ANOTHER week, another small SUV. There seems to be no end to the constant stream.
Latest to join the ranks is the Citroen C3 Aircross which goes on sale on November 6.
These cars (you’ll be familiar with the likes of the Renault Captur, Nissan Juke, Peugeot 2008) now account for 16pc, or nearly one-in-six, of all passenger cars bought in Ireland.
And it looks like the share will expand. Motoring experts were saying in Frankfurt last week they expect sales of these cars in Europe to double by 2020.
The Citroen is one of several headed this way soon. There will be the Arona from SEAT, Kona from Hyundai, Stonic from KIA (see First Drive on Page 1), the T-Roc from Volkswagen, KAROQ from Skoda etc.
They all have one thing in common: they are tidy, tall and smartly tailored for a family/urban audience.
In a way Citroen were trying to get their ‘spake’ in first with the Aircross – even if it was just a matter of us sitting in and prodding and sizing up; or getting a tall lad to sit in the seat behind me to show how roomy the cabin is.
The one thing about it, apart from a fresh, zingy mix of colours and shapes, is the amount of space inside and in the boot (520 litres).
Like quite a few other aspects of the car, this was described as ‘class leading’. We’ll take their word for it – for now.
One of the drawbacks is that while we were presented with a menu of driving aids and infotainment updates (Android Auto/Apple CarPlay), it’s not yet clear what volume of stuff will be standard or be in higher-spec models or optional.
That is understandable at this distance from official launch. As is the absence of an indicative price.
But I’m prepared to speculate it will start around the €19,500 mark.
Because that’s the sort of starting territory for its rivals and if it wants to be within that initial trawl, the price needs to be close to the average.
Despite all that we learned a good few things about it: l There will only be 2WD versions but there’s the option of Grip Control, a clever system that gives the effect of 4WD under sticky, slippery circumstances.
- There will be two petrols (82 and 110bhp) and a 100bhp diesel;
- And 16in/17in wheels to fill what are substantial arches.
- While it’s more people carrier inside they’ve gone to big rounds to make it appear like an SUV outside – even though it’s only 20mm taller than the C3 hatch.
- The rear bench slides and splits 60/40 – useful.
- Among the 12 different technologies helping you on your journey are voice controlled 3D sat nav, reversing camera, lane departure warning and blind-spot monitoring.
- No, there will not be AirBumps (like the C4 Cactus) on the new car.
- All versions will have 5spd manual transmissions with the exception of the 110bhp PureTech petrol which also has a 6spd auto option.
- Yes, petrol is back in vogue big time with the likes of the C3 hatch now reflecting that in sales.
- They tell us 75pc of the supermini purchases are petrol. The are also upgrading the C3 and C4 Picasso.
- The SUV torrent is not, of course, confined to the small-car sector.
- They have a C5 Aircross for reveal at the end of the year.