Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic first drive review
When Citroen introduced the C3 Aircross last year, it stood out as the sole mid-size SUV without an automatic transmission option. Now, as automotive enthusiasts, we do love our manuals, but some cars are definitely better off with automatics. Particularly when the primary role of said car is to haul the family around in comfort. Even more so when the manual option isn't the best to begin with, which was the case with the Citroen C3 Aircross.
Recognising the necessity to stay competitive in the fiercely contested mid-size SUV segment, Citroen has addressed this drawback with the introduction of a six-speed torque converter automatic to the C3 Aircross range. Will this be enough to regain the considerable ground Citroen has lost in the segment? Let's find out.
Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic design
From the outside, the C3 Aircross Automatic is identical to the manual, which is not a bad thing. The overall design is handsome, featuring a tall stance and muscular wheel arches. It is also distinctly Citroen, bearing a strong family resemblance to the smaller Citroen C3 and the larger Citroen C5. Up front, the grille carries the prominent Citroen chevron logo, which merges neatly with the LED DRLs. However, the halogen bulbs used elsewhere lack the upmarket look that the competition has mastered.
Cost-cutting choices are apparent in the basic pull-type door handles and exposed keyhole on the doors. The rear end treatment is well executed with the faux skid plate element and C-shaped tail lights. However, the finish on the C-pillar's black trim, separating the dual-tone roof and body, falls short. Nevertheless, the C3 Aircross is rather handsome riding on 4-spoke 17-inch alloys with chunky rubber and looked quite fetching in the dark grey and blue dual-tone paint scheme we had on test.
Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic interiors and features
The interior of the Citroen C3 Aircross remains largely unchanged from the manual version. In place of the manual gear lever sits a gated-automatic shift lever, which is unusual these days. Interior plastics seem to be fairly hard-wearing; however, they lack a premium feel.
The C3 Aircross boasts a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Despite lacking automatic air conditioning, it compensates with roof-mounted AC vents for the 2nd and 3rd rows, equipped with blower control. The Automatic is available with the standard five-seat layout and the three-row configuration with seven seats.
The automatic gains a remote start function via the MyCitroen Connect app. Leaving the manual air conditioner on allows for remote cabin preconditioning. However, it's worth noting that key features such as keyless entry and cruise control are still absent.
Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic engine and transmission
The C3 Aircross gets a six-speed torque converter automatic mated to the 1.2-litre turbocharged three-cylinder. The engine's output remains 108bhp, but the automatic gains 15Nm and now delivers 215Nm. It's worth remembering that the C3 Aircross competes with the nat-asp and smaller turbocharged engines at the lower end of the segment, where these outputs are quite healthy.
In terms of the driving experience, the transmission is very well mated to the engine. Upshifts are buttery smooth, with shift points seemingly well calibrated to suit the torque available from the engine. The gearbox quickly kicks down when needed, and you can manually control it in M mode. The shifter is set up race car-style, with a push for downshifts and a pull for upshifts; but, it lacks paddle shifters.
Overall, the automatic transmission performs well in heavy city traffic, seamlessly adapting to the engine's torquey nature and rarely struggling to find the right gears. Push harder, though, and the engine does get fairly vocal.
Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic ride and handling
The C3 Aircross handles in a predictable and composed, if somewhat inert, fashion, but its trump card is its ride quality. It soaks up bumps with the deftness of a vehicle one or two segments above. Combine that with its comfortable, modular cabin with optional 5+2 seating, and the C3 Aircross makes for a great family hauler.
Citroen C3 Aircross Automatic verdict
Apart from adding the automatic, Citroen has done little to address the C3 Aircross’ shortcomings. Cost-cutting measures, such as the miserly window switch situation and concerns about overall build quality, detract from the platform's potential.
Now what matters is the price. If Citroen can price it within Rs 50,000-75,000 of its MT variants, this could be well received by buyers at the lower end of the mid-SUV segment. Citroen is heeding feedback and making incremental improvements; however, the competition might move the goalposts significantly before they close the gap.