School’s over for thousands of teenagers this week but the long summer break will see many begin new lessons learning to drive, says David Miles.
So I thought I would put Citroen’s best selling C3 five-door ‘supermini’ range to test after it won ‘Driving Instructor Car of the Year’ title in the 2018 FirstCar Awards.
FirstCar is the dedicated resource for learner and newly qualified drivers in the UK and says as well as being an ideal learning environment for their students, a driving instructor’s vehicle must often double as a practical everyday drive. Citroën’s C3 was praised for being reliable, safe, easy to drive, affordable to run and easy to live with.
So I thought I’d step back in my driving time and see if the C3 lives up to those requirements. I got behind the wheel of the 1.2-litre PureTech petrol, Engine of the Year winner again, with its three-cylinder layout producing 110hp and mated with a five-speed manual gearbox. With the Flair level of specification it was priced at £16,950 but other models with a 68hp version of the same engine start from £11,560. There is also an 82hp PureTech petrol engine option as well as a 1.6-litre BlueHDi turbodiesel engine with 75 or 100hp but the demand now for diesel power in any small family car is minimal. Depending on the engine chosen there is the choice of Touch, Feel, ELLE, Flair and Flair Nav Edition spec levels.
Perhaps just important for young ‘learners’ and would-be buyers of any age is the vehicle’s street-cred. Having what is fashionable seems to be all-important whether it’s the choice of mobile phone, clothes or the set of wheels they drive. There are nine body colours and four roof colour options plus three signature Airbump colours for the exterior door patches and any combination of all these. Inside there is just as many colour combinations plus a wide range of personalisation and extra cost options.
My Flair test drive model came with the £495 Soft Sand metallic exterior body colour with a no cost White Roof plus Urban Red trim inserts, a £100 Blind Spot monitoring system – ideal for all experienced or learner-drivers, and the desirable Digital Nav 7 touchscreen with Citroen Connect Box connectivity functions giving my test car a total on-the-road price of £18,195. It gets expensive to be en-trend!
At a shade under four metres in length and a compact 1,749mm wide the rounded shape of the C3 with its smart paintwork and 16-inch alloy wheels looked eyecatching and fit-for-purpose not only as a Driving Instruction mobile but also potentially ideal as a compact run-around for daily use by young-at-heart ‘oldies’ or those of the younger generation.
Inside it’s logically laid out, simple to use controls, no visibility blindspots so I can see its appeal for driving instruction duties. The specification is good with air con, electric windows, rear parking sensors, parking camera, alarm, auto lights and wipers, LED daytime running lights, electric door mirrors, Bluetooth, Mirror Link and Apple Carplay connectivity, multi-function computer, lane departure warning and speed limit sign recognition and warning.
All new technologies which should be part of the process of learning to drive a modern-day car. The ride was comfortable, the steering reasonably sharp and not too light and perhaps most important for learners – the clutch pedal and gear change controls were vice-free.
As for performance, for a driver under instruction these are not the most important figures but for the record the top speed is 117mph and zero to 62mph takes 9.3-seconds. Now that learner drivers are allowed to use motorways whilst under instruction there is ample enough performance to get the car up to speed when joining fast moving traffic.
With 110hp and a healthy 205Nm of torque from only 1,500rpm, the engine is ideally responsive and forgiving should not enough accelerator be used during pulling away from stationary or during gear-changes, or travelling at low revs by mistake in a high gear ratio, generally didn’t stall the engine so it’s quite forgiving.
For more experienced users it’s a ‘doddle’ to use and it cruises happily at 70mph on motorways. The official Combined Cycle fuel economy figure is 61.4mpg but my week of driving, using mainly urban and rural roads, returned 43.4mpg which I think is realistic. On a longer run you might get more but most of the time the car seemed to return around the 44mpg mark whether it was pottering along or cruising at higher speeds.
So whether you are a ‘learner’ or an ‘old-hand’ at driving, the latest Citroen C3 supermini sized five door hatchback provides stress-free motoring and it has that all-important street-cred kerb appeal with its smart paintwork and trim combinations. But if size matters it comes up a bit short for family use so its best left to ‘learners’ and old ‘empty nesters’ as the core users.
Citroen C3 Flair, 1.2, 110hp petrol 5-door small hatchback £16,950 (£18,195 as tested with options)
Engine/transmission: 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder, turbo petrol, 110hp, 205Nm of torque from 1,500rpm, 5-speed manual with Stop&Start
Performance: 117mph, 0-62mph 9.3-seconds, Combined Cycle 61.4mpg (43.4mpg on test)
CO2 103g/km, VED first Year rate £145 then Standard rate of £140, BiK company car tax 21%
Insurance group: 16E Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles
Dimensions/capacities: L 3,996mm, W 1,749mm, H 1,474mm, boot/load space 300 to 922-litres, 5-doors/4/5-seats
For: Size, low running costs, easy to drive and park, loads of colour trim and equipment options for optimum trendy personalisation, tax efficient
Against: A bit of a squeeze for space as a family vehicle, adding options gets expensive in this budget motoring sector, real-life fuel economy well short of the official figure, ungenerous warranty.
© David Miles