreen which extends above the heads of the front-seat passengers. I don't like this at all, and prefer to use the option of covering it to the point where the top of a normal windscreen would be, but you might love the feeling of having nothing visible between you and the skies, and that's absolutely fine.