Citroen has taken a meticulous approach to the Indian market and one can’t really blame them as it has been the graveyard for many brands. In 2021, the French car manufacturer announced that it will roll out three new products in the next three years. Citroen emphasized that the key to success is to introduce made-in-India vehicles with at least 90 per cent of localisation components. All three vehicles are based on the Common Modular Platform under the C-Cubed programme. The first car based on this platform was the C3 hatchback and now the much-awaited C3 Aircross SUV made its global unveil in India. We speak to Laurence Hansen, Citroen Product and Strategy Director and Boris Reinmoller, Design Project Manager and understand what makes the C3 Aircross different from its competition.
Citroen C3 Aircross: Versatility is its asset
Citroen C3 Aircross will take on the heavyweights of the mid-size SUV class like the Hyundai Creta, Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara and Kia Seltos. The company is banking on its strength and is confident that the C3 Aircross will manage to carve a niche for itself in this class. Laurence Hansen, Citroen Product and Strategy Director explained the USP of C3 Aircross. “Being an SUV, its rugged design is very important along with a spacious cabin and Citroen’s DNA, comfortable ride quality.” Boris Reinmoller, Design Project Manager added, “In terms of design, it has a commanding stance and butch-like wheel arches. It also offers a unique 5+2 seating layout.”
Citroen’s versatile Common Modular Platform can be extended to 5 metres. Currently, both the sub-4 metre C3 hatchback and the 4.3 metre C3 Aircross SUV are based on it. Reinmoller said, “As we knew what type of vehicles we wanted, the challenged was the design language.” From the word go, the platform was dedicated to different body styles — hatchback, SUV and well, the jury is still out on what the third vehicle could be.
This platform also gives Citroen an opportunity to roll out a C3 Aircross electric version. Hansen said, “If the market has the appetite for an electric SUV then it’s feasible. Currently, there’s a demand in the B-segment hatchback, now we will have to see how it fares for the SUV segment.”
Citroen C3 Aircross: Only manual transmission
Citroen remained mum when asked if the new SUV will be offered in multiple transmissions. They remained tight-lipped on an automatic gearbox, which does play an important role in the mid-size SUV segment. Citroen did admit that automatic transmission is a growing trend in India so maybe in the future, the company could offer this as an option. The French automobile manufacturer also shot down any talks of it looking at AMT as an automatic option. Hansen confirmed that when the C3 Aircross will be launched later this year, it will only come with the 6-speed gear stick.
Citroen has confirmed that the C3 Aircross will be available with a 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine. Currently, this engine powers the C3 hatchback and has an output of 109bhp and 190Nm. This maybe be the Achilles heel for Citroen as it will be the least-powered vehicle in the segment unless the company has plans to increase the power output.
Citroen C3 Aircross: SUV attributes
At 2,671mm, the C3 Aircross has the longest wheelbase in the segment. This makes it 131mm longer than the C3 hatch. Compared to the top sellers in this class, the Creta and Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara’s wheelbases are 2,600mm and 2,610mm respectively. According to Citroen, this translates into having the best legroom for second-row passengers in the 5-seater version. With ample knee room for rear passengers, the C3 Aircross offers 444 litres of luggage space and in the case of the 5+2 trim, the capacity increases 511 litres when the third-row seats are removed.
Ground clearance is critical for an SUV and the C3 Aircross offers 200mm. To give an idea of how the Citroen SUV fares against the top-selling SUVs, the Hyundai Creta and Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara have a ground clearance of around 190mm and 210mm respectively.
The dimensions of the C3 Aircross, it is primarily focused on the mid-size SUV like the Volkswagen Taigun, Skoda Kushaq, Kia Seltos, and Hyundai Creta and could even spoil the party with the MPVs like the Kia Carens and the Maruti Suzuki XL6.
Citroen C3 Aircross: Why 5+2 seating layout?
The Aircross will be available in two seat options, the traditional 5-seats and 5+2 seats. This can be a hit-or-miss decision by Citroen as the C3 Aircross is not really a full-sized 7-seater SUV. Hansen clarifies this by saying, “This is the feedback the company had received from the customers. We were told that people want a three-row seating layout so that extended family will also get a place to sit, but in an SUV-shaped vehicle as it is aspirational as opposed to an MPV.”
This is a unique feature in this class where it is dominated by 5-seater SUVs. According to Reinmoller, “It’s like killing two birds with one stone as it offers that option for additional two seats though the standard version will remain as a 5-seater.” Citroen also believes this will make it stand apart from its competitors.
Citroen C3 Aircross: Lessons learnt from the past?
Even though the interiors, especially the dashboard is taken from the C3 hatchback, Citroen has tried to improve the quality levels with better materials and colour combination. Citroen admitted they missed a trick or two with the C3 as it didn’t offer some crucial features. The French carmaker has learnt from this faux pas and recently launched the C3 Shine this month to sort out the issue. Hansen said, “With limited features available on the C3, Citroen corrected this issue with Shine trim. Features available on the C3 Aircross are from the lessons learnt from the past.” Citroen believes, based on customer research, they have managed to balance the styling, features and keeping in mind, the budget.
So, the features the C3 Aircross offers are electric adjustable outside rearview mirrors and a 7-inch digital instrument cluster. It has retained the 10-inch infotainment display from its hatchback sibling. What is slightly disappointing is that the cabin quality falls short of its Japanese and Korean competition. C3 Aircross misses out on features like front ventilated seats, AC dials and door switches that are straight from the C3, no climate control and with roof-mounted AC vents, there is no sunroof, which is very popular among Indian buyers. In terms of inconvenience, the second-row window switches are located between the front seats.
Does this mean that Citroen is looking to create a storm in the mid-size SUV segment by aggressively pricing the new C3 Aircross? We will have to wait for the launch in the latter half of the year and find out.