AS French president Charles De Gaulle and his wife travelled in a black Citroen DS along the Avenue de le Liberation on August 22, 1962, a dozen gunmen opened fire.

A hail of 140 bullets killed two motorcycle bodyguards, shattered the Citroen’s rear window and punctured all four tyres.

Though the Citroen went into a front-wheel skid, De Gaulle’s chauffeur was able to accelerate out of it and drive to safety, all thanks to the superior suspension system.

De Gaulle and his wife kept their heads down and came out unharmed from this assassination attempt.

From that moment, the Citroen DS became an icon of a nation.

New Citroen C3

New Citroen C3

And now the latest DS model is back and the wheels of the new French President Macron.

The all-new DS 7 Crossback was Macron’s car of choice as he paraded down the Champs-Elysees to his inauguration a few weeks ago.

Now the huge success story of the reinvention of DS in 2010 had rather overshadowed Citroen.

That was until the C4 Cactus came along and spiked things up again in late 2014.

But Citroen are back and sharper than ever.

Now they bring us their latest C3 which gets so much style and quirkiness from the Cactus.

It’s a tough old gig to go toe-to-toe with the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, VW Polo and Renault Clio.

This is the hardest market to crack to try and overturn the UK’s biggest-selling models.

Thankfully Citroen have played to their strengths, that means chic and cheerful as only the French can do.

New Citroen C3

New Citroen C3

From air bump door protectors to interiors that look like a designer handbag with contrasting colours, uncluttered dashboards and luggage-strap door handles.

As in the Cactus, I don’t like the flatbacked front seats and their lack of lower back support.

However, it’s refreshing in a car world of duplicate styles from the same stable that Citroen remain as bold as they can be.

Like the Cactus this C3 looks like a designer’s concept car that’s made it past the bosses without them noticing!

The interior is roomy and feels airy and the six-speaker DAB/Bluetooth stereo in the upper two Feel and Flair models (Touch is the entry level trim) is cracking.

It’s got fantastic bass and mid-range response for fans of music from Rihanna to Radio 2.

What about under the bonnet?

Well new diesel car sales dropped by 20 per cent last month, according to motor industry figures.

I’m not sure that’s consumers suddenly becoming CND-loving, vegetarians and all climate- conscious or them worrying about future popularity and therefore resale values.

New Citroen C3

New Citroen C3

If I were to go all Mystic Meg, the future for four wheels is more likely to involve small capacity, turbocharged petrol engines and a scattering of electric cars.

On the road I drove this 1.2 three-cylinder turbo with 110bhp and it’s got the personality of a playful puppy, full of boundless energy as it bounces along.

On top of that Citroen claim over 60mpg so it’s easy on the wallet.

There are other engines in the range – a 1.5 diesel and a non-turbo version of the car I drove with a comparatively puny 60bhp.

The range starts at £11,135 although the C3 Flair PureTech110 I tested is a much heftier £16,425.

But nonetheless this is the best C3 ever – it’s a stonker.

Citroen might just have given this model the ammunition to gun down its big rivals.

Phil Lanning

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