FOLLOWERS of automotive fashion know that Citroen likes to set the trend and it's doing just that with its latest C3 Aircross.
As more and more compact crossovers take to the road, Citroen is out to make a mark with a model that looks the part, has stand out features and can actually do the SUV job.
Unlike most other models of this ilk the C3 Aircross has a modicum of off-road ability and can be fitted with Citroen's electronic Grip Control system.
It's a Â£400 option which includes winter tyres and with the Aircross having seven inches of ground clearance provides added traction over poor terrain.
A mud-plugger it is not but the system is tried and tested and now includes hill descent control which all helps in wintry weather or any other circumstances when the going gets tough.
Allied to some sturdy features such as skid plates front and rear and protective mouldings around the wheel arches and the C3 Aircross is more than just another nifty number to impress on the school run.
With a 13 model line up priced from Â£13,995 to Â£19,720, Citroen is pitching the C3 Aircross competitively against the likes of other newcomers on the compact scene such as the Kia Stonic, Hyundai Kona and the SEAT Arona - all of which are front-wheel-drive only.
The range is predominantly petrol powered using the PSA group's three-cylinder 1.2-litre PureTech engine in a variety of guises with power outputs ranging from 82 to 130bhp.
Two 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesels also feature with 110 and 120bhp on tap and while more economical they are at the higher end of the price scale, starting from £17,220.
The most fuel efficient is the 100bhp Aircross diesel which Citroen rates at 70.6mpg with emissions of 104g/km while the more powerful diesel has official figures of 68.9mpg with a CO2 banding of 107g/km.
The PureTech models, which also offer a 110bhp automatic option priced from £17,400, have combined fuel returns ranging from 55.4mpg to 53.3 with the auto rated at 50.4 to the gallon and a CO2 figure of 126g/km.
We saw an average of 43.4mpg from the automatic powertrain and a healthy 54.2mpg in the 100bhp diesel and both drove well, although the diesel is heavier and felt so.
Performance figures were 0 to 60 in 11.8 seconds for the petrol with a maximum of 114mph and 12.8 for the diesel with a top end of 109mph.
Where the C3 Aircross impresses is not just with its looks but also on the practical front.
It replaces the C3 Picasso in the Citroen range and that was more MPV than SUV-oriented.
The Aircross offers the best of both worlds being roomy for five inside and with a generous boot that ranges from 410 to 520 litres depending on where the rear seats are positioned - they slide fore and aft as well as tilt for added comfort.
Maximum capacity is a useful 1,289 litres which is on the large size for cars of this class. It also has the ability to take loads of up to 2.4 metres in length thanks to a fold-flat front passenger seat.
The diesel we sampled was in mid-grade Feel trim priced from £17,220 and the PureTech model was a top specification Flair model costing £19,200.
Equipment includes the likes of dual zone air conditioning, a seven-inch touchscreen, sat nav with Mirror Link and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
Flair grade ramps up the specification and adds the likes of keyless operation, parking sensors, automatic emergency assistance and a snazzy twin-tone paint finish as standard.
Other equipment included a head up display, a wireless phone charging pad and an opening panoramic sunroof which took the cost up to £21,670.
The interior finish is above par with high quality trim and upholstery and the cabin can be decked out in a variety of colours including red, grey and orange. With ambient lighting it looks very classy.
In all there are some 85 colour combinations which can be specified and the detail goes down to individual finishes for the door mirror caps and wheel hubs.
In typical Citroen fashion the C3 Aircross dares to be different and the rear three quarter window can be dressed as a ‘Venetian blind' with coloured slats to set off the looks. The handbrake is also of an unusual design with a chunky lever sited towards the back of the centre console.
Built in Spain, the C3 Aircross has little to do with Citroen's slightly smaller C3 hatchback and in fact it shares its underpinnings with the new Vauxhall Crossland X but the two are as different as chalk and cheese when it comes to looks.
With its purposeful styling and some bright finishes on offer the C3 Aircross has all it takes to light up the crossover market as a very capable, proper looking and comfortable all rounder.