Why would I buy it?
- Strong performance
- Ride quality
- Cheapest automatic mid-size SUV
Why would I avoid it?
- No diesel/hybrid powertrain
- Limited sales-service network
What is it?
With four cars already launched in the Indian market, Citroen is now trying to up its game with the automatic C3 Aircross. Launched just six months back, the C3 Aircross is the brand’s money-spinner to cement its position in the highly competitive mid-size SUV segment. So, will the Turbo C3 Aircross coupled with the new automatic gearbox be enough to help the French brand change its fortunes?
The C3 Aircross has always been pleasing to the eyes. Although based on the C3 hatch, the Aircross does look distinct with the reworked posterior and bigger 17-inch alloys. The family face with the split headlamp setup nicely blends with the well-proportionate looks. However, the LED headlamps are still a miss and the old-school pull-type door handles with a keyhole are a letdown. It does get a variety of interesting colour palettes with the option to customise the dual-tone shades as per one’s liking.
Is the cabin of the C3 Aircross Automatic any good?
Since this update is majorly focused on the mechanical bit, the cabin layout of the C3 Aircross remains largely unchanged. It continues to get the beige and black theme with chunky aircon vents on both sides of the dash and the steering wheel with mounted controls for the new fully digital driver’s display.
The Automatic Aircross will retain its USP and continue to entice both, the five and 5+2 seat-seeking buyers. The front seats although slightly slim yet extremely comfortable. Although with manual adjustments, finding the correct and ideal driving position with one-way adjustment for the steering is easy and will be convenient for most of the buyers. That said, the cost-cutting bits are still evident in the cabin with a manual air conditioner and rear power window buttons that are oddly placed between the front seats.
The passengers seated in the seven-seat version are pampered with dedicated aircon vents. Meanwhile, the five-seater gets a rear centre armrest and since the seats are placed 50mm behind, frees up more legroom. All the seats are well-cushioned and the ease of removing the third row seats will be a boon for many. Although Citroen has provided a handful of new essential features such as electric functionality for the ORVMs and a digital and details instrument cluster, the inclusion of features such as automatic climate control, wireless charging, a sunroof, and even Type-C USB ports that have become norm in the segment would have been appreciated.
Is the C3 Aircross Automatic nice to drive?
Finally, the Aircross’ 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine gets a six-speed automatic gearbox if not a hybrid or diesel alternative. It has been developed locally and will be produced at the brand’s plant in Chennai with almost 90 per cent localisation. The power output figures also witness a bump from 190Nm to 215Nm with this new torque converter unit along with the inclusion of idle start/stop tech.
To begin with, this three-cylinder motor has always been a gem to drive striking a balance between power and efficiency. The responsive and eager nature of the engine has been retained coupled with great driving dynamics. Slot the auto gearbox to ‘D’ and you will find that the C3 Aircross gets going smoothly, owing to its well-executed creep function. The initial responses to the accelerator, however, tend to feel rushed and this calls for a very precise modulation in stop-go traffic. Aiding efficiency in these conditions is the idle start/stop tech that works seamlessly and can also be turned off manually.
Things get better as you climb the numbers on the speedometer. The gearshifts on the six-speed unit are smooth, responsive, and even better than some other automatics in the business. Under heavy shifts, the shifts are noticeable and it holds the revs to nearly 6,000rpm. Citroen has also given the last gear a shorter ratio and that is prevalent when you take the manual control of the car.
The ride quality is a standout feature of the C3 Aircross. The car's suspension absorbs bumps and road imperfections with finesse, providing a smooth and composed ride. Whether navigating through city streets or cruising on the highway, the Aircross offers a comfortable and relaxed journey for both the driver and passengers. Handling is another strong suit and the compact dimensions of the vehicle, coupled with responsive steering, make it easy to maneuver through tight spaces and city traffic. The car's elevated driving position provides a commanding view of the road, enhancing overall driving confidence. The suspension tuning strikes a balance between comfort and agility and ensures a stable and controlled ride even during spirited driving.
Should you buy the C3 Aircross Automatic?
The C3 Aircross Automatic maintains its true essence of being a mechanically, well-tuned SUV. The new automatic gearbox compliments the potent turbo petrol mill and the plush ride comfort along with a practical cabin with innovative seating are its strong points. It is also easy to drive and scores well in the design department.
But, the overall appeal feels limited with lack of features, and pinching cost-cutting measures, making it struggle to meet the high standards that have been set by rivals in the segment. However, here’s what Citroen has surprised us with. The prices are are expected to start from Rs. 13 lakh and go all the way to Rs. 14.50 lakh (ex-showroom) that will make the C3 Aircross the cheapest mid-size SUV with an automatic gearbox!
Photos by Kaustubh Gandhi