Citroën has hinted at giving us a performance version that it will sell off the back of next year’s C3 WRC rally programme, but this isn't it. For now there are three petrol engines, and this 1.2 Puretech with 81bhp sits in the middle of the line-up.
While it's perky around town, you do need to rev it hard once you hit faster roads. Without a turbocharger to boost its mid-range, peak torque arrives at just under 3000rpm, and you need at least that dialled up, combined with a heavy right foot, to join motorways with an appropriate degree of vigour. Still, its three cylinders make a plucky noise that's a pleasure to listen to in short bursts.
Unfortunately, with only five gears to work with, the engine's constant revving at 70 or 80mph does get a touch wearing after a while. And speaking of the gearbox, its long, loose throw isn't exactly thrilling either.
Otherwise, the C3’s refinement is good for a supermini. At motorway speeds there’s not much road noise and no more than a flutter of wind noise.
You’d expect a supermini to handle well in town, and the C3's light steering, allied to its tight turning circle, makes it a handy urban prowler. At low speeds the ride feels good, but the occasional bump on our mainly smooth Spanish test route caught it out, sending a jolt through the seat. As usual, we’ll only really know its true comfort levels when we try it back in the UK.
The intrinsic softness Citroën has engineered in to the suspension makes things mildly amusing at higher speeds. Body roll is pronounced, and thanks to seats that offer next to no side support, you find yourself clinging on to the steering wheel to avoid plunging head first into your passenger’s lap. The faster you corner the more you notice the steering’s numbness, but the system's gearing is decent, making the C3 easy to place.
If you're tall you’ll find one of the best driving positions of any supermini, with loads of space in the front and a proper range to the seat and steering column adjustments. The back seats are tight, though, even by Fiesta standards, with head room being the most pressing issue – quite literally, with your head nudging the slopped-back headlining. Still, the boot’s a good size.
The dashboard is best described as spartan, but that’s exactly the look Citroën wanted: think Ikea’s trademark cool simplicity. It creates a cabin that works well, with enough neat touches, such as the leather strap door pulls and classic DS instruments, for you to completely forgive the hard recycled plastics that feel rather bargain-basement.
Flair-spec models, such as our test car, encourage you to express your individuality with mix-and-match roof and body colours, while the Airbump protective side strips are a keep or remove option that can be highlighted with an extra splash of colour.
Citroën’s new infotainment system is standard on this trim, too. It's much easier to work than PSA's previous clunky efforts, although the optional £500 sat-nav did have a couple of seizures. Don’t bother adding it, though, and instead use the standard Apple CarPlay/ Android Auto function to mirror your smartphone’s sat-nav on to the 7.0in touchscreen.