With the world and their dog now apparently making small SUVs, standing out from the crowd requires something a little different.

Luckily for Citroen, ‘different’ is what they do better than anyone else.

Looking at first glance like a Citroen C3 that’s been slightly over-inflated, the new C3 Aircross brings the company’s inimitable sense of design to a market segment that can be a little… well, dull.

Familiar SUV undertones of jacked up suspension and black plastic wheel-arch extensions are all just as they should be. But the C3 Aircross backs that up with a host of more distinctive touches such as the coloured roof bars and – our favourite – the ‘venetian blind’ rear quarter-lights.

we love the ‘venetian blind’ rear quarter-lights

For the C3 Aircross, Citroen have gone heavy on the customisation, with a choice of eight body colours, three roof colours, and four different contrasting options for the roof bars, rear quarter-lights, door mirrors and headlight surrounds; in fact, the company claims 85 combinations in all.

The interior gets the same treatment with five different ‘ambiances’, each with their own blend of contrasting colours for the dashboard fascia, air vents, floor console, steering wheel, and upholstery.

Citroen say they’ve focused on comfort and ease of use, but that means more than just squishy seats. As standard, the Aircross features cruise control, automatic headlights, speed sign recognition, and lane departure warning across the range, although the latter we found to be a little over-sensitive.

Even more goodies can be found on the options list, with wireless smartphone charging, head-up display, emergency assistance, automatic high beams, automatic parking, keyless entry, blind spot monitoring, and more, either arriving as standard as you move up the three-model range or available as part of a series of reasonably-priced packs.

All but the base model feature a seven-inch touchscreen – home to most of the C3’s controls – complete with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It’s a big sluggish at times, though, and we’d still prefer physical climate controls rather than having to divert so much attention away from the road to adjust the temperature.

the C3 Aircross scores highly for its practicality

Where the Aircross scores highly, though, is in its practicality. Its 410-litre boot beats rivals such as the Kia Stonic, and with the optional sliding bench seat that increases to 520 litres, while also adding the ability to recline the rear seat backs for greater comfort. Plus there’s a dual-level foot floor and even a folding front passenger seat so long loads can be carried easily, while a handy slot behind the rear seats holds the parcel shelf out of the way when not in use.

Overall, space for humans is fairly generous, although the panoramic sunroof is perhaps best left on the options list if someone in your family is over 6ft tall.

The comfortable approach makes its way into the chassis, too, with a compliant ride over most surfaces and thoroughly safe – if not exactly inspiring – handling. Citroen have firmed up the suspension over the regular C3 to help keep the taller body in check, an approach that’s largely successful, although the trade-off is a tendency to transmit larger bumps into the cabin rather noisily.

On that note, while both wind and engine noise are well isolated, coarse road surfaces will require voices to be markedly raised to continue a conversation.

The C3 Aircross is offered with a choice of a 1.2-litre petrol engine in either 82, 110, or 130ps power outputs, plus a 1.6-litre turbodiesel with 100 or 120ps. The 110 petrol is available with a six-speed auto, while the others make use of five- or six-speed manuals.

All drive the front wheels only – there’s no all-wheel-drive option – although you can order the Aircross with Grip Control, a system that optimises traction and stability control functions to better cope with sand, mud and snow, plus hill descent control.

the diesel proved itself a surprisingly punchy performer

We spent a week with the range-topping diesel, during which it proved itself not just as a surprisingly punchy performer (despite a stiff and long-throw gearbox), but also an economical one, recording an average of just over 49mpg.

A long journey did reveal that the front seats would benefit from a little extra support, while the omission of lumbar adjustment seems at odds with Citroen’s comfort-first approach.

That said, after a day spent on the road, four adults unfurled themselves at their destination feeling fresh and calm, their mood no doubt having been improved by time spent in the C3’s light and airy cabin.

And for a car designed for family transport, who can ask more than that?

Entry-level Price £13,995 Price as tested £22,765
Engine 1560cc 4-cyl turbodiesel Transmission 6-speed manual
Power 118hp @ 3,500rpm Torque 300Nm @ 1,750rpm
0-60 10.7 secs Top speed 114 mph
Economy 68.9 mpg CO2 107 g/km
Dimensions 4155 x 1765 x 1637 (LxWxH) Kerb Weight 1233 kg

Alex Kefford

Editor

Freelance journalist, ex-offroad driving instructor and long distance road-tripper. If you have any questions about this piece, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.