The DS 3 is a small three-door car with distinctive looks that’s brimming with character. It’s showing its age, though, and some alternatives are now better value.
Originally called the Citroen DS 3, the DS 3 was renamed in 2016 as part of an update. That update added new engines, small design tweaks and make the DS 3 a decent alternative to the Audi A1 and Mini Hatchback. The DS 3 is also available as a three-door and as a convertible, which we’ve reviewed separately.
Inside you’ll find a stylish interior that combines polished metal, interesting lines and tasteful trim inserts that makes for a more exciting overall look than in an Audi A1. Ease of use isn’t so great, though. The buttons are easy to locate, but the stereo controls are too fiddly to use while on the move. Thankfully, all cars come with steering-column mounted audio controls.
All DS 3 models also come with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, but alternative infotainment systems such as the ones in the Mini and Audi A1 are on a whole different level in terms of operating speed, display clarity and ease of use on the move, with their rotary dial controls rather than touchscreens.
The DS 3 claws back some points when it comes to its interior dimensions, in particular from the Mini. The DS 3 is relatively spacious up front and all models get a height-adjustable driver’s seat. It’s not so much fun in the back where access is limited, and while a couple of six foot tall adults can fit, they will start to complain on longer journeys. Still, it’s better than being in the back seat of a three-door Mini.
Opening the DS 3’s boot reveals a load area that’s both bigger and in a more useful shape than in many alternatives. Yet, even though the DS 3 has a generous 285-litre boot space, it’s let down by a narrow boot opening and rear seats that don’t fold completely flat. Places for storage are adequate at best – the door bins are large, but you have to pay extra for a cupholder up front.
The DS 3 is a bit like crème brûlée – a nice, sweet dessert but ultimately not enough for sustenance
The DS 3 feels best when paired with a petrol engine. Power ranges from 82-210hp, with the mid-range 110hp version being the best allrounder for performance and running costs. That isn’t to say the 100 and 120hp diesels are to be avoided – far from it – they are frugal in the real world and feel more at home on the motorway, but they don’t fit with the lively character of the DS 3 as much as the petrols.
This lively character is shown in the way the DS 3 drives. It’s great fun to chuck the DS 3 about on twisty roads, but there is a drawback: it’s just too fidgety over poor road surfaces. It’s ok if you’re on the motorway, but big potholes still send an unpleasant thud through the cabin. The DS 3’s suspension shortcomings are exacerbated by just how high the bar is set in this class by cars like the Mini and A1.
When tested in 2017 by Euro Ncap, the DS 3 scored a middling three out of five stars, which is worse than its competition. Other than airbags there are hardly any other standard safety features that stand out, while emergency city braking is optional.
All in all, the DS 3 is a quirky city car brimming with charm. So, if you love the DS 3’s character, great, but there are much better all-rounders to spend your money on.