Citroen C3 a well-rounded performer

Iain Dooley says the first-generation Citroen C3 supermini's an attractive used buy.

Engines – From launch the C3 was petrol and diesel engines. For mainly town duties the former makes the most sense and all offer a good level of refinement. The latter offers drivers a longer range and, in turn, expands the car's role beyond that of a city runabout. The oil-burners are quiet and refined, too.

Exterior – With barely a straight line in sight, the curvy C3 has aged well. With its tall and rounded profile, the French hatchback is hardly a threatening design. Although it's a world away from Citroen's current designs, it still looks like it is part of the family.

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Interior – The soft and curvy approach continues inside the C3, with the cabin delivering a comforting and soothing ambience. The various plastics might be hard to the touch but they are durable, which makes them good for families. Headroom could be better in the back but that's the price you pay for the C3's distinctive looks.

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Driving – No Citroen of this era could ever be described as something for keen drivers. The C3 offers a surprisingly compliant ride, while on the whole engine performance is good. Thanks to the slightly raised driving position forward visibility is good and the various controls need little effort to operate.

Ownership – Pick the right model and you'll be the owner of something boasting plenty of kit. When first launched the C3 was generously equipped and the options list was a tempting one. It's also important to pick a reliable car as niggles were not uncommon on early production or neglected examples. That aside, the C3 is an undemanding car to drive and own.

What to look for – It's important to buy the best you can afford, which makes condition and history key for an uneventful ownership experience. As complete a service history as possible is essential – especially on newer examples – and don't hesitate in dismissing cars with too many parking dents, scrapes and kerbed wheels for your liking. As always, a test-drive is essential to make sure everything works as it should.

Model history – 2002, Citroen launches its new C3 supermini. Small range of small-capacity petrol and diesel engines offered, plus a good level of standard and optional equipment. Compliant ride and rounded exterior are its main plus points. Mid-life revisions saw welcome uplift in quality inside and out plus exterior cosmetic enhancements.

Reasons to buy – Good value, plush ride, diesel economy, kit levels.

Reasons to beware – Mechanical niggles, rear cabin space, used and neglected examples.

Pick of the range – C3 1.4i Desire.

What to pay – 2003 03 �2,700; 2004 04 �3,225; 2005 05 �3,900; 2006 06 �4,550; 2007 07 �5,300. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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