French carmaker Citroën, a part of the Stellantis Group, the world's third-largest automaker by volumes, is eyeing for a pie of India's growing mid-size SUV market with its latest offering, the C3 Aircross.

Citroën began its India journey in 2021 with its flagship - C5 Aircross SUV. In 2022, Citroën launched its first vehicle under the C-Cubed platform – Citroën C3. Within six months, it introduced an electric vehicle on this powertrain-agnostic platform. And now, the carmaker is launching its mid-size C3 Aircross SUV on the same platform.

Citroën C3 Aircross comes with a 5+2 seat variant, giving customers the flexibility to carry seven people or extra luggage – depending on whether you are going for a party or a long holiday. The third-row seats are easily accessible and can be removed effortlessly (in less than a minute) to increase the boot space to 511 litres.

With the third row completely removed and the second row completely folded, the boot space increases to a whopping 839 litres. However, with the third row seats intact, there is hardly any boot space. In the 5-seater variant, the boot space is 444 litres.

The C3 Aircross is powered by a 1.2 litre turbo petrol engine which is quite responsive. However, the car only comes with a 6-speed manual transmission, missing out on buyers who prefer automatics. "Automatics will come soon as they constitute 35% of this segment," says Saurabh Vatsa, Citroën Brand Head, India.

The car's 200 mm ground clearance and approach and departure angles allow it to tread over obstacles and sharp inclines. Citroën set up an off-road track to highlight all these capabilities and to showcase the SUV's hill-hold function, which didn't disappoint.

The suspension absorbs road bumps, potholes and every single undulation, making the C3 Aircross a comfortable car to ride in.

As you unlock the car and open its flap door handle to get inside, you'll miss a lot of features that nowadays are common. It doesn't come with a push-button start or a sunroof. There is no keyless entry or wireless charging. It comes with just two front airbags for the driver and co-passenger. Also, opening and closing rear windows is a little inconvenient as switches are placed between the front seats and not on the rear doors.

While the car doesn't have all the bells and whistles, Vatsa says it is going to be a sweet spot where Citroën will price this car for the 5+2 variant. "Clearly, that is going to be a differentiator," he says.

Some value-conscious consumers who are looking at migrating from smaller vehicles and don't want to splurge upwards of ₹15 lakh, he says, adding that they are looking to buy a vehicle which is rightly configured.

"5+2 is a very interesting need in the market. People are not interested in any form of MPV body style. They are not interested in having a rugged 4x4 offroader. They want a practical vehicle which gives them the flexibility to choose either a 5+2 or luggage-carrying capacity. That flexibility is a huge need in the market," Vatsa explains.

On Citroën's sparse presence in the Indian market, Vatsa says, "I can burn money and buy market share and I can earn market share but at a slower pace." The carmaker plans to capture market share through its dealer network, new launches and awareness. Citroën is doubling the dealer network yearly and launching one new product every year.

Stellantis Group has an installed capacity of 1 lakh cars annually in India. The automaker can make 3 lakh powertrains annually. It is currently exporting 2 lakh gearboxes. Stellantis is not just looking at India as a production base for Citroën. "We are looking at India as a talent pool, as a sourcing pool and as an export hub which can provide people, components, machinery along with software for the rest of the world," says Vatsa.

As exports grow, as domestic volumes grow, the capacity utilisation will also grow, he says.

Citroën will begin deliveries of the C3 Aircross in October.

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