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Lots of French Flair in new C3 Aircross 

THERE are so many small SUV models to choose from at the moment but I’ve just been driving one that stands out from the crowd.

Citroen has a long reputation of producing something different from the rest and has done it again with the C3 Aircross.

It has funky, yet robust looks, and offers owners the chance to personalise their vehicles big time.

This model replaces the Picasso and the compact SUV is an uplifted C3 hatchback.

It has the ability to go soft off-roading with raised ground clearance, front and rear skid plates, large wheels and wheel arch extensions.

There isn’t a four-wheel drive model but there is the £400 option of grip control.

This works with the ESP (electronic stability programme) maintaining the best possible traction from both front wheels.

A fascia control knob allows you to easily switch between five functions – standard, snow, all-terrain, sand and ESP off.

There 85 colour combi-nations, including three roof colours for two-tone models, and four colour packs, plus five interior design schemes.

My trendy test model was a soft sand colour with spicy orange roof, enhanced by its black roof rails.

There is stacks of room inside the Aircross up front and in the rear.

I liked the elevated driving position in a cabin that offers class-leading head and legroom space.

The 60/40 split rear seats can be folded to increase a huge boot space of 410 litres to 520 litres.

And a flat-folding front passenger’s seat allows a load length of 2.40 metres.

There are several interior designs to pick from and the test model came with a £650 option hype mistral ambiance.

This brought a premier feel to the SUV with its black leather and patterned cloth, leather-look dash and satin chrome surrounds on air vents.

There are also lots of storage spaces, including a central console that can store your smartphone with a special dock and wireless charging.

Entertainment features, using the central-mounted seven-inch touchscreen, include DAB radio with six speakers, USB socket, Blue-tooth, Mirror link with Apple CarPlay and sat-nav.

Three specs are available – Touch, Feel and the top-of-the-range Flair model I sampled.

There is a selection of diesel and petrol engines and my model came with a 1.2-litre 130hp petrol unit.

This powers the Aircross to a top speed of 124mph and it was fairly smart out of the blocks with a zero to 62mph time of 10.4 seconds.

The six-speed manual gearbox allowed smooth, slick changes up and down the gears.

The stop/start engine was never too noisy pushing it in low to mid-range gears and was quiet at motorway speeds.

You can also achieve excellent fuel economy figures from the Pure Tech three-cylinder engine – 53.3mpg combined, 44.8mpg urban and 60.1mpg extra urban.

The Aircross proved to be nimble in town driving with parking assisted by the rear parking sensors.

This compact SUV handled well on some country roads with good road grip, and ride comfort was also impressive, even over some potholed surfaces.

I liked the colour head-up display and other driver assistance features included auto high beam assist, cruise control, speed limit recog-nition, lane departure warning and park assist.

The C3 Aircross offers lots of versatility and the French flair that brings a fun feeling to a very practical compact SUV.

On-the-road prices start at £13,995 with the Flair Pure-Tech 130 costing £18,845.