Citroën returns to SA with 3 new models

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Image: Charlen Raymond

It’s often not the easiest thing to restore trust when the said trust was broken, but this is exactly what Citroën has to do from October 2019, onwards.

This French automaker pulled out of the South African market a few years ago and left sister-brand, Peugeot, to fend for itself. The circumstances that forced Citroën’s hand a few years ago were dire, as the automaker struggled to make ends meet and trying to stay afloat. It was tough years for both Peugeot and Citroën, and so the call was made to ax the latter from the SA.

Ironically, Citroën was performing in Europe and did they, in 2018, acquire more than 18% market share across the continent. It’s impressive, to say the least, but the success there did not spill over to South Africa. Until now.

Under the leadership of new MD, Xavier Gobille, Citroën returns to our shores and does the model line-up include three vehicles with which it hopes to lure customers again.

Citroën C3

All three of Citroën’s new models are available in two specification trims: Feel and Shine. In the C3’s case, the entry model to Citroën’s latest product offensive, both models are pretty well specified, but the biggest difference is with regards to the engine.

The C3 Feel shares its 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine with the Shine, but it has to make do without a turbo. Power is rated at 60kW/118Nm, whereas in the Shine it produces 81kW/205Nm; thanks to turbocharging. The Feel is also the only model in Citroën’s line-up to make use of a five-speed manual gearbox, whereas all the other models are fitted with a six-speed automatic unit.

At launch, we sampled the C3 Feel and what was immediately noticeable was that the little motor struggled at sea-level. The Highveld air played a big part in the car’s performance and would it take some time before there was any real response from the engine. The manual gearbox, however, has a nice, solid throw-action to it that really aided the cogging process.

Space in the C3 is somewhat limited and will larger drivers and passengers be susceptible to claustrophobia. Prospective owners are treated, however, to strong specification list in the Feel. These include: daytime-running LEDs, a bi-tone body colour, front electric windows, cruise control, seven-inch touchscreen for media, traction control, Isofix, and six airbags form part of the package. In addition, the Shine model is equipped with stop/start technology, 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lamps, homecoming lamps, auto rain-sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, and airbump (these are protective panels on the doors to prevent an object from damaging the vehicle).

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Citroën C3 AirCross

Also available in Feel and Shine trims, the C3 AirCross adopts the 81kW engine used in the C3 Shine. The engine sends its power to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox and does the two units work well together to bring about a good experience from a driver’s perspective. On the open road, the C3 AirCross had ample going for it and did it never feel as if the SUV was out of its depth.

The C3 AirCross, according to Citroën, is the most spacious vehicle in its segment and boasts with strong dimensions. It’s 4.15m long, 1.76m wide, and 1.64m tall. This all translates to a cabin that is a fair amount more spacious than the standard C3 and even the head- and elbow room sees an increase. In Feel specification, boot space is a very adequate 410L, but in the Shine, thanks to the three rear seats that can be moved forward individually, that space increases to 520L. And yes, you can fold the rear seats down, which will result in an even greater loading area.

The C3 AirCross may share its platform with the C3, but ground clearance is some 20mm higher. This does give the SUV a raised driving position, as well as a fair amount of confidence when tackling a piece of gravel. This vehicle is available in three colours: White, Platinum Grey, and Soft Sand. An additional colour pack, called Spicy Orange, can be specified, as well.

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Citroën C5 AirCross

Heading up Citroën’s line-up in South Africa is the new C5 AirCross. This SUV, according to the automaker, is of the biggest in its class and boasts with impressive diameters to really set it apart. Part of that arsenal is a ground clearance of 230mm, blackened pillars at the windows, and a design that shouts French flair at the top of its lungs.

Perhaps the most striking aspect about this SUV’s design is its front-end. At the bottom, two red inserts have been brought onto the front bumper to give the SUV that immediate drawcard. Above it, the lights seem to be incorporated into the grille with a chrome strip running diagonally across. The badge has been woven into it. At the rear, two exhaust outlets have been draughted into the bumper and the rear lights have a 3D-effect about them when you switch the vehicle on.

Regarding practicality, the C5 AirCross does not drop the ball. Boot space is a very generous 520L, but increases to 720L when the rear seats have been moved forward. Fold these said seats down and boot space expands to a very healthy 1 630L.

The rest of the interior has a simple-yet-effective design and is it devoid of unnecessary dials and buttons. The layout of the multimedia system and its usability is really good and did Citroën do the most to gift the vehicle with a well-sorted cabin.

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The C5 AirCross is powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine that produces 121kW and 240Nm. Power delivery on this unit is smooth and linear, and is the slightest throttle inputs required for the SUV to get a move on – thanks in part to all the torque being available at a low 1 400rpm.

What really does help the SUV’s credentials is a suspension setup that works really well. Making use of Citroën’s Hydraulic Cushions, the C5 AirCross has an endearing ride quality that absorbs any and all undulations on the road. Having driven the SUV on a gravel road at launch, the vehicle absorbed everything with aplomb and ensured that maximum comfort is maintained at all times.

All Citroën models are sold with Citroën Serenity, which includes a five-year/100 000km service plan and warranty.

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