Ah French cars, it would be hard to review this, the new Citroën C3, without first discussing their reputation.
A few decades ago the cars were indeed problematic. They suffered from bad electronics and reliability, in some cases rust-prone bodies, and styling that somehow straddled eccentric and boring. Another word is quirky. Quirky things break, not often, not serious, but sometimes in unusual ways and if you’re a resident of the southern tip of Africa, reparations are invariably a problem. But fast forward to 2021 and in fact the last decade, they’ve been restoring their credibility. So, without any further ado, here’s a quick introduction to these three exciting brands.
First, Citroen – a great brand with one of the most exciting portfolios dating back ten decades – that’s 100 years, a century of French design on four wheels. Highlights must include the Tractiona Avant, The Goddess better known as the DS looking like a spaceship or hovercraft. Then there’s the rugged as a post-nuclear roach 2CV and an absolute slew of motorsport contenders most notably their World Rally Cars.
Then there’s its sister brand, Peugeot. Do you want pedigree, legacy, styling and motorsport lineage all from one car manufacturer? Well, look no further than Peugeot. Originally conceived in 1810 producing bicycles and coffee mills before turning their hands to motorcars in 1890. But Automobiles Peugeot – the carmaker you know today was in fact conceived in 1896. Fast forward 100 years and in its portfolio, by 1996 it has an enviable list of classics such as the 504, 205, 306, 406 and more. Hatchbacks and saloons with slippery coupes dominate its catalogue, very many with sporty iterations such as their GTis. It was a strong contender at Le Mans, produced F1 engines for McLaren and has one of the most impressive amounts of Rally championships in history. Then there’s the fact that nobody does lust-worthy concept cars like Peugeot.
And then finally there’s Renault, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s done the most to restore the public’s faith in French cars. They back it up with a legion of great cars from the beloved Renault 5, from the early 1980s to the car it ultimately became, the Renault Clio. Along that path there have been dalliances with Formula 1 teams such as Williams, a tradition that extends all the way to the current crop of its hot hatchbacks. And there’ve been plenty – the aforementioned supermini and of course the C-Segment fire-breather, the Megane RS. But to get stuck on Renault’s copious performance kudos would be to tell only a third of its success story. They’re true people movers – sometimes a few, sometimes a lot, and often over dirt. But what about the customer experience? Well, when the original Sandero launched in South Africa in 2007, Renault launched the Confiance customer service program (with extended warranties and greater parts availability) to squash that pervasive belief that French cars were unreliable and that their service parts were few and far between.
This brings me full circle to the Citroen C3. What is it? Simply put, it’s a B-Segment hatchling along the lines of the Polo and Fiesta, but with Gallic flair. Pricing is competitive at between R270k and R325k, and for that, you get a stylish city car that I’m confident won’t leave you on the side of the road.
For the love of French Cars