So Citroën is back... Yup, after leaving SA in 2016, the company has regrouped and has re-entered the local market with a new spring in it's step. As with Peugeot being under new management and starting a fresh attack, Citroën is under that same new boss and will be subjected to the same new stringent business strategies. Xavier Gobille and an all-new team are so fired up that it almost made me wanna get online and buy some shares. Almost, and also I have no clue how that works.
As with the reinvigorated Peugeot side, there's three new models to relaunch the brand here in SA, and they're flipping brilliant. The French are known for having quirky cars, and these new models are the very definition. Before sampling these cars, the previous winner for the quirkiest car was the Citroën Cactus around four years ago, so it's fitting that the title is snatched by another Citroën. Also, lemme clarify that I say quirky, I mean it's the usual definition with a fat heap of cool thrown in the mix. The three models here to relaunch the brand are the Citroën C3, the Citroën C3 Aircross and the Citroën C5 Aircross, and all of them have what it takes to make the masses happy, body styling, properly funky colours and exterior trim/cladding unique to the Citroën brand.
The C3 is the first one on the pricing scale, and it's also the one that has that signature air-filled rubber strip called the Airbump along the sides. Of course that's not all it has, there's that in your face styling combined with some great colour options that's a welcome break from the norm. Unlike many cars on the market these days, you can identify a new Citroën at 100 paces in any lighting conditions. Climbing inside is just as cool, the dash design and layout is unmistakably Citroën, it's so different, but in a good way. Again, that may depend on where you are on the introvert/extrovert scale because this styling is out there. The design is dubbed Citroën Advanced Comfort and this involves "Soft-touch contact areas and refined acoustics create a sense of calm, while interior space has been designed to be stylish and versatile. The overall ambiance ensures journeys feel effortless and intuitive technology gives you instant access to advanced features and practical driving aids." is what the brochure says. It really is cool though, and the fit and finish definitely has a premium feel beyond what the price tag implies. Even though it's just 3.99m in length, there's some voodoo added that sees interior space being bigger than you'd imagine.
The B-segment Citroën C3 has plenty features like a lane departure warning system, coffee break alert, cruise control, a speed limiter, hill start assist, a driver attention warning, over and above the usual safety systems. There's also Mirror Screen technology via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, so you can be fully connected, an important feature these days. The C3 sees two trim levels introduced; the 60kW 1.2 C3 Feel that starts at R239 900, and the 81kW 1.2 C3 Shine that starts at R289 900.
The Citroën C3 Aircross is a step up on the model run hierarchy and the first difference is the size, the Aircross climbs out of the B-segement and into the small SUV ranks thanks to being longer (158mm), taller (163mm) and with 100-litres more boot space (400-litres). You'll notice the front bumper has a different layout, the Airbump is missing, the wheels are an inch bigger (optional) and roof runners now appear. Interiors are much the same but the steering becomes multifunction, airbags total 6, climate control becomes automatic (trim dependant) and ESP is added to safety systems. There's two variants here too, the Citroën C3 Aircross SUV Feel starting at R339 900, and the Citroën C3 Aircross SUV Shine at R359 900, both of which come with the same 81kW 1.2 and 6-speed auto transmission.
The top dog of the launch was the Citroën C5 Aircross, the star of the show. Maaaan this thing is cool. In this segment one of the best looking options is the VW Tiguan, but this French creation works even better, I love everything about it. There's strong lines that manage to flow well, it has quite the presence and on the short launch drive we found more than a few phone cameras pointed at the thing. The floating roof design is carried over from the C3 range but adds a panoramic sunroof, and the black accents in the bodywork work on all paint options. Interior design is just as cool as in the C3, if maybe a little more grown up if anything. There's still a definite funkiness around the cabin though, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is another component that looks like it was created a few years from now. There's space for five adults in comfort, and the interesting bit is the rear seat isn't a bench style, it features three individual seats because there's no ways all your passengers will be the same height. The Advanced Comfort seats really are ridiculously comfortable.
Tech abounds, you'll find everything, the list includes Active Safety Break, Active Lane Departure Warning System, Driver Attention Alert, Active Blind Spot Monitoring, an array of parking sensors, Coffee Break Alert, keyless entry & start, reverse camera with top rear vision, Hill Start Assist, cornering fog lights and the rather cool ConnectedCam. This last one is a camera found at the base of the interior rear view mirror that uses full HD and GPS technology with a built-in 16gb memory card that allows you to take photos or video footage that can be downloaded by email and shared to your social media. Great in the event of an accident, unless you were the chop that caused it of course. With all these systems, the solid build and brilliant insulation, the C5 Aircross offers up a brilliant drive. But like seriously, it's super smooth, the short and bumpy gravel road on the test route would have rattled my car's fenders off, but this "Flying Carpet" effect in the C5 Aircross makes bumps disappear. Citroën is known for innovations in suspension, and there's no slowing down yet. This French SUV is fitted with Progressive Hydraulic Cushions that redefines driving comfort and quite literally smooths out bumps and imperfections. In short, PHC is described as follows: "Ordinary suspension makes do with a shock absorber, a spring and a mechanical bump stop. With Progressive Hydraulic Cushions® you get special hydraulic cushions on either side, for rebound and compression. The result is a ride that takes everything in its stride, smoothly.
When big bumps are encountered, the hydraulic cushions keep suspension movement controlled
and progressive. With minor road imperfections, the cushions simply absorb it all, giving that relaxing flying carpet ride".
As with the C3 Aircross, the C5 Aircross also gets two trims; Feel and Shine. Feel lists at R469 900 and Shine lists at R509 900 and both make use of the 121kW 1.6 PureTech Turbo and 6-speed auto transmission, the difference is in the details of course, which you can find more about if you clicky here. They also come with peace of mind in the form of a 5-year/100 000km warranty and service plan, a 24-Hour Customer Contact Centre, a Licence Renewal Reminder and Roadside Assistance. Citroën have a brilliant product here, and there is quite literally no reason that it cannot do as well as the segment rivals.
The only thing needed is for people to start trusting the brand, and the new management heading up Peugeot SA look set to do everything possible to make it happen. I'd keep an eye on Peugeot SA, change is coming.