C3 shows the way ahead

DRIVING the new Citroen C3 on a fine, bright spring morning was an interesting experience - interesting because with the huge panoramic windscreen in front and above it was more like taking a trip in a low-flying helicopter.

The visibility is amazing and just in case the sun gets too bright - some hope - there is a slide out panel in the roof that brings the screen to a more 'normal' size.

It's a great feature and adds to the feeling that you are driving something just that little bit different and cerainly sets a benchmark for innovation.

The VTR+ model I was driving, provided by Diarmuid Byre from J.J.Byrne Car Sales, in Wexford, was powered by the very efficient 1.4 litre HDi diesel unit that has won the group so many accolades for its performance and frugality.

Citroen boasts that the 8V 70hp engine can achieve more than 65 mpg while still proving enough torque and power for modern driving on town and country roads.

I had thought I might find the C3 small, but the opposite was the case with plenty of space both front and rear and the panoramic screen and large side and rear glassed areas lightening the space considerably.

On the road, the Citroen drove extremely well although its 0-100 km/h time of plus or minus 14 seconds is never going to set the world on fire.

However most people who drive a C3 would not be buying it for its performance, but rather for its space and easy driving abilities.

One thing I didn't like was the front seat design, particularly the poor level of back support and given Citroen's years of experience in producing ultra-comfortably cars there is simply no excuse.

The VTR+ model is a safe driving environment, protecting the car's occupants with six airbags including two curtain airbags, and other safety features including emergency braking assistance.

The C3 is attractively styled and would certainly appeal to both someone with a young family and a retired couple looking for a economical, good looking model that will provide years of safe motoring.

For the sporty motorist the new DS3 looks the business.

I haven't had the opportunity drive one yet but it looks fantastic with the kind of quirky design features for which the French and Citroen have few peers.

Prices for the C3 range start at €14,900, with the two petrol engined models falling into the B road tax band and the diesels - which have emissions of only 113 grammes of C02 per kilometre - sitting firmly in the cheapest A category.

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