Now this is a car deserving of its place on Top Gear’s list of worst cars ever made, because it is about the stupidest idea you could possibly conceive when it comes to a convertible!
Of the 3 major French car manufacturers, I’ve always considered Citroën by far the best due to its ability to match style with practicality and reliability. The Citroën C3 was a fine sentiment to that. A small bodyshell with some interesting styling, coupled with a suitable engine and some average performance. Not a car that was to set the world ablaze, but as far as regular family cars go, it wasn’t half bad.
However, in late 2002, Citroën decided their C3 could do with some extra sheek, so they decided to chop off its roof and give us the Pluriel, a name apparently derived from the word plural (why?). The car is essentially unchanged from the regular C3, a stout body, a hatchback, the same engine, seats, pretty much everything. However, turn your attention
towards the rear, and you’ll find by far the stupidest configuration for a convertible roof you’ll have ever come across in your life!
Usually, convertible car roofs are retracted in two ways; manual and automatic. Manual is where you simply unclip the roof clamps, fold the roof away into its little pouch, put a cover over it, and you’re done, a job completed in no more that 5 minutes. Automatic is as it implies, a set of motors fold the roof away into a space in the back, and can even give the car the option of a solid folding roof for a bit more safety.
Citroën however chose manual, fair enough, it’s a cheap hatchback so adding an automatic roof would probably push the price up. But, when I say manual, I mean Citroën’s own brand of manual, where you literally have to disassemble the roof in order to make it a drop-top. The car still maintains its shape with solid columns and a solid roof, but only differs in that these are removable. You can remove the roof panel only and make it essentially a landaulette, like those grand old Rolls Royce’s and Bentley’s from the 1950’s, or you can remove the roof and the columns to make it fully convertible.
However, doing such a task requires the kind of skill only engineers in nano-electronics can achieve!
Attempting to fathom out how to unlock the panels from their mounts and then remove
them is like trying to carry out meticulous dental work while blind drunk, blindfolded and overall just blind! It’s impossible! You have to undo the pins holding it together in a precise sequence and then you have to lug these heavy composite panels around in order to pull them out of their mountings. Worst of all is the roof, which has been built to meet the standards for Euro NCAP safety regulations.
Once you’ve spent an Ice-Age removing the panels, you find that there’s no room in the car for them to fit, not in the boot, nor on the back or passenger seats, therefore you have to leave home without them. So, you have to be pretty sure of the weather when it comes to taking it out for a drive. If you’re lucky enough to live in Death Valley where it never rains, the Pluriel is ideal. If you do not live in Death Valley, then be sure you brought your umbrella, and a warm jumper too if a cold snap happens to occur while you’re out. Worse still, your car has no security, so if you do happen to stop by the shops on your merry drive, you may come back to find your car has gone (though, to be quite honest, it takes a desperate person to want to steal one of these wretched little things!). At the very least, expect any valuables you might have left behind, like your Fluffy Dice or your Limited Edition Belinda Carlisle CD’s, to not be there when you return.
Perhaps the worst thing about this car is the fact that it remained in production until 2010, Citroën sold this thing, in spite of scathing reviews, for 7 years! At the same time,
the Pluriel did actually sell quite strongly, mostly in its native France, but also here in the UK. I’ll assume however that the car was only bought because it is essentially identical to the regular C3, except occasionally you can take the roof off when Mother Nature decides to play ball.
Overall, the Pluriel has been dubbed almost unanimously as one of the worst cars ever made, and rightly so. It was, as mentioned, even a contender for the worst car in the world on the Top Gear special of the same name, but somehow lost out to the Lexus SC430, a gem in comparison. It’s a stupid car with a stupid design that attempts to be pretentious and artistic, different and endearing, but no one who owns a convertible wants a car you have to perform large amounts of manual labour on in order to drop the roof!
I’d argue then that 99% of Pluriels have probably never had their roofs touched, so much as opened!