Citroen DS3 Racing vs rivals

Citroen DS3 Racing vs rivals
Credits: Otis Clay
25 Feb, 2011 10:42am

It’s Citroen’s rally car for the road – but can the new DS3 racing edge ahead of MINI and Renault rivals?

Is Citroen about to gate crash the hot supermini market? Until now, two cars have ruled supreme here, but the French company is aiming to get back on track with its new DS3 Racing. And you can’t argue with its credentials.

The newcomer was developed by the team of engineers responsible for powering Sebastien Loeb to a record-breaking seven consecutive World Rally Championship crowns. And it uses the same engine as one of the finest exponents of the hot hatch art: the MINI John Cooper Works. With tuned suspension, in-your-face looks and a limited run of only 200 cars destined for the UK, the DS3 Racing looks set to take the chequered flag in this test. Or does it? Keeping the Citroen honest is another French model with a proven motorsport pedigree. 

The Renaultsport Clio 200 is our current class champion, and mixes frantic performance with attractive prices and pin-sharp handling. Add the optional Cup Chassis pack, and it’s sure to give the DS3 something to think about.

So will the MINI John Cooper Works. The go-faster version of the legendary baby Brit is a former Auto Express award winner, and delivers a familiar combination of retro style and cutting-edge technology. Which one will win the hot hatch match-up of the year…?


Given the way the DS3 Racing looks, and the people behind it, we expected a raw and engaging driving experience. But arrive with that expectation and you’ll leave disappointed, because it’s actually a comfortable and refined hot hatch. It’s also incredibly capable, with searing performance, strong brakes, composed handling and titanic grip. Yet it’s simply not as fun to drive as its rivals here. 

Factor in its hefty price tag, and the broadly similar talents of its lesser DSport stablemate, and the Citroen misses the target.

That leaves the door open for the Renault to nip past and take the chequered flag. Not only is it affordable and practical, both vital hot hatch qualities, but it delivers the most thrills per mile. It was the universal choice of our testers, thanks to its engaging character.

So what about the MINI? With lively dynamics, it pushes the Citroen into third place. Hot hatches should be about fun as much as sheer pace, and you’ll have more of it in the MINI than you will in the DS3. When you throw its low running costs, retro design and prestige image into the mix, the British car is still at the sharp end in this class. 

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Wasn't this trumpeted as The Best Hot Hatch Ever (TM) about a month ago? And now when its actually compared to similar cars it comes third against a clio and a 10 year old mini... is this poor reporting or just good marketing from Citreon? hmmm

It is all very well comparing these three cars as to performance, but they are not like for like! The Renault and Citroen will be worth a third of their initial value after 3 to 4 years, whilst the Mini will be worth at least 50%

Then you have kudos! In the pub what would you much rather say?

1. I drive a Mini Cooper S JCS
2. I drive a Renaultsport Clio
3. I drive a Citroen DS3 Racing

I’ll tell you what I would rather say.. Give me a Mini anytime over the others…

Mini = kudos or just plain common?..... is the default choice really the best choice..... surely buyers in this catergory have the guts to get something different and sod the resale value.

Rumour - don't think you understand the concept of a hot hatch?

you don't buy one of these for kudos, or to say to your mates in the pub that you drive a... Mini?!

The Renault is a true drivers car, it may not be as well made or have a posh interior like the other 2 but it absolutely licks them for pure driving pleasure.

That is what a hot hatch is all about

You lot at AE talk a load of crap. You are completely brainwashed with the Mini and awful unreliable Renault. People on here are brainwashed with the amount of crap you write on here. The Mini is a car that is now finally had it's day. If BMW didn't join forces with PSA to make the engines to that overpriced piece of crap it wouldn't be the car it is today. Renault make the most unreliable cars ever as proven by your surveys and yet you praise them. The DS3 is a breath of fresh air unllike the other two. I know why I don't buy your magazine no more as it's as predictable as a Steven Segal film.

Having driven both the john cooper works mini and the renault sport i can honestly say the renault wins hands down for driving pleasure and lets face it doing what a hot hatch should be - Putting a big smile on your face!!!

threepointedstar - where are your views coming from? have you driven any of these cars? have you owned a Renault? by your name i take it your a Citroen owner? fair enough, it won't be the DS3 R so don't comment on things you don't know about! this is about which is the best hot hatch, the best drivers car, pure and simple. your rant is totally unfounded,

The DS3 is... "actually a comfortable and refined hot hatch. It’s also incredibly capable, with searing performance, strong brakes, composed handling and titanic grip..." Says AE.
So. That's having cake and eating it? Citroen it is, then.
Bon appetit!

the DS3 is a very good car, no doubt, looks good, goes well, more comfortable than the Clio, but again, it's about what you want in your hot hatch, i don't think the people that are considering a DS3 R will consider a RS Clio, it's a totally different type of machine,

Driven them all. That's why I put the comments on. My argument is simply put if it's German it wins as always. I work in the motor industry for a company who produces safety systems for cars so I know what i am talking about !!

3PS is absolutely right. The Mini wins because it looks the best at any angle, best built, best high quality interior, best driving position, best 360 degree vision. Easiest to park. The quickest. Best residuals. Best gearbox. Best handling. No contest in my book. Why? Because I own one. A win for the Germans - again

Sounds like Citroen has created a new niche - the Grand Touring Hatch... Perfect for those who want a smallish vehicle that is refined, distinctive & isn't ruffled by a country drive on the weekends. Well done Citroen!

The other two look rather boring (on looks). My other choice would be the new Lancia Ypsilon which is coming to the UK, late this year, as a Chrysler.

Your comments about Renault feeling cheap compared to other 2 are justified - IT IS 20% CHEAPER THAN THE OTHER 2!

Roughly 20k compared to 25k is a MASSIVE DIFFERENCE! And Renault is still the best drivers machine, honest in approach (no abs-diff to mask the torque steer and esp on overdrive to keep you on the road all the time), slower in a straight line but probably a lot faster around the track than the other two, "posh" hatches. So everyone to their own, if I were looking for a 20k brand new fun car I'd take the Clio, or, on the 25k end ob the budget, consider some other options - eg. MeganeRS for fun, Scirocco 2.0tsi for "posh"?

A second-hand Porsche Cayman. Now who's bragging down the pub?

Stick to Dancing...or maybe not!! Citroen yes for sure but other choice 'Lancia Ypsilon. How sad! Looks like ugly Nissy Micra, or maybe you are 70+ and feel that would be yer comfort zone. lol
Not driven any of them, but DS3 Racing is the coolest looking. However seeing the Clio's battle it out during BTCC events is something not to be missed. They are 'go-karts' with body shells!
The wifes already looking to trade her C2 VTS in for one. Me, I have no chance stuck with co. car

I beg to differ on the quality of a Mini interior, my Wife was looking to change in her Clio 182 and we looked at a 2 year old Mini with low mileage and the interior was shocking, hadn't worn very well, leather seats were saggy and this appeared consistent in a couple we looked at. I finally understood why it was classed as a Brit even though it's really German. I'm looking at the DS3 Racing as a replacement for my car and I think it strikes a fine balance over performance and a decent place to be, I like a few creature comforts! Dropping from 480BHP is going to be the issue for me from my tuned 6.1L Hemi V8!