£14,395 - £21,595 Price range
50 - 83 MPG
Rather confusingly, this is the new DS 3 – effectively a rebadged version of the old Citroen DS3. Along with the DS 4 and DS 5 it is tasked with launching the French firm’s premium brand before its first all-new model comes in 2018.
Despite being relatively old, the DS 3 (as it is now known) has nonetheless struck a chord with UK customers who buy it in higher numbers than the French do. It’s a trendy alternative to the Mini hatchback, Fiat 500 and Vauxhall Adam, available as a three-door hatchback or as a two-door convertible – the latter’s roof rising and lowering at speeds of up to 70mph.
Aside from the DS badging, the new model gets a restyled grille surrounded by silver “DS Wings” and menacing new headlights, but the car’s Citroen DNA is still plain to see. The option to personalise is key and the DS 3 is offered with a total of 78 body/roof colour combinations.
On the inside you’ll find a new infotainment system that has allowed DS to do away with 20 conventional buttons, and you can make the car feel even more premium with Nappa or (what DS calls) watch-strap leather.
Buyers can choose from seven engines – two diesels and five petrols. Pick of the range is the new three-cylinder 130 PureTech petrol, which costs buttons to run despite being a nippy performer.
Whichever of the six trim levels you choose from, all models come with air-conditioning, cruise control, alloy wheels and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
Thanks to the new infotainment system, the 3’s interior design is slightly cleaner than it was in the old model and drivers no longer need to look low on the dashboard just to operate the stereo.
The screen is noticeably bigger than before and its fresher graphics give an altogether more modern flavour. It can also recreate the display of your smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Mirrorlink. It isn’t the easiest of systems to use though, and secondary functions are tricky to locate, while our car’s voice commands ignored repeated attempts to mute it.
What the infotainment system cannot hide is that the dashboard is fundamentally an old design that lacks the pleasing touches, simple layout or quality of materials that you get in a Mini.
DS 3 passenger space
Another hint that the DS 3’s a bit long in the tooth comes in the form of an annoying centre armrest that obstructs access to the handbrake. Otherwise the driving position is pretty decent; a little high for our liking, but you soon forget this. The rear seats are also more usable than a Mini’s, although tall adults will feel crushed on anything other than short journeys. The convertible’s smaller rear windows make it feel even more claustrophobic.
DS 3 boot space
The DS holds a small advantage over its Mini counterpart when it comes to boot space, too – its 285-litre load bay is 74-litres bigger. That advantage increases when you fold the rear seats down, allowing the DS to offer a total load capacity of 980 litres versus the Mini’s 731 litres.
Opting for the convertible leaves you at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to load lugging – its boot capacity sits at 245 litres and you access it via a small hatch rather than a full-sized boot lid.
Although the DS 3 is based on a seven-year-old design, there’s still fun to be had from behind the wheel. The DS 3’s ride is quite firm – it doesn’t mask a bumpy B-road quite as well as we would like – but the payoff is decent body control. That allies to steering that is weighty (a little too heavy in town) and direct so that you can thread a series of B road corners together with little fuss, if not with quite the finesse of a Mini.
Far and away the best choice for keen drivers is the 130 1.2-litre PureTech petrol. It’s the first time this engine has been mated to the DS 3 and its lighter weight helps make the car feel keener in corners. Boosted by a turbocharger it also provides just the right amount of punch for the car’s chassis to handle. Unlike the more powerful 1.6-litre THP version, which on a wet road is far too keen to send the writhing sensation through the steering wheel that enthusiasts call ‘torque steer’.
Unless you’re dead set on owning a drop top, we would forget about the DS 3 Convertible. Losing the roof affects the handling considerably – it’s no where near as fun to drive as the hatchback – and there’s also a considerable amount of wind noise at a fast motorway cruise.
DS gives potential buyers a generous selection of engines to choose from – seven in all – ranging from frugal diesels to the 210 1.6-litre THP petrol fitted to the range-topping DS 3 Performance. Best of all is the 130 PureTech petrol, which gives enough performance to live up to the sporty-hatchback billing, but with impressively low running costs.
DS 3 petrol engines
The 130 PureTech has already seen service in models – such as the DS 4 and Peugeot 3008 – and in the smaller DS 3 it makes for a nippy performer. A 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds means quick getaways from the lights, but it’s the healthy 170Ib ft torque that most people will notice in everyday use. It arrives from just 1,750rpm (low down in the engine’s operating speed) so there’s no need to constantly change gear. What’s more, you can enjoy the car’s spritely turn of speed and addictive engine growl without having to worry about huge running costs – fuel economy of 62.8mpg is possible and 105g/km CO2 emissions mean road tax costs just £20 per year.
There’s plenty more performance if you want it, but in the THP 165 1.6-litre model we sampled it made the car feel more ragged in a way that didn’t justify the quicker 7.6 second 0-62mph time. Fuel economy drops to just over 50mpg, but this is still pretty respectable.
We’ve yet to try the THP 210 Performance, which costs about the same to run, gets from 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds and comes with a limited-slip differential that should reign in the wheel spin suffered by the 165 model.
DS 3 diesel engines
With the strong fuel economy offered by the entire petrol range, you have to rack up some serious miles to make a comparable diesel DS 3 worth the extra expense – and they don’t have the character of the PureTech petrols. Nevertheless, both options return deeply impressive fuel economy of nearly 90mpg and are free to tax, while the 120 version feels brisk – getting from 0-62mph in just under nine seconds.
Safety body Euro NCAP hasn’t tested the DS 3 since the car was launched (and known as the Citroen DS 3) back in 2009. As a result, its five-star rating has to be taken with a pinch of salt, because the old test wasn’t as tough as the one the latest models are subjected to.
Having said that, all the key equipment is there – every DS 3 comes with six airbags, rear Isofix child-seat mounts and electronic stability control. Top-end models are even safer thanks to their automatic emergency braking, which is also a £500 option on Elegance models.
With a total of six version to choose from there’s no shortage of variety in the DS 3 range. Its brief as a contender to the highly-customisable Mini sees to it that there’s a wide variety of options – including exterior graphics, alloy wheel designs and interior trim finishes – that can give your DS 3 a look all of its own.
DS 3 Chic
Chic is the DS 3’s most basic trim level, but its door handles and exhaust are finished in chrome, plus you get 16-inch alloy wheels and 3D-effect LED tail lights, so it doesn’t look cheap. Equipment levels are pretty good too, with a seven-inch touchscreen (complete with DAB radio), cruise control and air-conditioning all coming as standard.
DS 3 Elegance
Some subtle styling changes make Elegance models look a little sharper on the outside – where you get tinted rear windows, unique 16-inch alloy wheels and LED front fog lights. Inside, there are sports seats, glossy plastic, satin chrome pieces and sporty aluminium pedals. Its rear parking sensors make it easier to reverse into tight spaces.
DS 3 Prestige
Prestige models are the first to come fitted with sat-nav as standard and also get automatic lights and wipers, front parking sensors and an upgraded stereo. The car’s part-Alcantara leather interior makes it feel more premium on the inside, and on the outside you get a contrasting black roof, plus 17-inch alloy wheels. The addition of automatic emergency braking makes it a good deal safer than lesser models.
DS 3 Ultra Prestige
As the name suggest, Ultra Prestige models are simply Prestige cars with added styling cues – they get a DS monogram on the roof and laser-etched wing mirrors. The interior also raises its game thanks to “watch strap” leather upholstery, but this is slightly tempered by the fact that you also get the annoying centre armrest that restricts access to the handbrake.
DS 3 Performance
The Performance trim level is based upon Elegance spec, but gets a host of enhancements that make it the most focussed model in the range. Those include a stiffer suspension set-up, big 18-inch alloy wheels, brakes from motorsport specialist Brembo and a limited-slip differential that helps the car accelerate quickly out of corners.
DS 3 Performance Black
Finally, there’s the Performance Black, which caters for those with a penchant for matt black paint, as well as highlighting the roof, wing mirrors and grille in gold. It’s effectively the top-of-the-range car – adding sat-nav and automatic emergency braking to the standard Performance model.
DS 3 Givenchy Le MakeUp special edition
The latest special edition DS 3, the Givenchy Le MakeUp, comes with a built-in makeup container within the central armrest. Unique Opaline White paint and Givenchy badging on the door pillars are among the exterior features, as are LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels and a ‘Whisper Purple’ roof. Only 500 will be sold in the UK, priced at £19,395 each.
Everything we like about the old car remains on the DS 3. It has smart looks, is decent fun to drive and offers cheap running costs. The 130 PureTech petrol is by a clear margin the model to go for – the engine’s performance not only suits the DS 3’s abilities, its lightweight means it handles better too – returning impressive fuel economy into the bargain.
If money’s no object then the Mini leads the class, but some will find carwow’s £3,970 average saving on a DS 3 impossible to ignore.