Citroen joins the

rush to small SUVs

Citroen C3 Aircross, front action
Citroen C3 Aircross, side static
Citroen C3 Aircross, front static
Citroen C3 Aircross, rear action
Citroen C3 Aircross, interior
Citroen C3 Aircross, boot 1
Citroen C3 Aircross, boot 2

ANOTHER day, another compact SUV appears on the scene. Suddenly, the world is full of little cars that look as though they could climb a (small) mountain or ford a (shallow) river.

Latest contender for small SUV stardom is the Citroen C3 Aircross, a replacement for the C3 Picasso now that small MPV people carriers are out of favour with buyers, who apparently regard them as too practical looking.

So they're turning in their millions to the SUV, where building them taller and adding obvious body protection armour releases the inner Outback hero in us all.

The C3 Aircross joins the Citroen range alongside the cheaper (by around £1,300) C3 hatchback which has itself become the biggest seller in the UK range since entering showrooms in January.

C3 Aircross prices start at £13,995 and top out at £19,720 for a car that its maker hopes will sell strongly on style and comfort, both attributes of Citroens from before your grandfather was a boy.

A bit more ground clearance over the non-Aircross version of C3 and the availability of traction control and hill descent control as a £400 extra on some versions give the right models a hint of off-road ruggedness.

But the success of the this Spanish-built C3 Aircross will depend much more on how well potential buyers are tempted by the way they can personalise their cars inside and out.

They might fancy the Hype Mistral design theme (£750) with its premium feel leather and satin chrome surrounds for the air vents. Or the tan coloured finish of the half-leather seats in the Hype Colorado design (also £750) could win the style battle.

Outside, there are similar choices to be made, from roof and door mirrors in different colours to the rest of the car or perhaps a breathing blue or spicy orange paint job for £520.

Not that Citroen has forgotten the practicalities, reckoning the newcomer has the most rear leg room in its class and the biggest boot too. Add a family pack (from £350) and the rear bench slides to prioritise leg or luggage room and the front passenger seat folds flat for that Ikea purchase moment.

Citroen must be confident buyers will be happy to spend more on speccing their C3 Aircrosses; the less obviously stylish C3 hatch has already seen most purchasers splashing out on two-tone paint and picking the dearer versions as a base.

Which means the entry level C3 Aircross with 82 horsepower and 116g/km of CO2 will attract few buyers in Touch trim, with Feel and Flair offerings taking the majority of sales.

There are four petrol engines to choose from, all of 1.2 litres but with power outputs of 82, 110, 120 and 130 horsepower. Official fuel consumption ranges from 55.4mpg to 56.5mpg and CO2 of 115/116g/km.

Two diesels complete the engine choices, both 1560cc and with 99 or 120bhp and up to 70.6mpg and 104g/km.

Every C3 Aircross comes with cruise control, air conditioning and DAB radio but you need to move up a grade to the Feel for alloy wheels, space saver wheel, halogen headlights, rear electric windows and a seven inch touchscreen.

Take the top Flair grade and the goodies count mounts, with auto air con, sat nav and keyless entry and starting as highlights. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay feature in Feel and Flair models, along with Bluetooth.

Out on the road in a 110 horsepower petrol version the C3 Aircross felt immediately comfortable, thanks both to a seat with generous proportions and a ride the right side of firm.

Our test run showed 38.1mpg on the trip computer, not an outstanding figure from a car that needed working quite hard through the gears to extract performance.

A 110 diesel did much better, with a lively feel and 55.3mpg showing over the same route as the petrol version.

Both felt nicely special inside and both had a touchscreen that needed prodding to change cabin temperature when an old fashioned twist knob would do the job with less fiddling around.

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