DRIVEN: New Citroën C3 enters SA’s budget car market, with R230 000 price tag

Published May 26, 2023


Johannesburg - The new Citroën C3 comes at a time when the ground is shifting beneath South Africa’s compact hatchback market.

Suddenly, it seems that just about everything in the so-called B-segment costs well north of R300 000, and cars that used to sell well are struggling, or even exiting the market altogether.

It’s hardly surprising, given that there are many SUVs now available in that price range. And yet, further downstream, hatchbacks costing under R250 000 are selling up a storm, particularly those manufactured by Maruti Suzuki in India.

In these tough economic times, South Africans just can’t get enough budget cars, which is why Stellantis South Africa has made a smart move by sourcing the new Citroën C3 from India.

Launched locally this week, it is somewhat different to the European-sourced Citroën C3 that we knew until now. Sporting a more rugged-looking, SUV-inspired exterior, the new C3 was designed for emerging markets and as a result, it takes a more basic and no-frills approach to life.

But there’s a big upside to that as Citroën South Africa is selling its new C3 at an introductory price of R229 900, including a two-year or 30 000km service plan. That makes it R76 000 cheaper than the European C3, which will probably be phased out eventually.

How does it size up? At a shade under 4m in length, the new Citroën C3 is just 15mm shorter than the aforementioned Euro model, meaning you essentially get a B-segment car for A-segment money.

Power comes from the familiar 1.2-litre normally aspirated three-cylinder Puretech engine that offers 61kW and 115Nm. For now, Citroën is offering it with only a five-speed manual gearbox.

However Stellantis SA CEO Lesley Ramsomaar confirmed that an automatic option, as well as a higher-spec variant, would join the range at a later stage, as would the larger C3 Aircross model that was revealed in India recently.

But even though the new Citroën C3 is sold only in a single base specification grade for now, it is fairly well appointed for the price.

The highlight perhaps is a 10-inch (26cm) touch-screen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and Mirror Screen functionality for wirelessly connecting your phone.

Other standard features include auto-down front and rear electric windows, steering-mounted audio controls, remote central locking, large door pockets, three USB ports (two at the rear), and a highly effective manual air conditioner.

The safety kit includes dual-front airbags and rear park distance control, but, unfortunately, stability control is not part of the deal.

Given Citroën’s somewhat funky brand positioning, the new C3 can be personalised in colourful ways, as long as you like orange. For the record, the carmaker is offering four monotone body colours and six two-tone options that give you a black or orange roof. Buyers can also opt for matching Anodised orange upper dashboard trim.

We spent a few hours getting to know the new Citroën C3 at its launch in Joburg and overall it comes across as an honest little budget package.

Granted, it is a tad rudimentary in places. The external door handles, for instance, are the old-fashioned vertically hinged type. Once inside, you’ll have to adjust the exterior mirrors manually, using small stalks.

The driver’s instrumentation is a tiny LCD screen with no rev counter, and you won’t find a start button in here either – you crank it up using a conventional key that doesn’t even fold. But none of these things are deal-breakers in our book, given that you are getting a generous amount of car for the money.

Interior-build quality seems decent enough and I had a reasonable amount of rear legroom when sitting behind my driving position, while boot space (listed at 315 litres) is as good as you could expect at this level.

On the road, there wasn’t too much to complain about either. Performance is more than adequate for a car in this segment and it has no trouble keeping up with traffic, although it can get a little noisy if you’re enthusiastic with the right pedal. Overall refinement is not on par with the Euro C3, but, once again, we need to keep the Indian-built model’s price tag in mind.

Which is why I’m not going to bother complaining about the lifeless sensation imparted by the steering, or the body roll through corners. Far more importantly, the suspension soaks up bumps and imperfections without much fuss, and the overall ride quality is comfortable.

Oh, and the front seats feel really cushy too.

As for fuel consumption, Citroën claims a combined figure of 5.6 litres per 100km.

We’d like to spend a bit more time with the new Citroën C3 before imparting a full verdict, and posting a real-world consumption figure, but from what we’ve experienced, it seems to be an honest and capable little car. And in these tough times, any new budget-priced entrant that makes the grade should be celebrated.

The fact that it won the Urban category of the 2023 World Car of the Year competition recently is certainly a feather in its cap.

“The South African launch of the all-new Citroën C3 is one of the most important for us in recent times,” said Ramsomaar.

“The B-Segment represents nearly half of the passenger car market, and we are confident that the new C3’s crossover design and class-leading infotainment system will make it an attractive contender for prospective buyers.”

How it fares on the sales charts, only time will tell, but this could certainly be the volume seller that Stellantis has needed for a long time.

IOL Motoring