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A gift from Santa, and a chic Citroen.

Byline: By Maxine Ashford South Wales Echo

We'll get to this week's test car - the Citroen C3 VTR - in a minute, but first, a couple of Christmas presents you may not have thought of.

How about one or two models of the latest James Bond cars from Casino Royale to bring out the boy in your man or the girl in your woman? Corgi's die cast Bond models start at just pounds 2.99, or you can get much more highly detailed 1:43 scale models for pounds 11.99.

There are loads of special gift sets, too, with a 300-set Limited Edition box at the top of the range which will set you back a Bond price of pounds 299!

The ultimate toy for the bigger boy might well be his own personal hovercraft! Hov Pod make easily manageable three seaters which are 12 feet long, and capable of speeds of up to 50mph over any flat surface.

They will fly over beach, sea, garden or lake and they can handle a wide range of other terrain. It's rather like having a snowmobile, quad bike, boat and 4x4 rolled into one!

They are expensive, starting at a hefty pounds 11,700, but then, what else do you buy for the man who has everything! Details from

Finally in the Christmas- presents-with-a- difference slot, take your loved one to Ambleside in the lake district for the weekend, including two days classic car hire.

At the Lake House Hotel, overlooking Lake Windermere, you can choose from wonderful cars like the 1967 Sunbeam Alpine, 1976 Triumph Stag V8, 1961 Austin Healey 3000 or 1987 Morgan 4/4.

Imagine driving round the stunning Lakes in such cars - just magical! Two nights, including car hire, start at pounds 399 for two. Details on 015394-32360.

Now then, enough of the nonsense, on with the real work!

Citroen was the first car maker to build sporting chassis around their powerful diesel engines and although the idea has caught on in no uncertain terms with other car makers, the French company still does it very well. The supermini C3, in sporty VTR trim, now gets the excellent 1.6 HDi engine with no less than 110bhp. That's almost as much straight power as the first hot hatch of them all had - the petrol Mk I Golf GTi!

Needless to say, it's not quite as quick as that marvellous Golf, but then it's a lot heavier.

However, no petrol Golf could ever match the Citroen's amazing 50 miles per gallon, which is quite easily achievable as long as you don't use the loud pedal too much.

Modern diesel engines are so good! This one pulls sweetly and quietly from just above tickover in fourth gear. Not so long ago trying that with any diesel would have made it sound like a rattling bag of bones.

Real power comes in from just under 2,000 revs and from there on it pulls beautifully, with plenty of in-gear performance for most overtaking to be carried out with ease.

It certainly provided more than enough grunt for most people and this makes it huge fun out on a country road with plenty of dips, weaves and bends.

I could not upset it at all, so it's very safe indeed. When I could make it slide, it simply drifted slightly sideways and lifting the size ten off the loud pedal brought it straight back into line.

The electric power steering, which I've mentioned before, is lacking in feel and overlight at some speeds, but that's my only handling criticism.

The interior is not the largest and although it has belts for five there is only comfort for four. The boot is a good size, but has the good idea of a shelf at lip level for normal days when all it carries is a bit of shopping.

Take this out - very easy - and the boot is a third bigger.

Standard kit includes the trip computer, electric front windows and mirrors, air conditioning, superb fresh air vents which are the best on the market, column stereo controls for excellent added safety and remote locking with an alarm system.

The C3 VTR in turbo diesel form is a gem and, my spies tell me, is available with at least pounds 2,000 discount - making it a real bargain.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 1, 2006
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