THE chap in the pub the other day who grumbled, ‘All cars look alike these days' had better step this way and check out the Citroen C3 Aircross.
With its big snub nose, narrow-eyed head lights and high-riding stance this chunky, funky crossover stands out in any car park. And that's before you've chosen a wacky colour from Citroen's paintbox of no fewer than 85 combinations.
Basically the C3 Aircross has replaced the long-running Picasso as transport for young families on the look out for a practical but fun set of wheels that will be reasonable to run.
Like most of the rivals the French marque has dumped people-carrier styling in favour of something more SUV style. With dimensions of 4.15m long and 1.6m high, it actually has slightly more carrying capacity than the old, mumsy-looking Picasso.
Diesels may be somewhat out of favour at the moment, but the 1.6-litre diesel I drove is likely to be one of the best sellers in the range which includes two 1.2-litre petrol three-cylinder models and a couple of diesels offering either 99bhp or 119bhp.
This was the lower powered diesel in Flair guise, which has the most treats. These include DAB radio, seven-inch touch screen, sat nav and 17-inch alloys.
As with most compact SUVs, the Aircross comes with two-wheel drive rather than all-paw. But Citroen gives you the option of Grip Control which optimises traction for varying road conditions.
You can also select from four settings - snow, mud, sand and hill descent. I left the dashboard control in standard during the test, but can endorse the system works impressively from previous off-road test experience.
As you'd expect from a company like style-conscious Citroen, the cabin is a tad radical with a choice of five interior ‘ambiences'. There's plenty of bright coloured plastic mouldings, painted surfaces and shiny bits. I wasn't, however, very taken with the venetian blind effect on the rear side windows.
I loved the optional sliding glass panoramic roof to make the most of those rare bright, sunny days. At under 50mph there's almost no buffeting.
With its tall stance, and upright seating position, there's ample room in the cabin and the seats are soft yet supportive. Luggage space in the hatchback boot is generous at 410 litres and this can be increased to 520 litres by sliding the split rear-bench seat forward a few inches.
Get behind the wheel and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the liveliness of the 99bhp diesel. It picks up well and there's ample torque for high gear overtaking. It rides well with body roll kept nicely in check. Road irregularities are absorbed confidently and the cornering ability is if a similarly high standard to the C3 hatchback.
Steering is light and precise enough but somewhat woolly, offering little feedback information to the driver.