Citroën is “back in recovery mode after many years of declining performance”, proclaimed CEO Thierry Koskas at the launch of the new Citroën C3. After 24 hours in the company of Koskas, his key executive team and their latest car, I’m minded to agree.

Cars have got more expensive and overloaded with technology, and Citroën is fighting back by offering a level of equipment and performance that doesn't make you feel like you've cut corners and made compromises while also not piling in a load of equipment you’ll never use but have to pay for. The C3 is the first car built like this, with the rest of the range to follow. 

Based on the evidence of the new C3, you’re getting a lot of car for your money and it is the rare combination of being cheap without feeling it, while still good value. Plus, it’s a quiet watershed moment in the rise of EVs because the electric version costs the same as a typical petrol supermini. Impressive stuff. 

The company has got its messaging right and has a clear plan that makes total sense in the current climate, both inside and outside the automotive industry.

It’s a similar playbook to Dacia in many ways, yet the two remain distinct: at its heart, Dacia is a budget brand and has always built cars to that ethos - albeit one that is itself creeping up in price and positioning - whereas Citroën is a mainstream brand that has used engineering trickery to reduce its costs and allow the customer to benefit. One is coming up, while the other is coming down without cutting perceived costs to the customers.

To that end, Citroën seems to be the only brand in the mainstream to not think that the only way to stay profitable is to make ever bigger and more ‘premium’ cars with more technology. Less can mean more. 

“We’re clear what we are,” said Koskas. “Affordable cars, comfortable cars, simple cars. We’re not technology Christmas trees.”

At the heart of all this is the ‘Smart Car’ architecture, which is forensically and ruthlessly designed and developed with an eye on cost and, as such, is considered “a breakthrough for the company”, according to product director Laurence Hansen. Whereas most architectures are designed and therefore costed with the largest and most substantial variant in mind, the Smart Car architecture is designed to a base level that can then be added to. “People are happy with that level,” Hansen said.