Mark Stone gives us the low-down on the practical and quirky C3 Aircross from Citroen.

IT doesn’t roll on bends, the roof is made of metal, the gear lever is in the conventional place and you can’t take the seats out for your picnic. Equally, I didn’t try the old ‘crate of eggs on the back seat across a field’ test, but to all intents and purposes the latest C3 Aircross from Citroen could well be the modern-day 2CV. Small enough to be all-round practical transport, large enough to be immensely practical and different enough to be appealingly quirky, the latest incarnation of Citroen’s crossover, trendy SUV stuffs in enough utilitarian clichés for the most fastidious of Francophiles.

Forestry Journal: Instrumentation provides clear feedback.Instrumentation provides clear feedback.

And with more colour and trim variations than you can shake a freshly baked croissant at, the style conscious will love it, while you can even have a contrasting white roof for no extra cost.

The C3 Aircross rides high off the road on 17” alloys situated deep within the heavily protected arches. Suspended by MacPherson struts and deformable beam, the now-familiar split-level front light pods separate the helical gears badge, while a high waistline runs atop the squared, wide-access doors, culminating in a deep tailgate and vast rear bumper, high-set roof rails and a few of Citroen’s ‘pods’, giving angular highlights to the rounded profile.

Inside the capacious cabin, the angular detailing continues. Bright orange inserts produce focal points within the cubist references, while hard keep-clean surfaces are interspersed with soft textured inserts. Large, boxy yet comfortable seats are trimmed in hardwearing fabrics; a chunky leather multi-function steering wheel sits in front of clear instruments and an easy-to-navigate 7” central screen takes care of Citroen Connect, satnav, Bluetooth, entertainment and climate. Lesser functions are looked after by a few centrally grouped switches.

Forestry Journal: With 520 litres of cargo space, fold down the rear 60:40 split rear bench seat and 1,289 litres becomes available.With 520 litres of cargo space, fold down the rear 60:40 split rear bench seat and 1,289 litres becomes available.

Various cubbies and decent door bins provide ample stowage (even if the cup holders do tend to struggle around corners), although as to what purpose the ledge above the glovebox serves I’ve yet to ascertain. With more than ample head, shoulder and leg room for five and 520 litres of cargo, fold down the rear 60:40 split rear bench seat and 1,289 litres becomes available with the facility of an additional 840 kg of towing ability.

Beneath the bonnet you can choose the 1,560 cc four-cylinder BlueHDi turbo diesel or the 1,199 cc three-cylinder turbo-charged petrol (as tested) which, given the engine’s economy, will prove to be the most popular option at 47 mpg average or well over 400 miles per 45-litre tankful. Producing 110 hp and 205 Nm of torque and mated in this instance to a six-speed manual transmission, the engine is responsive with great power delivered, though the long-throw gear lever does initially take a little while to become accustomed to. Completely irrelevant these days, 0–62mph comes up in exactly 10 seconds and onwards to a theoretical top speed of 114 mph.

Forestry Journal: A mixture of hard and soft surfaces trims the minimalist cabin.A mixture of hard and soft surfaces trims the minimalist cabin.

Driving the latest C3 Aircross is a pleasurable, undemanding, relaxing experience. Visibility is good, while the ride is far smoother than the previous model and the three-turn lock-to-lock power steering is nicely weighted. This all combines to make a car that delivers more than adequate performance and better-than-expected economy. Equally, Citroen’s latest three-cylinder engines have come on leaps and bounds over the past three years to a level where you’d be forgiven for thinking the C3 110 Flair S&S was a cylinder larger and a good few ccs more. And, even more importantly, it’s an enjoyable car that evokes everything that made Citroens as popular as they were and are becoming once again. Being different counts. It’s something Citroen has always known.

Forestry Journal: Comfortable, boxy seating is clad in durable material.Comfortable, boxy seating is clad in durable material.

C3 Aircross prices start at a very reasonable £16,615, rising to £20,045 for the basic Flair. Add a few toys and the one seen here is all yours for £21,045 – once again, not at all bad for what you’re getting. And if you want the trick front axle Grip Control, you’ll need to add about £500. Apart from that, enjoy!