LYON, France -- Citroen hopes that the "punchy" styling of its new C3 will help it attract younger buyers as the automaker returns to its roots with a design that distinguishes it from rivals in Europe's highly competitve subcompact segment.
The hatchback will "bring modernity and freshness to the market, which is something that has been missing," Pierre Monferrini, head of future products for Citroen, told Automotive News Europe.
“We are at the core of the mainstream, yet we offer something different, and that difference is largely reflected in the design,” Monferrini added.
Citroen is relying on design to make its lineup stand out as it introduces eight new body shapes by 2021.
The automaker has given the C3 key design features that appear on its strong-selling C4 Cactus, such as subcompact's Airbumps, which help prevent damage to the exterior, and its distinctive lighting signatures, with a sloping front end and generous curves.
The C3 will come with a built-in driver's-view camera, touchscreen tablet and 36 color combinations as the automaker aims to lure younger buyers.
"We intend to attract new customers, especially younger customers," Citroen CEO Linda Jackson said. "We have a very sexy product, a punchy, unconventional car in this segment, a car that reflects our renewal."
The marque will also reach for younger buyers via a rental service and financing programs, she said, adding that she aims to reduce the average age of Citroen's European customers to 50 years old from 59.
The C3 is an important launch for Citroen since it is one of its best-selling models and is the first C3 to launch since parent PSA Group decided to turn former Citroen subbrand DS into a stand-alone brand.
Following the launch of the quirky C4 Cactus, Citroen hopes the C3 will help further differentiate itself as a brand, something it once excelled at with models such as the 2CV. This is especially important in the subcompact segment, which is Europe's largest at 2.7 million vehicles last year.
The new C3 is bigger than its predecessor, growing 50mm in length to 3990mm and 20mm in width to 1379mm. The wheelbase is 70mm longer at 2540mm.
While Citroen did not disclose pricing for C3, a company source said the automaker would target customers in the middle range of the subcompact market, undercutting sales leaders such as the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and the 208 from PSA sister brand Peugeot.
The C3’s gasoline engine options range from a 1.0-liter 68-hp unit to a 1.2-liter turbo with 110 hp. The 1.6-liter diesel variants will offer either 75 hp or 100 hp.
Sales of the C3 fell 3.5 percent through May to 125,299 units, according to market researcher JATO Dynamics. In contrast, sales of the region's best-selling subcompact, the Fiesta, edged up 0.6 percent in the same period to 310,995 units.
Citroen will give the C3 is public debut at the Paris auto show in September and start sales in October.
Production of the C3 will shift to Slovakia from France. The new model will account for more than half the output at PSA's Trnava factory by next year and boost the plant's overall production by nearly 20 percent to about 360,000 vehicles in 2018, plant director Remi Girardon said.
Bloomberg contributed to this report