A full used buyer’s guide on the Citroen C3 Aircross, covering the C3 Aircross Mk1 (2017-date)
There’s lots to like about the C3 Aircross. It looks like nothing else on the road, you get lots for your money and it isn’t short of innovative design touches. We were so impressed with the model that we crowned it the Small SUV of the Year in our 2018 New Car Awards, impressed by its value and spacious interior. Three years on we’ve now got a better idea of the bigger picture. There’s still a lot that we love about the C3 Aircross – it’s our 2021 Used Car of the Year – yet it’s clear from our Driver Power surveys that some rivals offer better build quality and reliability. But if you purchase a good C3 Aircross and look after it, then you should love it.
Citroen has a long history of not following the crowd when it comes to the design and engineering of its cars. It’s an approach that has led to it going bust on more than one occasion, even if the firm is in rude health today. While the brand is more conservative with its engineering, you can’t accuse its designs of being derivative.
Take the C3 Aircross, for example. It may be one of many different mini-SUVs on the market, but you’re not going to mistake it for anything else. It’s also a versatile car, with an interior that offers lots of comfort and practicality. So it’s no wonder this car has been a hit for Citroen across Europe. But how does it stack up as a used buy?
Car group tests
- Hyundai Bayon vs Citroen C3 Aircross vs Renault Captur
- Skoda Kamiq vs Volkswagen T-Cross vs Citroen C3 Aircross
- Skoda Fabia vs Ford Fiesta vs Citroen C3
- Fiesta Active vs C3 Aircross vs Tivoli
- MG ZS vs SEAT Arona vs Citroen C3 Aircross
- Citroen C3 Aircross review
- Citroen C3 Aircross Flair: long-term test review
- New Citroen C3 Aircross 2021 review
- Citroen C3 Aircross Mk1 (2017-date) – Former Auto Express Small SUV of the Year still ticks lots of boxes for family buyers.
The C3 Aircross went on sale on 1 November 2017, priced from £13,995. Buyers could choose between 1.2-litre petrol or 1.6-litre diesel engines. The former was sold as the PureTech and it came in 81bhp non-turbo or 109bhp and 128bhp turbocharged forms, whereas the latter is the BlueHDI and was offered in 99bhp or 118bhp guises.
From December 2020 the trim line-up was Shine and Shine Plus, then in June 2021 a facelifted C3 Aircross arrived. This featured a restyled nose, redesigned seats, extra driver-assistance systems and more exterior colour combinations.
Along the way there were also several special editions: Collector’s Edition (January 2019), Origins (April 2019), C-Series (December 2019) and Rip Curl (May 2020). These versions were only available with the 1.2-litre PureTech 110 petrol engine and a six-speed manual transmission.
Which one should I buy?
The 81bhp entry-level PureTech engine makes hard work of longer journeys, but all of the other powerplants are a much better bet and each one offers a good balance of performance and economy. All models are equipped to a reasonable standard, with even the entry-level Touch featuring a four-speaker DAB radio, air-con, cruise control and speed limiter, automatic headlights and powered front windows.
The mid-range Feel adds 16-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker hi-fi, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a seven-inch touchscreen display, privacy glass, plus electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors. The range-topping Flair gets climate control, 17-inch alloy wheels, a contrasting colour for the roof, navigation, automatic windscreen wipers, keyless go, rear parking sensors and powered rear windows.
Alternatives to the Citroen C3 Aircross
The C3 Aircross is up against some stiff competition, with the Ford Puma one of the most multi-talented, with its engaging dynamics, impressive value and excellent practicality. The Kia Stonic and Hyundai Kona are related, so they have much in common. Both are well equipped and have long warranties, but the Kia has the edge in terms of its warranty and is better to drive.
The Nissan Juke and Renault Captur are also related, and offer decent value for money, along with an enjoyable driving experience. Three more mini-SUVs that are closely related are the Volkswagen T-Cross, SEAT Arona and Skoda Kamiq, which come with impressive engines and are easy to live with, if rather unexciting.
Other alternatives worth considering are the Peugeot 2008 and the Mazda CX-3.
What to look for
The entry-level Touch comes with a tyre mobility kit instead of a spare wheel, but the Feel and Flair have a space-saver.
Only the range-topping Flair was fitted with AEB, and that was only from January 2018. It was an optional extra on both Touch and Feel models.
When the Aircross was revised at the end of 2020, the 99bhp and 118bhp BlueHDI diesel motors were replaced by a single 109bhp engine.
Some early cars needed a software update to make the AEB work. It shouldn’t trigger if there’s a front seat passenger without a seatbelt, though.
The biggest gripe among C3 Aircross owners is an unresponsive touchscreen display, something that can be improved with software updates. Other electrical issues have also been reported by owners, so be on the lookout for these.
You can’t accuse the dash design of being boring; if anything it’s a bit over-designed, but it’s easy to live with once you’ve familiarised yourself. Seat comfort is exceptional, and space is impressive, too, with plenty of legroom for two in the back; three adults will probably find it cramped, though.
Flair editions have a sliding rear seat with a 60:40 split function that allows the seats-up boot space to vary between 410 and 520 litres; fold the seats down and the load bay can extend to 1,289 litres.
The infotainment is somewhat frustrating. It looks the part and has lots of functions, but the software can lag and be glitchy, especially compared with some rival set-ups. It’s not catastrophic, however.
All C3 Aircrosses need to be maintained every year, and in the case of the diesel-engined cars there’s a 20,000-mile limit between services. Petrol models have a 16,000-mile cap between check-ups.
Although the first-year service is pegged at £179 and the second-year maintenance costs £249, after that the service schedule alternates between Minor and Major, which are priced at £179 and £299 respectively. Citroen is unusual in that it offers owners the choiceof fitting original equipment (OE) or cheaper pattern parts in some instances.
All C3 Aircross engines are fitted with a cambelt and in the case of the diesel engines it needs to be replaced every 10 years or 120,000 miles, while on petrol models it’s every 12 years or 128,000 miles. Get a Citroen dealer to replace it using OE parts and you’ll pay £499; using pattern parts cuts this cost to £399.
The C3 Aircross has been recalled six times so far. Faulty components in the diesel engine led to the first action, in December 2017; four months later a second campaign was launched because of poorly made wheel hubs, which could fail as the car was being driven.
A third action was launched in August 2018, because 4,595 C3 Aircrosses had left the factory with wheel bolts not tightened up sufficiently. The fourth recall affected all models built up to December 2018 (12,649 in all), because of faulty wiring in the seat-position sensors.
The most recent actions came in October 2019. One was because the bonnet safety catch wasn’t mounted securely, affecting 10 cars, but 16,144 models were caught up in the last campaign, which was due to excessive exhaust emissions caused by faulty software.
Driver Power owner satisfaction
The C3 Aircross didn’t appear in our 2021 Driver Power new- car survey, but it was in 66th place in the 2020 poll, having come 57th out of 75 cars the year before. In last year’s survey that 66th place was thanks to owners loving the cabin versatility and exterior design, plus the steering and brakes. The Citroen achieved average scores in most areas; the low points were for handling, ergonomics, reliability and quality.
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