Citroen is famed for its unique streak, having demonstrated its talent for interesting engineering solutions in legendary vehicles like the DS. It went missing for a while there, but that streak seems to be back with cars like the funky C3 Aircross. Although it looks cute on the outside, the compact Aircross has been designed to deliver all the practicality and technology you'd expect of a bigger beast.
Having debuted a new design language with the C4 Cactus, the styling team at Citroen has continued to refine its cutesy, round-edged motif. The C3 Aircross looks similar to the C3 hatchback on which it's based, with oversized headlamps and high-set daytime running lights, but the requisite SUV plastic cladding and chunky wheels do give it a tougher look on the road.
There's also a skid plate and 20 mm (0.79 in) more ground clearance than you get in the regular hatchback, but don't expect to see any of these cars off road. Like the Hyundai Kona launched yesterday, the C3 is very much aimed at the urban market, right down to the huge range of customization options for the contrast roof and mirrors.
As you'd expect of a modern urban SUV, there are a huge range of active driver assistance systems on the spec sheet. The car will park itself in both perpendicular and parallel spots, and auto-emergency braking will help prevent low speed rear-end collisions. You also get lane-keeping assist, a blind-spot monitor and auto-dipping headlamps. It's the same suite you get on the C3 hatchback, and highlights how important accident avoidance technology is becoming – even in more affordable city cars.
Should owners accidentally find themselves on a gravel road or muddy field, a switchable Grip Control traction management system and hill descent control both come as standard. Citroen also fits the C3 Aircross with mud/snow tires, but its true all-terrain capabilities are still likely to be hampered by the fact it's front-wheel drive.
Power will come from a choice of three gasoline and two diesel engines. The gasoline range starts with an 82-hp (61 kW) engine, before jumping up to 110 hp (82 kW) and 130 hp (97 kW). There will be 100 hp (75 kW) and 120 hp (89 kW) diesel options, too. All engines come as standard with a six-speed manual, although a six-speed automatic will also be offered.
Behind the wheel, Citroen has focused on making the C3 Aircross feel spacious and comfy. There's no sporting pretence here, just broad seats for all five passengers and a handsome two-tone theme for the leather trim. With 410 liters (14.5 cu.ft) of luggage space with the rear seats in place, deep door pockets and a split-folding rear bench, active urbanites should be able to fit their bikes, kayaks and antique furniture without too much trouble.
Infotainment is handled by the seven-inch central touchscreen, and drivers are treated to a head-up display displaying speed and navigation information. Wireless phone charging is also standard, but you'll need an Android phone that supports the Qi standard to use it – iPhone users will still need to plug in.
The new C3 Aircross will be built in Spain, and lands in UK showrooms this November. You can check it out in the video below.