STANDING out in the increasingly congested compact SUV market is not easy - but Citroen is becoming a past master at it.
Four years ago the C4 Cactus shook up the class when it hit showrooms sporting unique ‘Airbumps' along its flanks and now the C3 Aircross has arrived with similar stand-out looks and a sense of fun.
Okay, there are no bumps, but the Aircross shares some familiar design cues with its groundbreaking relative and adds a fresh twist with a decorative ‘venetian blind' graphic on the rear quarter light and a plethora of personalisation possibilities.
Citroen claims 90 different exterior combinations are possible along with five distinctive interior design schemes, depending upon the model.
Such ability to stamp your identity on a car is unheard of outside of the supermini sector and gives the C3 Aircross an edge in what, despite its popularity, is a somewhat characterless area of the market.
Raised ground clearance, a high-set driving position, prominent front and rear skid plates and expanses of chunky cladding create the robust and protective SUV stance.
Effectively a replacement for the C3 Picasso the Aircross is further proof that these so-called ‘sports utility vehicles' are rapidly replacing people carriers in the family car stakes.
But having the latest must-have look doesn't mean that practicality has to be sacrificed and Citroen have packed plenty of versatility into this city-friendly footprint.
The 60/40 split rear seats have reclining and folding backs and, in range-topping Flair trim, also slide backwards and forwards by up to 15 centimetres to prioritise rear legroom or luggage space - which ranges from 410 to 1,289 litres.
An adjustable boot floor means a flat loading deck can be created when the rear seats are down and you can add a folding front passenger seat on all but entry-level cars, allowing items up to 2.4 metres long to be carried.
Space up front is good and there is sufficient, if not generous, personal storage, while in the back leg and head room is adequate and the lack of an intrusive transmission tunnel means three adults will be relatively happy sitting side by side on shorter trips.
The interior echoes the quirkiness of the exterior and features the same horizontal, minimalist design first seen in the C4 Cactus.
This creates a clean, stylish look but the quest to cut out almost all physical controls leaves the driver having to repeatedly stab at the seven-inch touchscreen to adjust the heater settings.
Power comes from either a 1.2-litre petrol engine with a choice of three power outputs or a 1.6 diesel with a choice of two outputs, the most powerful versions paired with six-speed manual transmissions and the rest getting five gears - although the mid-powered petrol is also available with a six-speed automatic.
All of them are frugal and, with the exception of the entry-level petrol, punchy enough for life around town as well as keeping up on the motorway. Choice is, therefore, really a matter of personal preference but the diesels are sensible choices if you do high mileage.
With a set-up focused on comfort the driving experience is easygoing and enjoyable rather than engaging and exciting - but that's the point really in a family SUV. Light steering and compact dimensions make manoeuvring straightforward and the supple suspension flattens out imperfections in the road surface well.
Despite the rufty-tufty looks, however, the C3 Aircross is largely geared for life on the road and all-wheel drive is not an option.
If you do want to tackle something a little more challenging than the Tesco car park, though, you can specify Citroen's Â£400 grip control system, which comes with specialised tyres and offers snow, sand and all-terrain modes as well as hill descent assist.