Paying more than a passing homage to the blatant abuse of steroids, the French marque’s compact SUV hits the market with an almost brutal, bulbous frontal profile – and an interior that is all soft and squashy, with light-in-use controls that turn what is on the face of it a bit of a bruiser into the motoring equivalent of Georgia Toffolo.
It come bearing more interior space, a build quality that hints that someone’s been down on the production line and kicked a few derrieres because it is so much better than in the past, and an overwhelming sense that here is another worthy wearer of that iconic Citroen badge. A badge that is simplicity itself on a car that has all the modern day bells and whistles that buyers demand.
Aircross is 160mm taller than its C3 stablemate, with chunkier lower body cladding, and to really make it your own, there are 85 body and roof colour combinations available. Our test car was Soft Sand with a Spicy Orange roof, and certainly stood out in a crowded car park.
Power here comes from a three pot 1.2 litre engine with 130hp and decent performance attributes. The turbocharged and intercooled unit can prove quite voluble under acceleration and it’s also quite swift, but like its C3 stablemate you have to work a bit on the correlation between clutch, throttle and gearchange to keep it smooth, as it’s a willing workhorse.
Citroen has successfully built the Aircross round one of its core brand values, and that is comfort, making the car a relaxed place to be on the move, though you’d need to be a primordial dwarf or have the seat back set at 45 degrees to be able to see the heads up display that shows your speed and the speed limit. It’s fine for more compact drivers, but if you’re six foot plus it’s possibly a bit superfluous.
Kit aplenty adorns the Aircross, not the least of which is the optional £400 Grip Control on Feel or Flair models. With its enhanced ground clearance and big wheels, adding this package with its Hill Descent Assist gives you the option of tackling the occasional farmer’s field (with permission, of course). The turn of a big switch on the console gives you standard road mode, snow mode, all-terrain mode and even sand mode, for when life can be a beach….
You can also switch ESP off so you get full control but it’ll click back on above 31mph. so, a bit more all round ability without the weight penalty of four wheel drive.
To succeed in a crowded market place you need something that stands out, and there’s no denying that’s the case here. In a world where ‘fashion’ counts for an increasing amount of the car buyer’s emotive judgement, the Aircross is muscling its way to the front of the queue as a car you’ll either love or move on to the garage next door.
At least it’s not as ugly as the original Picasso which it’s moving the game on from, though it’s similar in price to the C4 Cactus so there’s a choice to be made here.
FOR: a real breath of fresh air
AGAINST: soft seats comfortable but lack support
FASTFACTS: Citroen C3 Aircross Flair; £18,400; 1199cc 3 cylinder turbocharged and intercooled, 130hp, 230Nm; six speed manual; top speed 124mph, 0-62mph 10.4secs; fuel – urban 44.8, extra urban 60.1, combined 53.3; CO2 119g/km; will it fit the garage? 4155/1765/1637 (l/w/h).