DRIVEN | C3, C3 Aircross - Can Citroen win back the hearts of South Africans?

<i>Image: Motorpress</i>
<i>Image: Motorpress</i>

Three years ago, Citroen South Africa exited the local car market, along with General Motors. Peugeot remained from the French automaker Group, and Isuzu and Opel became independent entities - the latter two are growing again, albeit slowly, but things are on an upward trend for these brands as customers find their faith in them again.

Now, Citroen is back, not just with a new model, but also an all-new re-introduction of the brand, along with Peugeot's revival earlier in September. 

PSA managing director Xavier Gobille is ecstatic to have relaunched two brands within so many months, and with five brand new models for the local market. 

OPINION | Why is Citroën really returning to SA's car market?

We've been asking Wheels24 readers on their thoughts of the return of the French carmaker to SA, and reviews have been mixed. While most are excited that Citroen is back in SA, others have lost faith, and mostly their trust in the brand asking how long before the automaker packs its bags and leaves again. 

Gobille says: "Most of our customers were not even aware that Citroen had left, mostly because the chevron logo has still been prominent next to the Peugeot logos at dealers and workshops across the country."I find that hard to believe especially after reading so many upset emails of the brand returning. 

But, Gobille says immense research was conducted where customers are placed in a sort of clinic to study their reaction and interaction with Citroen cars, and it's been based on that very outcome that the mother-ship has decided it's a good calculated bet to relaunch in SA. Time will tell. 

According to our quick poll results, out of 5000 reader votes, only 15% are happy for the automaker's return to SA, while 41% says they don't trust the brand one bit, and 43% seem hesitant, hoping the firm has fixed the dire state of its customer services.

With all that said, do they stand a chance to succeed? After driving its three new various models recently, I genuinely think they do. And in addition to the poll, for every email we had received in jest, there were three more who were thrilled at the news of the automaker's return. 

The new Citroen range includes the B-segment C3 which starts with very competitive pricing. 

There are two derivatives in the C3 range: a 1.2-litre PureTech 60kW 5-speed manual model priced from R239 900, and a 1.2-litre PureTech 81kW, 6-speed auto model priced at R289 900

The 1.2 Puretech model mated to the 6-speed EAT gearbox is surprisingly punchy, and there's hardly any turbo lag at all. Hit the sport button and you instantaneously feel a slight boost while driving.

If you're in the market for an alternative, new vehicle, Citroen's C3 should really be considered, especially at its competitive price.

The C3 has bi-tone elements which includes a 'spicy orange' roof as standard - it's also on the C3 Aircross. The airbumps, first seen on the C4 Cactus, is an individual air pocket that provides optimum protection. It makes it more resilient and protective, and scratch resistant.

It has front and rear daytime running lights and its designed in such a way that it looks like its 'always on', and there are strategically-placed chrome trimmings too.

Citroen reckons the C3 has the tallest height of a B-segment vehicle in terms of its headroom. The interior also features a clean and horizontal dash, textural inserts on all the doors while major functions are grouped on the 7-inch touch screen for easy access.

The Citroen C3 model range is available in three colours; namely White, Platinum Grey and Sand, and one spicy orange colour pack.

READ: Citroen launches its 'funky' new C3 hatch in SA

Citroen C3 Aircross

                                                    C3 Aircross -  Image: Citroen 

The C3 Aircross is a new entry for the B-SUV segment and also dons the spicy orange bi-tone elements. It has a 170mm ground clearance, robust-looking rear lights and even has a 3D effect when it lights up. The rear seat on the Shine model can slide back or forward which allows the 410 standard boot space to be increased to 520 litres. Total volume with the seats folded down is 1289 litres.

Its main rivals are the Ford EcoSport, VW T-Cross, Mazda CX-3, Renault's new Captur which is set to launch soon in SA.

The C3 Aircross, priced from R339 900,  is powered by the same 1.2-litre unit in the C3 Shine model, with the same power outputs.

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