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Byline: Patrick James

One person's quirkiness is another's innovation and few cars on the road today offer the quirkiness - or innovation - of Citroen. Over the years they have produced some eye-catching and some pug-ugly creations.

The latest raft of models are still eye-catching , but none, so far, offend the eye.

The new C3 supermini introduced earlier this year is a car that offers individual styling both inside and out.

The exterior shows flowing, sculpted lines along the side of the car while the front is dominated by the deep grille that sports the signature chevrons.

Perhaps the most striking feature on the higherspec models is the panoramic Zenith windscreen, that stretches back as far as the driver's head.

It is 36% bigger than a normal screen on an average five-door small car and the angle from the driver's eye line to the top of the windscreen is 108 degrees.

With the slim front pillar this gives tremendous visibility and progressive tinting across the top 25cm of the screen ensures protection from sunlight. A sunblind, featuring two sun-visors, can easily be pulled forwards when driving in low-angle sun conditions.

The car's overall dimensions are smaller than its competitors, but it is deceptively spacious - at 300 litres it has the biggest boot in its class - is relatively cheap to buy and has low running costs, particularly in diesel format.

Inside the C3 displays the company's usual quirkiness, or perhaps innovation might be a better word, with a riot of chrome and gloss trim and a choice of four upholstery styles - including a leather seat option.

The C3 is light and airy thanks to the huge windscreen, with plenty of head and legroom for driver and passengers.

The interior is dominated by an onyx black dashboard and flat-bottomed, multi-function steering wheel.

The control stalks are stubby, but sturdy and dials are neat, legible and logical, while the optional sat nav control set up is easy to ease.

All neat touches, but the C3 is up against some stiff opposition in a very competitive supermini sector, where cars like the Fiesta and Corsa dominate, so it must be good.

It certainly has plenty to offer, in terms of value for money and running costs.

The car I tried was the range-topping 1.6 litre diesel in Exclusive trim, which produces stunning economy.

Claimed average consumption is 65.7mpg and low carbon dioxide emissions of 110g/km, give it a road tax rating of pounds 35 per annum and a benefit in kind rating of 13%.

It is economical and clean, while still possesses enough grunt for most situations.

The Exclusive features all the bells and whistles you would expect from a range topper and an engine that seemed to have an aversion to using diesel.

Developing 90bhp, the engine seems more lively that official acceleration figures suggest and has good torque.

Mated to a smooth gearbox, handling feels crisp, while the steering on the light side. However the ride is good for such a small car and noise from the diesel is barely audible.

Even the standard model is packed with standard kit and it features a high level of safety equipment.

The C3 starts at pounds 10,990 for the 1.1 litre petrol VT, rising to pounds 16,440 for the 1.6 litre 110bhp diesel Exclusive.

FAST FACTS Citroen C3 1.6 HDI 90bhp Exclusive Price: pounds 15,290 Mechanical: 1,560cc, 90bhp, diesel engine driving front wheels via five-speed manual gearbox 0-62mph:11.3 secs Top speed: 112mph Combined mpg: 65.7 Insurance group: 14 C02 emissions: 110g/km BiK rating: 13% Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 3, 2011

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