Citroen makes

comfortable progress

Citroen C3, rear action
Citroen C3, front action 2
Citroen C3, rear action
Citroen C3, rear action 2
Citroen C3, static front
Citroen C3, static side
Citroen C3, static rear
Citroen C3, static above
Citroen C3, boot
Citroen C3, rear seats
Citroen C3, inerior orange
Citroen C3, dashboard red

FOR years Citroens were comfy and quirky alternatives to everyday family transport needs - it didn't make the company much money but owners loved them.

Then Citroen went straight under new owners Peugeot and the cars got - dare it be spoken - a bit predictable.

Now the fight back to something a bit more individual gets into full swing with a new Citroen C3 small family hatch, replacing the company's biggest selling range and so a vital car for future company growth.

More than 3.6 million C3s have been sold since the original appeared in 2002, with a newer model in 2010. We Brits like the C3 and have bought more than 200,000 of them.

Actually, the return to traditional Citroen strengths started a couple of years ago with the smaller selling C4 Cactus.

You know, the car with the big rubber pads on the doors, designed to laugh off supermarket parking scuffs but, you suspect, really to make people ask 'what sort of car is that?'

They'll be asking the same question of the new C3, which comes with its own version of the Airbump on the top version (a £290 cost option otherwise) and is again the standout feature of a new Citroen.

The other way Citroen hopes will help its new baby stand out from the crowd is the way you can make it your own with nine body colours and three roof colours, bringing back a mildly retro two-tone feel.

The new C3 comes in three levels - Touch, Feel and Flair and costs from £10,995 for a Touch version with 68 horsepower three-cylinder 1.2 litre petrol engine. The same engine with more power (110 horses) is joined in the range by a couple of 1.6 litre diesels with 75 and 100 horsepower and costing from £13,295.

Top of the range is the £17,095 Flair with the more powerful diesel, that also attracts a group 20 insurance group, with the entry level C3 at a much lower group eight. CO2 ratings vary from 108g/km for both petrol engines to a low of 93g/km with the least powerful diesel.

Slip into the big front seats - deliberately looking more lounge than race track - and there are four interior looks to choose from, including touches of yellow, grey or red and all aimed at making life in a C3 a bit more urban chic than the opposition.

Then we come to the most happening bit of the lot, what Citroen calls ConnectedCAM and which might help you sort out a 'who's to blame' bumper bender at the lights.

A tiny camera perched behind the rear view mirror records short videos or still shots at the press of a button - and remembers the scene before and after an accident too.

So as well as sharing silly pictures of partygoers on a zebra crossing dressed as rabbits (shared via a free app when stationary) you might dramatically produce images of the idiot in front reversing into your C3 without looking where he was going.

So, the new C3 looks distinctive, inside and out and has technology that ought to make it appeal to younger drivers. Now we find that more down to earth demands were also on the agenda when the designers got stuck in.

That means a decent sized boot, big storage bins in the doors and, Citroen says, the largest glovebox in the class. Rear seat legroom is less lavish; larger passengers will love front seat occupants who slide their seats forward for them.

On the comfort front, you won't find anything of the advanced (and expensive) engineering that made some older Citroens rise and sink at the pull of a lever. Instead, an entirely conventional suspension set up has been tiled more towards a soft ride than race track firmness.

Nothing to surprise under the bonnet, either, where you'll find a choice of three three-cylinder petrol engines in different levels of power (68, 82 and 110 horsepower) and two diesels of 75 and 100 horses. The petrol versions will be much the most popular.

Out for a drive in a petrol version with 82 horsepower - the likely best seller of the lot - the car immediately impressed with its ride, not pillow soft but forgiving enough to make comfy progress.

Nicely weighted steering and a decently positive gearchange helped smooth forward progress, where another Citroen aim with the newcomer - good sound insulation - was evident in a pleasant lack of clamour from road and wind.

That included enough motorway miles to demonstrate the car's ability to mix it with faster traffic and return a reasonable 44mpg at journey's end.

We didn't have an accident, so could not put the inbuilt camera to the ultimate test...

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