Citroen has finally taken the wraps off its second offering in India- the C3 which will be the entry-point to the French brand in our market. Now we were expecting the C3 to be the subcompact SUV or Aircross as it goes in Citroen‘s nomenclature, but surprisingly the brand is very strategically positioning it as a SUV-inspired B-Segment hatchback which is a smart move opening a wide volume area for the French brand. So instead of entering the already highly swarming subcompact SUV segment, Citroen is taking on models like the Maruti Suzuki Baleno, Hyundai i20, Tata Altroz and even the Honda WR-V, as there is still some room for newer offerings. Then, it is also likely to straddle the Swift and Grand i10 Nios segment going up against the higher trims, but that by large depends on the pricing.
Speaking on the Strategy to Siddharth Vinayak Patankar, Editor-In-Chief- carandbike on the latest Freewheeling With SVP Webisode, Vincent Cobee, Chief Executive Officer (CEO)- Citroen said, “We believe it’s important to address the core needs. We are addressing the wonders of individual mobility needs to be enhanced, excited and satisfied, and that’s the B-Hatch sub-four metre segment. We wanted to make a statement here but doesn’t mean that we have completely ignored the benefits of SUVs and when you look at it you understand that we have accepted or embraced a substantial SUV influence in the vehicle in terms of posture and space. But when you start, you need to demonstrate your credentials and credibility where we are entering through the sub-four metre. Obviously, as we implement new strategies as we grow with the family we’ll address revolutions of the market. We know what they are, but it’s always best to start with the core and expand rather than going with the flashy trendy thing and not be credible at the centre.”
So Yes! The new Citroen C3 is in a way bridging the gap between premium hatchbacks and subcompact SUVs, that the cross hatches did back in the days. We have seen this design slant working well for Renault with the Kwid in the entry-level A segment and Citroen has taken a similar approach. So the new C3 still looks rugged but not overly butch and has that Citroen’s quintessential quirky design flair well intact. It looks very European like its bigger sibling and the typical Citroen face is futuristic having a bold presence still. The split headlamp setup with halogen units on the bumper and DRLs up top looks modern and trendy while sleek chrome grille with the double helical Citroen logo merges seamlessly with the DRLs. It is 3980 mm in length while the silhouette is smooth-edged and not very boxy, complementing its urban nature. The contrast roof and touches around fog lamps, wing mirrors and those chunky plastic cladding on the sides add to its funky looks and stuff like bold silver skid plates both at the front and rear again build up on the rugged appeal, which in-turn is accentuated by 180 mm ground clearance and raised up approach and departure angles. The chunky alloy wheels too look stylish and generally it’s the size seen in subcompact SUVs. The rear looks tad simple in comparison but still goes well with the overall looks and has that European elegance.
Now the design has been at the core of Citreon’s identity globally and the brand thrives on building up on that strength even in our market. Explaining its design approach Cobee added, “Exterior and interior styling is a thing we have a long history about and I think the C5 Aircross is proving itself. It has two very fundamental dimensions for us. First, we keen in proportions and elated level of sophisticated treatment but on top of that we really want to be different. We have a styling identity that relies on very smooth and opulence, sexy surfaces. And very clear sharp technical elements. That’s what makes a Citroen’s design. So you have a very approachable and gentle design but with the freedom of having sharp technical elements to show that we are there but are not overwhelmingly driving the elegance of the vehicle.”
The cabin looks very stylish and even the quality of materials used appear to be upmarket. But it does feel stripped-down beside its rivals in the creature comforts department. Though you do get the digital instrument panel along with a large standalone touchscreen unit with wireless smartphone integration options supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it has manual AC controls and even outer rear view mirrors are manually adjustable. There is a dedicated fitment area for mobile holder close to the touchscreen infotainment system, but rear power window switch knobs are awkwardly placed behind the handbrake and it even misses out on a centre armrest which rivals offer. The interiors are finished in all-black and you get orange contrast centre finish running the width of the dash. Speaking of contrast, there are silver highlights on the centre console, door pockets and around air-con vents. The steering wheel and squarish design of the air-convents are a straight lift from the C5 Aircross. The seats too are expected to offer good side and lumbar support while have fixed headrests and finished in dual-tone black and grey fabric upholstery. In rivals like the i20 and Altroz, you do get leatherette seats on top-end variants.
Then connectivity has too been one of the focus areas while developing C3. There is a large touchscreen unit with wireless smartphone integration options supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and Citroen didn’t want to compromise on this front because connectivity has been a major deciding factor among car buyer and especially young customers. That said, it still misses out on features like the connected car tech and wireless charging rivals like the i20 and Altroz iTurbo have.
Explaining the brand’s take Cobee added, “India is the largest phone market in the world with highest growth and so this is a smartphone ready offer. You’ll have the screens you want, the application technologies you want. The car is free of mess of cables and you can have your seamless technological enjoyment while you’re driving the C3. And again that shouldn’t be only in the premium segment and not in the core of the market.” Considering the interests of these young and millennial customers, Citroen is also offering a wide range of customisation options for the C3 and over 75 accessories options. So from the body colour to the interior trims and features, all of it can be customised.
Under the hood, the new Citroen C3 is expected to be powered by a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol engine belting out around 100 bhp and 160 Nm of peak torque. The motor will likely come mated to a five-speed manual gearbox while an automatic transmission is likely to be optional in higher trims for that ease of driving in traffic conditions. And speaking of ease, a tight turning radius of 10 m further helps in maneuvering it through tight spots and city traffic. It is spawned on the heavily-localised Common Modular Platform (CMP) which will underpin future models in Citroen India’s line-up as well. It will be assembled at Citroen’s factory in Thiruvallur, Tamil Nadu where a separate line for the SUV has been developed and that should help the French brand with competitive pricing. In fact, all the development of C3 has been done in Chennai and it’s been specifically designed for developing markets like India and Brazil. “All the development of this vehicle has been made in Chennai. The technical/supplier choices, the manufacturing preparation, And obviously we have this very unique, innovative, always-on omni-channel distribution system, which we believe is part of the newness Citroen will bring to the market.”
Also Read: Citroen C5 Aircross: Top 5 Rivals
The premium hatchback is expected to go on sale early next year in our market and subsequently we’ll also get to new more versions like the C3 Aircorss which will be more butch to look at and will take on the subcompact SUVs. Citroen has also confirmed introducing one model in India every year.