Citroen’s DS3 has been a huge hit for the company, a hit it sorely needed given the dip in the companys UK fortunes in the mid-nineties and beyond; it might not sell in the sort of huge numbers that Audi and Ford are used to shifting but the influence of the anti-retro DS range has been huge in changing buyers perceptions of the French brand.
We tested the DS3 Cabrio on its international launch in Spain last year and gave it a very respectable eight out of ten, a score of which Citroen should be proud given the breadth and depth of the competition it faces.
Its the turn of the hatchback this week, a week that was very un-Spanish (but very typically British) being wet and windy. This is the sort of weather that suits a tin-top better than a cabriolet – but it is hardly guaranteed to put you in a good mood
You know the DS3: cute, funky and without an ounce of cynical retro in its genes. White wheels used to be so last year but theyre back and theyre looking great here, aided and abetted by a brilliant piece of wheel design.
Im not as convinced by the white roof, which looks, to my eyes at least, a bit clumsy around the top of the doorframe. Nor did I like the Ink Blue colour, which looked purple in direct sunlight. Other colours are available
The good news continues inside; Baroque instead of Bauhaus for sure, but both the materials and design are nicely done with the exception of the controls for the stereo and cruise control, which are tucked away on the steering wheel shroud and hidden by the wheel itself and are hard to use as a result.
While Im whinging about the steering wheel, its shape precluded me from sitting with my hands in the usual ten-to-two position as the cut-outs for my thumbs are way too small for my 45-year-old hands. Oh, and the sat-nav doesnt accept six-digit UK postcodes.
But the driving position is nigh on perfect and the seats are supportive and comfortable, a combination that isnt as common as you might imagine. Rear seat legroom is tight but adequate but boot-space is all youll ever need if you are young and sans children.
Customisation remains the DS3s forte with an extensive menu available for interior and exterior mods; if you can imagine it then Citroen has probably already beaten you to it and offering it as an option.
My first drive in the DS3 was an early morning run down the Welsh border into Gloucestershire (Ive always wanted to write about doing an early morning border run, even if I originally had Mexico or Russian in mind rather than England) and what an exceptional drive it was.
The 116 PS engine doesnt sound especially powerful on paper but thats to ignore the stonking 199 lb/ft of torque, which turns the DS3 into a muscular A-road stormer par excellence; I was regularly overtaking three and four cars when Id expected a possible two.
In fact, a quirk of the cars power delivery and acoustics meant that the main problem was keeping my speed below 90mph; the engine might not be the quietest in its class but it is a harmonious note that encourages performance.
The handling is good too, as are the brakes. Combine those with that torquey diesel engine and youll find it an absolute hoot to drive quickly. City driving shows a suspension that can become noisy but the DS3 is only beaten on twisty roads by the MINIs hyperactive handling, a trait that many enjoy but which I find a bit wearing.
The 116 PS/199 lb/ft turbo diesel engine is a cracking little thing, with enormous mid-range torque and appealing thrum, even if it isnt especially quiet. The top speed of 118mph is accomplished via a 0-62 mph time of 9.7 seconds, neither of which demonstrates just how quick the DS3 is in the real world.
Forget figures and pub talk and test drive one. Youll be impressed. (Trust me, you reallywill.)
Its economical too, returning up to 74.4 mpg. You wont get that, obviously, but youll see low-60s with ease and if that doesnt impress you then youre going to have to start thinking about running a hybrid.
Value for Money
My bare bones DS3 DSport e-HDi 115 Airdream costs 17,750, with an extra 495 for the metallic paint and 1,150 for the eMyWay city signature (sic), which comprises air-con, sat-nav and Bluetooth. The CO2 emissions are just 99 g/km, so free VED, which is always nice.
The DS3 should be cheap to run with decent residual values and dealer network that has been known to do the odd deal or you could use carwow to find a great price.
The Citroen DS3 was, as is so often the case with Citroens, a frustrating blend of the very good undermined by minor irritations. The steering wheels shape was extraordinarily uncomfortable for me, although I do concede that anyone with thumbs that dont look like misshapen parsnips might not struggle as much as I did. And the omission of postcodes in the sat-nav is extraordinary.
But. The DS3 is enormous fun to drive; even my 116 PS version was way faster than you need in a car like this and it handled with a fluidity and poise that is class leading. It also looks terrific and is cheap to buy and run. If you can live with its foibles youll love it, but dont forget to take a look at the MINI and the Audi A1, will you?