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Citroën C3 Hatchback engines, drive and performance

2017 - 2024 (change model)
Performance rating: 4.2 out of 54.2

Written by Richard Kilpatrick Published: 12 June 2024 Updated: 12 June 2024

  • Turbocharged petrols and diesels but no sporty ones
  • Petrol units better suited, particularly the PureTech 110
  • Diesels make more sense for regular motorway driving

Citroen hasn’t made any bold claims about the C3 being the most involving car in its segment, and that’s only a good thing. It’s positioning itself firmly in the comfort camp and, with this in mind, it performs well. There’s a range of turbocharged engines to choose from, from an efficient diesel to punchy petrols.

Petrol engines

The entry-level PureTech 83 feels quicker than its 0-62mph time of 13.3 seconds suggests, and comes with a five-speed manual gearbox. Top speed is 105mph.

Despite its meagre 82hp, this engine still feels eager thanks to its 118Nm of torque, with a characterful three-cylinder thrum coming from under the bonnet egging you on. You’ll need to change down a couple of cogs if you’re met with a hill and need to put your foot down, but on the whole it’s fine for those who reside in town and city environments.

We can’t say the same about its manual gearbox, though, which is decidedly old-school. Not only does it have a baggy action and a very long throw, but the clutch doesn’t bite until it’s right near the top, making it rather awkward to drive especially in traffic. This engine and gearbox combo is the only one available for the entry-level You, and we don’t think it’s as good as the basic Dacia Sandero in this regard.

2020 Citroen C3 front tracking
The C3 won’t win any drag races, but there’s enough power for most needs.

The PureTech 110 has even more vigour and is our pick of the line-up. It also comes with a six-speed manual and goes from 0-62mph in 9.4 seconds, with a top speed of 117mph. Overtakes can be conducted with surprising haste as the engine makes good use of its muscular 205Nm of torque to surge past slower obstacles.

Even with the power-sapping EAT6 automatic gearbox, the 110 motor still feels more urgent than the PureTech 82, taking 10 seconds to reach from 0-62mph and reaching a maximum 119mph.

Diesel engines

If you prefer diesel power, you can choose a 100hp version 1.6-litre BlueHDi unit.

The 0-62mph time takes 10.2 seconds and will top out at 117mph. What it lacks in outright power, is made up for with a useful amount of torque, with the highest figure in the range of 250Nm. It feels distinctly old-school but that’s not unwelcome – it’s rather chunky and relaxing to drive, even around town.

However, it’s distinctly lumpy at low rpm and when cold, so it’s best used on long journeys where it’s able to warm up.

Initially, all engines in the C3 line-up only came with a five-speed manual gearbox, but the Puretech 110 came with a six-speed later on in life. They all have the same issue as other Citroen manual transmissions in that there’s a fairly long, rubbery feeling throw, even if it’s reasonably precise in its action.

The EAT6 six-speed automatic is an option limited to the quickest model – the petrol-engined PureTech 110. Around town it’s jerky and a bit too eager to get going, while ubran traffic – and the stop-start system – only accentuates this.

2020 Citroen C3 rear tracking
There’s still a diesel C3 available – a rare trait in a 2023 supermini.

On the open road it’s fine for cruising, but demand any more on some twisty bits of tarmac and it becomes easily confused, struggling to make its mind up in the bends, changing up or down mid-corner.

That means it’s difficult to make smooth progress, meaning we ended up taking control by using the manual shifts, which isn’t really the point in a car like this with an auto ‘box.

What’s it like to drive?

  • No sporty pretensions in the C3’s handling
  • Primary goal here is ride comfort
  • Encourages relaxed driving style

Like we’ve mentioned already, Citroen knows its customers want comfort over sporty handling, so the C3 isn’t going to set the world alight with sharp steering and taut body control.

That said, body roll is kept in check fairly well and the light steering means it’s easy to place the car on the road.

There’s not a lot of feedback though, so it’s not a car that encourages you to thread it through a series of bends with any real eagerness – it’s certainly much better suited to driving around town where its light controls make it very easy to manoeuvre.

2020 Citroen C3 front tracking
Handling takes a back seat to comfort in the C3.

Go too hot into a corner and the front end will easily wash wide. It’s safe and fairly predictable but won’t feel especially rewarding for enthusiastic drivers.

We’re not going to make too many comparisons with the sharper Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2, though – the quirky and comfortable nature of the C3 means you drive it in a relaxed manner.