Stellantis' third B-segment model needs a bit more polishing.
Dare to be different, while an overused term to refer to Citroën models is unlikely to escape the double chevron marque anytime soon.
Set into the motion with the original DS of course, the Stellantis owned brand has never been shy to take risks with completely indifferent styling or flirt with technology nobody had ever heard or think of in order for its models to stand out.
Opal White roof a new addition along with the stunning Spring Blue paint finish.
Whether the DS, the dramatic Maserati-powered SM from the 1970s, the CX with its roller-drum instrument cluster, or more modern examples such as the now departed, plush C6 and the too-quirky-for-words C4 Cactus, the probability of a Citroën ever being described as boring or bland is unlikely to become a reality anytime soon.
On the face of it, the updated C3 continues to fulfil this age-old Citroën mantra very well as it simply remains the most eye-catching and dare I say it, best-selling B-segment hatch on sale today.
Arriving on local shores after receiving its first mid-life facelift last year since debuting internationally four years ago, the Slovakian built C3, like its siblings, the new Opel Corsa and Peugeot 208, is based on the PSA Group developed EMP1 platform.
Despite appearing virtually unchanged on first glance, it has been lightly updated with the emphasis on standing out coming in the form of more colours.
As before, the range comprises two models; the entry-level Feel and the top-spec Shine with the exterior tweaks consisting of new LED headlights, a new grille taken from the CXperience concept car, SUV-like black plastic cladding around the now wider wheel arches and a new colour graphic for the redesigned Airbumps on the latter.
Functional Airbumps now gains a coloured first capsule surround.
In addition, the Shine also receives coloured fog light surrounds and sporty 16-inch alloy wheels with both boasting a more expansive colour palette of six hues; Polar White, Platinum Grey, Perla Black, Cumulus Grey, Elixir Red and Spring Blue. Optional on the Shine is a bi-tone roof with the body being contrasted by either an Opal White or Onyx Black lid.
Inside, Citroën has centred its attention on the new “advanced comfort seats” with the rest of the cabin continuing unchanged.
Upped though is the level of safety with both models coming as standard with Speed Limit Recognition, Lane Departure Warning, Driver Attention Alert, six airbags, cruise control, a tyre pressure monitor and rear parking sensors in the case of the Shine.
Sporty 16-inch alloy wheels are standard on the Shine.
Out on the launch route, which started in Sandton and meandered around the outskirts of Johannesburg before a rendezvous in Hartbeespoort Dam and ending in Waterkloof, the media were privy only to the Shine which uses the same 1.2-litre PureTech three-cylinder petrol engine as the Feel, but with the addition of a turbocharger to lift power from 60kW/118Nm to 81kW/205Nm.
An engine widely used in other ex-PSA models, including the 208 and Corsa, the blown three-pot is paired as standard to a six-speed automatic gearbox with the Feel offering the sole option of a five-speed manual.
It is a combination that, unfortunately, works against the C3 as the peppiness promised by the engine is spoiled by not only excessive turbo-lag, but by the ‘box which hesitates too much while also being saddled with a double shift sensation that results in a noticeable dead-spot when shifting up.
Interior looks good but a few ergonomic foibles and some cheap interior fittings prevail.
Geared towards economy and therefore eager to find the highest ratio, it shifts smoothly when taking it easy, but with a sudden prod of the accelerator when overtaking or pressing on, elicited a very unpleasant and raucous engine note by dropping three gears in one go and revving high without there being an improvement in pace.
Another area of content was the ride which felt hard and crashy in a very un- Citroën like way, not helped by the steering that lacks feel and confidence as its lightness is once again centred towards the confines of the city and suburbia rather than an open road.
What’s more, the seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, standard only on the Shine and with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, is somewhat of a faff to use with another black mark being the abundance of cheap feeling plastics and the unsuitability of the rear seats, from a head-and-legroom perspective, to any one bar children or small adults.
While arguably for the good in some cases, being different comes with its downsides which in the case of the Citroën C3 comes in the choice of drivetrain and that unflattering ride.
Although without doubt the segment benchmark in the styling department and with the comfort of those seats in the front despite the ride, it is simply, and rather disappointingly, too flawed and still too much of a left-field offering despite being cheaper than most of its comparative rivals bar the Suzuki Baleno and Toyota Starlet twins.
Both C3 models come standard with a five year/100 000 km warranty as well as a three year/60 000 km service plan.
C3 1.2 Feel – R269 900
C3 1.2T Shine AT – R324 900