But as with any car at this level that gets its top off, the Pluriel is compromised because it cannot possibly have the sort of money spent on its development or the mechanical and electrical systems included that you get with more upmarket soft-tops. So what it lacks in sophistication, it has to make up for in charm.
The Pluriel will not zippily click and clack from one roof set-up to another as the advertising would have you believe. While it is true that technically there are four cars in one, turning the car into a roofless pick-up from a full-on hatchback is quite a job.
Firstly, there are lots of bits of flimsy plastic boarding in the back that need to be moved and stored, and the roof has to be swung into the cavity under the boot, none of which gets any less fiddly the third, fourth or fifth time you try it.
And it isn't worth taking the roof bars off. Although I am not in the habit of picking up elephant tusks, the bars provide a similar experience, as they are roughly the same size, shape and weight. And elephant tusks are not practical, especially when trying to store them in your garage.
Once you leave home without the bars, you are leaving yourself at the mercy of the British weather, because they are vital for putting the roof back on.
With the roof fully up, wind roar appears at about 70mph, suggesting some aerodynamics are not properly smoothed out.
The car also rolls about like it is at sea, the semi-automatic gearchange takes some smoothing out, the engine is noisy and the brakes seem to operate on a switch: off or fully on being the two settings.
So the driving experience is on the uninspiring side of ordinary, but this has to be put into context.
Owning this car is all about attitude, joie de vivre and being seen. The last time I had a car that inspired so much attention, it was a Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet.
And again, you don't have to be a brilliant sociologist to deduce that the majority of interested parties in the Pluriel, as with the Beetle, were women. This is a very feminine car, with the red and black version we had on test looking like a metallic ladybird, and the many ladies who commented loved it.
I pointed out its faults. They still loved it, perhaps a little more so. I said I thought the cabin could have been more inviting and had some touches to lift it above the standard C3. I got told off and informed I was wrong. Fair enough.
The Pluriel is very much a car of this year, which means it is a niche product aimed at a very specific market, produced quickly and at a competitive price: we've seen it recently with cars like the Beetle Cabriolet, StreetKa and with the glut of mini-MPVs. On that level and with those criteria in mind, it will work very well.
Citroen UK will no doubt sell all it can get its hands on to continue the success story of the C3 supermini. The Pluriel has four seats, a cheeky personality and is genuinely different. It might be flawed, but in the areas that count, it is spot-on.
Citroen C3 Pluriel 1.6 16v SensoDrive
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £13,445
CO2 emissions (g/km): 157
BIK % of P11D in 2003/04: 15%
Graduated VED rate: £125
Insurance group: 6
Combined mpg: 42.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,125/38%
Depreciation (13.22 pence per mile x 60,000): £7,932
Maintenance (2.33 pence per mile x 60,000): £1,398
Fuel (8.92 pence per mile x 60,000): £5,352
Wholelife cost (24.47 pence per mile x 60,000): £14,682
Typical contract hire rate: £332 per month
Trying to find convertibles with four seats at this price to match the Pluriel is hard work – in fact it is nigh on impossible. The 206 CC qualifies as a four-seater although the rear seats are a token effort at best. It is also nearly £1,000 more expensive, but it does come with a metal roof. The StreetKa and smart Roadster are two seaters, so can only compete with the Pluriel if the driver is looking for cheap top-down motoring rather than any semblance of practicality.
None of these cars is particularly expensive when it comes to service, maintenance and repair costs. Gone are the days of highly-strung convertibles costing a lot to keep in good condition. And as the 206, Pluriel and StreetKa are all based on superminis, basic mechanicals should be cheap. The Peugeot's roof has had a few problems, although you would hope the issues have been dealt with by now.
Not surprisingly, the 600cc turbocharged smart is the most efficient of the four cars. With a 60,000-mile fuel cost of just over £4,000, a driver would be more than £2,000 better off than if they were driving the StreetKa. However, these figures are worth viewing in context: we benchmark all cars we test at 60,000 miles but in truth, it is unlikely a high mileage driver would choose one of these models. If they did though, the tin-top 206 would be the best choice for long distance work.
The Ford StreetKa wins the depreciation race, with a pence per mile figure of 12.80ppm, thanks to a predicted residual value from CAP after three years and 60,000 miles of 41%, which must be around the highest RV for any Ford car. The Pluriel and the smart are very evenly matched at 38% and 36% respectively, but the Peugeot lags behind at 33%. This is not likely to be through any serious shortcomings, but the fact that it has been around for a couple of years now and there are plenty of them about.
In terms of wholelife costs, the 206 CC's depreciation rate puts it in fourth place on 27.71ppm. The StreetKa regains what it loses in fuel costs with a strong secondhand value to end up on 25.46ppm and the Pluriel comes second on 24.47ppm through doing a solid, respectable job in all areas. The smart is a clear winner though on 22.37ppm, with its excellent fuel economy figures a prime reason for this. Over three years/60,000 miles it would cost £13,422 to run.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
The smart Roadster has managed the trick of being both sporty and low on emissions, with a superb CO2 emissions figure of 122g/km. As a result, a 22% taxpayer would have a measly £37 a month tax bill. The Pluriel wouldn't be much more either as it also falls into the lowest possible 15% benefit-in-kind tax band. For the StreetKa, the relatively high emissions would mean the same driver forking out £54 a month, while the more expensive 206 CC would cost only £45.
There is a clear split here as to what car wins and it depends on the reason for buying one. If a driver wants an open-topped car that is fun to drive then the smart is hard to beat with its funky design and go-kart handling. It has the wholelife costs to keep the fleet manager happy as well. However, some will want practicality as well and none can get close to the four seater Pluriel on that front.