£24,030 - £26,170 Price range
With a facelifted version of the DS 3 already on sale, the company has now launched this – the DS 3 Performance. It’ll battle classy hot hatches such as the Abarth 595 and Mini Coopers S, but also has to deal with the formidable (and much cheaper) Ford Fiesta ST.
Anyone who can remember the old Citroen DS3 Racing (a lurid, graphic-festooned affair that was pretty hard to forget) will agree the Performance is much subtler thanks to its matte finishes and chic metallic trim pieces.
Power comes from a 207hp 1.6-litre petrol engine and you get a limited-slip differential (LSD) for extra grip in corners, brakes from motorsport expert Brembo and lightweight 18-inch alloy wheels. The car’s suspension has been lowered and its track (the width between the left and right wheels) widened to help hold the road.
The interior gets the go-faster treatment thanks to Alcantara sports seats and smatterings of leather round the car’s major touch points. The instrument binnacle, carpets and key fob are all unique and you get a sprinkling of DS Performance decals thrown in too.
There are two trim levels to choose from – regular Performance and the Performance Black model. All come with xenon headlights, air-conditioning, and Alcantara and leather sports seats.
The biggest clue inside that this is the sportiest DS 3 on sale comes in the form of a pair of body-hugging sports seats that offer plenty of support and are upholstered in a blend of expensive-feeling Alcantara and leather.
The Performance gets the new infotainment system that came with the car’s 2016 facelift, but while the reduction in buttons it brings is welcome, it’s not the easiest system to navigate and will take most people a week or two to get used to it.
The DS is a slightly bigger car than Mini and its 285-litre boot is 74 litres bigger than the Mini’s and just five litres down on the Fiesta ST. It does without some of the Mini’s nice touches, so the rear bench doesn’t fold flat and there’s a tall load lip to lift luggage over.
While its premium marketing campaign and more subdued styling make the DS an obvious Mini rival, in driving terms it has much more in common with the Fiesta ST.
It’s reined in body control comes at the expense of a fairly stiff ride but it’s still not as hard as the Ford’s. The DS has the feeling of an old school hot hatch, pummelling the road below its wheels into submission rather than breathing over the surface like the Mini can.
The Performance is the first DS 3 to be offered with a grip-enhancing LSD and it cuts down on tyre scrabble out of corners, but doesn’t have the mind-bending grip of some of the best systems that can make you reconsider what’s possible in a front-wheel drive car.
Letting the side down most is steering which, despite being accurate and quick, is very light and lacks the last level of feel that makes throwing a Fiesta ST round the bends such great fun.
The gearbox also wants for a sense of involvement. It’s easy enough to use, but feels a little baggy in its operation and the throw is quite long.
With sheer drops waiting to catch out the unwary on our South of France test drive, it was a relief to find the DS 3 Brembo brakes were more than up to the job of stopping the car – throughout our drive, the middle pedal remained confidence inspiring and solid.
Opt for the Convertible model and you get a full-length fabric roof that can roll back in just 16 seconds at speeds of up to 75mph. It not only lets the outside in, but also helps you enjoy the ‘barp’ from the DS 3’s exhaust as you change down through the gears. The lack of a hardtop roof does, however, effect the car’s structural integrity and it feels less precise to drive because of this.
The DS 3’s basic engine has been used in a wide number applications covering everything from the defunct Peugeot RCZ, to the new 308 and 208 GTi. In the DS 3, it makes 207hp – enough to dash from 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds. Four tenths quicker than the Fiesta ST and three tenths ahead of the Mini Cooper S.
Compared to the Fiesta, however, it feels more grown up with plenty of urge low down and only the occasional pop from the exhaust to keep things interesting. The frenetic feeling of boundless energy you get from the ST never quite materialises however, making the performance less addictive as a result.
You won’t grow tired of the fuel economy though, the official 52.3mpg figure is seriously impressive and the DS 3’s CO2 emissions of 125g/km mean it costs a reasonable £110 to tax annually.
The basic Performance model isn’t short on kit. It comes complete with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, air-conditioning, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.
DS 3 Performance Black
The Performance Black covers the current fashion for having your car finished in matte black paint – it might look good but it’s hard to clean and prone to scratching. Far more useful is the addition of sat-nav and the screen which doubles as a display for the car’s reversing camera. That allies with the front parking sensors to make it extremely easy to sneak into tight spaces. Safety is boosted by the car’s automatic emergency braking and you also get a stereo upgrade that should be more than a match for the wind noise generated in the convertible model.
DS has cleverly aligned the Performance between the opposing camps of Ford and Mini. It might not be the polished creation that the Mini is, nor as infinitely entertaining as the Fiesta – but it’s easier to live with everyday than the latter and more practical than the former. These two characteristics are bound to appeal to the UK buyers, which make up the DS 3’s most loyal market.