Quiet and comfortable, but pick your engine carefully and take the corners gently
Panoramic windscreen in most models gives a fabulous view and lots of light; seats could be more supportive
Stability control isn't available on all models, hence a disappointing 4 stars in Euro NCAP crash tests
Citroen's reliability is pretty average, according to surveys, but we can't complain about the C3
Huge boot (for a supermini); rear passenger space can't compete with the best, however
Step up from the basic model to get that snazzy windscreen, alloy wheels and air-con
The 1.2 petrol engine is the one to go for, as it offers both decent pace and good fuel economy. The 1.1-litre engine is so slow you may as well be pedalling, while the 1.4 is so strong it makes the 1.6 petrol seem redundant. The three diesel models are smooth and very efficient but only really make sense if you do loads of miles as they also cost more to buy.
If you spend a lot of time on the motorway, you'll appreciate the Citroen's smooth ride and excellent refinement. However, the pay-off is stodgy handling: the C3 sways through the corners and has decidedly vague steering.
The highlight of the C3 is its 'Zenith' windscreen (fitted to VTR+ models and above), which extends back above the driver's head, flooding the cabin with light (you can pull down the special sunblinds for it on bright days). The dashboard is stylish, smart and clear, but the seats aren't all that supportive and the rest for your clutch foot is positioned too high.
The C3 has a bigger boot than many of its rivals, including the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, so plenty of buggies will fit in here; it's just the pity there's such a high load lip and the rear seats don't fold completely flat for those occasions when you need extra load space.
Most rival superminis have more room in the rear, too: adults will find the back seats cramped, and you might find the limited rear legroom an issue when trying to fit some types of child seat. Entry-level VT cars have electric front windows and a CD player, but we'd upgrade to VTR+ to get air-con, cruise controls and, on manual versions, alloy wheels. The lower-powered 1.6 diesel is also available in a special Airdream+ trim which swaps alloys for rear parking sensors and Bluetooth. It also cuts CO2 emissions to just 99g/km. Range-topping Exclusive cars bring climate control, rear electric windows and interior mood lighting.
On the whole the C3's interior feels good quality and well put together (only the cheap-looking glovebox lid lets the side down a little), but owners rated the C3's mechanical reliability only as 'average' in the latest JD Power ownership satisfaction survey. Meanwhile, entry-level VT models miss out on stability control and curtain airbags, and the C3 gets only four out of the maximum five stars from Euro NCAP, with 83% for adult safety and 74% for child safety, scores which are easily beaten by the Volkswagen Polo and the Peugeot 208.
There are better superminis to choose from, but the Citroen C3 is still a decent buy and shouldn't bust your budget thanks to sensible pricing, good discounts and frugal engines. The Airdream+ model is particularly cheap to run because it emits just 99g/km of CO2, which means it's exempt from road tax. However, all versions of the C3 suffer from heavy depreciation, so don't expect to get too much back for this car when you come to sell it on.