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Another Citroen bid to gain extra local market traction focuses on the wee C3 – in hatch form now and an elevated crossover arriving next year.

SALES status of Citroen’s just-released small car will likely be elevated within the next 12 months.

Chris Brown, chief executive for brand rights’ holder Autodistributors’ New Zealand, has confirmed the Aircross edition of the new C3, right, is on the horizon.

“We’re studying Aircross … our Aircross study will be complete within the next few weeks for an early 2018 launch,” Brown says of a variant only recently unveiled in France.

Pricing has yet to be proposed, he adds, but the local intent is for that model to place between the C3 hatch, at $26,990, and a big brother five-door, the C4 Cactus, which dates from 2014 and costs from $33,990.

Citroen recently determined all its crossover models will carry the Aircross designation.

There is also a C5 Aircross to tap into the ever-growing interest in all sizes of these vehicles. Revealed at this year’s Shanghai motor show, that model is also presumed to be on the local wish list.

The C3 Aircross issues with a number of different engine choices, but local preference will be to equip the model with the same three-cylinder 1.2-litre turbopetrol that has arrived with the hatch.

This engine makes 81kW at 5500rpm and 205Nm at 1500rpm and marries here to a six-speed automatic with stop-start. Citroen cites a combined fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100km.

The elevated edition (is so new that, while Citroen has issued the image below, the public introduction won’t occur until next month’s Frankfurt motor show.

It is considered a key car for Citroen’s international markets. The hope is that that the SUV formula of more-muscular looks and increased ground clearance (by 20mm) will resonate with consumers turning away from conventionally styled cars. Though Citroen calls it an SUV, only front-wheel-drive versions will be available, however the maker promises it will have enough off-seal ability to impart the sense of adventure.

While Citroen has been a fringe performer here, the new distributor – which took over from Sime Darby on July 1 – has high hopes for the C3.

Asked about his market expectation, he replied: “Once launched we expect it to bring 20 units a month.”

If that’s a sales target for the nation’s eight Citroen dealerships, then it will mean the entire volume for 2016 will be surpassed in three months.

Brown makes no excuse for his operation having determined to pick a high specification Feel Plus edition.

“We’re always looking at opportunities to have the right range for the market,” he says.

“In the past we could be guilty of bringing entry level cars to create the ‘all-important’ entry price … it simply hasn’t worked.

“Now we have decided to give our customers the car and the specification that we believe best presents the brand and the product. Ultimately customers will decide but we would like to think the new C3 Feel Plus is that car.”

Style wise, the C3 follows the design theme introduced by the C4 Picasso and Grand C4 Picasso in 2013 and continued by the C4 Cactus.

The split headlights and plastic Airbumps – designed to protect the vehicle from rogue shopping trolleys – running along the lower section of the C3's front and rear passenger doors reference the Cactus, but the new-gen model has a chunkier look that includes crossover styling tweaks such as the black plastics on the wheel arches and side skirts.

At the rear the C3 uses 3D tail-lights and Citroen says the short overhangs and muscular wings “give the car a ready-to-pounce appearance”.

The model is based on the platform used to underpin the Peugeot 208 and DS3 and is also related to the Cactus. It measures 3990mm long, 49mm longer than the outgoing model, is 22mm wider (1750mm), has a 74mm-longer wheelbase(2540mm), and is 4mm lower than before. It has a 10.7-metre turning circle and a 300-litre cargo capacity.

In a bid to appeal to the connected generation, the C3 has gone heavy with a host of new connectivity technology.

The most extravagant is Citroen ConnectedCam, an integrated high-definition two megapixel, wide angle (120-degrees) camera with GPS and a 16-gigabyte internal memory fitted behind the rearview mirror that films whatever is happening on the road in front of the car.

Brown confirms a fixture that can record everything the driver sees through the windscreen – primarily to upload social media though it also automatically activates in event of a smash and stores the footage - is a $900 option here.

The edition here also has 3D-connected sat-nav with voice recognition, a reversing camera, a blind-spot monitor and lane-departure warning. The cruise control features a speed limiting function and is also equipped with speed limit recognition and recommendation, which allows the C3 driver to quickly adjust their cruising speed according to the information captured by the forward facing camera.

It has full electrics, the usual host of safety assists and runs on 17-inch alloys. The only sign of austerity is that it has cloth rather than leather trim.

There is a 7.0-inch touchscreen in the centre stack with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, chrome-surround air vents, luggage straps as interior door handles, as in the C4 Cactus.

The cabin features a horizontal layout throughout for a feeling of space, with Citroen saying the idea was for it to “feel like an extension of the driver’s home”.

The outgoing C3 was the top-selling Citroen here in 2016, though it reflected the brand’s minnow status by achieving 52 registrations. The next best performers were the C4 Picasso (50 units) and Grand Picasso (25), followed by 13 C4s and a single C5. Citroen’s separate DS division took 30 sales.

Citroen owner PSA is keen to do better in Asia-Pacific. Presently 38 percent of sales are outside Europe, but the maker’s ambition is to lift that to 50 percent by 2020.

While the New Zealand operation runs with the Rick Armstrong dealer group, more broadly it is under the auspices of Inchcape, which also has rights for Australia.

The operation across the Tasman recently agreed to a five-year plan with PSA, which includes revising the product portfolio and pushing Citroen as the entry PSA brand with a renewed focus on light-commercial vehicles. Three vans of differing sizes – the wee Berlingo already in circulation, the Dispatch of 2018 and perhaps a Relay large model after that – are viewed as key products.

Is New Zealand set to go the same way? Brown reinforces our countries have individual market approaches.

“From our perspective we already have some history with light commercials with the Peugeot brand, so any LCV strategy will build on that base,” he says.

“Interestingly the Peugeot-branded light commercials have characteristics more akin to the comforts of the passenger range which could be an interesting approach to the category,” he suggested.

“On the passenger side, Citroen and Peugeot despite having unique brand identities, complement each other, it’s not more complicated than that.”