Citroen's C3 Aircross redefines the compact crossover
Fun and funky Citroen C3 Aircross redefines compact crossovers The Citroen C3 Aircross (above) has a large boot - the rear seats can slide forward, allowing for as much as 410 litres of stowage without folding any seats. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

If you are finding it increasingly difficult to tell crossovers apart, that is because there are only so many ways you can design a tallish hatch with make-believe ruggedness.

Citroen, however, has managed admirably with its C3 Aircross - a car that is refreshingly different, and yet no less of a crossover than its peers.

Treading a line between geeky and funky, zany and outrageous, the French manufacturer's take on the "urban sport utility vehicle" is eye-catching.

Its front section features thin daytime-running LEDs on either side of its extended double-chevron bonnet shutline. A rhomboid grille with geometric mesh flanked by inset headlights resembles the face of an anime character. A low-slung bumper resembling a skid plate with air vents completes the unique look.

Contrasting highlights applied to the roof rails, wing mirror covers, headlights, C-pillars and alloy rims accentuate the car's idiosyncratic styling. It is an automotive rendition of postmodernism - irreverent, uneasy and boundary-pushing. It is not a pretty picture per se, but you cannot look away either.

The C3 Aircross' unconventional design hides its SUV-like proportions. The car is actually a wee bit taller than the Nissan Qashqai. And if you include those standard issue roof rails, it is taller than the Audi Q3.

It has a compact footprint, occupying less space than a Volkswagen Golf. Its wheelbase is not especially long at 2,604mm, but the car will accommodate four reasonably well.

Boot space is above average, though. Because the rear seats can slide forward, there is as much as 410 litres of stowage without folding any seats - unsurpassed by any other car its size.

Like its Peugeot cousins, the C3 Aircross has a digital cockpit. A 7-inch infotainment touchscreen, which incorporates air-conditioning controls and navigation, phone mirroring that is iPhone-and Android-compatible, and wireless phone charging give the dash a modern and minimalistic feel.

 

The interior is as stylish as the exterior, with contrasting highlights on the air-con vents, steering wheel and fabric seat covers. The gear and parking brake levers, although conventional in operation, look chic.

At the wheel, you instantly feel the Aircross' height. The car's 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine fires up uneventfully.

The gear lever is notchy, but you eventually get to D. Lower the handbrake and you are on your way.

The drivetrain lacks refinement and outright power. Its six-speed autobox behaves a little like a robotised manual, which is a little strange. It is also tuned for efficiency, often staying in a higher cog for longer than necessary.

But thanks to buckets of torque from low engine speeds, the car is reasonably sprightly. In city traffic, it feels a lot quicker than its 11.8-second century sprint suggests.

Its compactness translates well to agility. And despite its tall and narrow silhouette, the car carves a mean corner. Ride quality is acceptable, but unremarkable.

All in all, the C3 Aircross is an interesting car with style, functionality and individuality. Not to mention a wallet-friendly price tag (although the similar but less funky Peugeot 2008 costs $5,000 less).

Best part is, you will never lose it in the carpark.