Citroen DS3 review
The Citroen DS3 offers the same great handling as the MINI, but is bigger inside and more refined
The Citroen DS3 was the first car to be launched as part of Citroen’s new luxury ‘DS’ range, which now includes the DS4 and DS5. It’s designed to offer more style, more equipment and a sharper drive than the underwhelming C3 supermini on which it’s based. And it’s done it with some success, too, as the little Citroen manages to be a credible rival to not only the MINI and Vauxhall Adam, but also more expensive rivals like the Audi A1. It’s a great looking car that offers huge scope for personalisation, ensuring it’s easy to tailor to your own personal taste. The engine line-up includes an efficient 91g/km tax-free model as well as a punchy 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol version. Four trim levels are available - DSign, DStyle, DSport and DSport Plus – but there’s also a limited-edition Racing version, a special Red edition and an expensive Ultra Prestige model, which adds luxury kit like a leather dash and fancier leather seats. A cabriolet model was revealed at the 2012 Paris Motor Show and went on sale in February 2013. The DS3 Cabrio comes with a large fully reclining canvas roof that furls up on top of the bootlid, leaving the roof rails and the B and C-pillars in place.
Our choice: DS3 1.6 THP (155) DSport manual
The Citroen DS3 hatchback is only available as a three-door, but it looks great as a result. The ultra-modern styling includes two imposing vertical LED strips in the front bumper from DStyle trim upwards, a neat chrome bar grille and shark-fin window line. A huge number of accessories can be used to personalise the car, too, with a wide variety of wheel designs and different roof patterns and colours. In fact, Citroen claims that 90 per cent of DS3s are specced with a two-tone paint and roof combination. Although the DS3 has only been on sale since 2010, the interior is already starting to show its age and the fiddly stereo controls are a lowpoint. As for specs, entry-level models are quite basic, but mid-range DStyle versions add 16-inch alloys, tinted rear windows, air-con and gloss black interior trim. DSport models get 17-inch wheels, chrome exhausts, alloy pedals and a roof spoiler, as well as climate control and Bluetooth connectivity.
On the road, the Citroen DS3 strikes a good balance between comfort and poise. The superb steering is full of feel, making it easy to exploit the power on tap, and even on bigger wheels it rides bumps and potholes surprisingly well. The wide range of engines kicks off with a 1.2-litre VTi petrol that returns 61.4mpg, emits 104 g/km and falls into insurance group nine (the other versions fall into groups 15 to 32, so will cost considerably more to insure). There’s a 95bhp 1.4-litre petrol that’s nippy enough around town but feels a bit strained on the motorway, as well as an 118bhp 1.6 that’s also available turbocharged to produce 153bhp. The latter is really quick and urgent even from low revs, giving it a 0-62mph time of just 7.3 seconds. The 1.6 HDi diesel can be had with either 90bhp or 110bhp, but it lacks the responsiveness of the petrol versions and feels sluggish if you're not in the right gear.
Reliability is traditionally a weak point on any Citroen, and the brand finished a lowly 22nd out of 30 in the 2012 Driver Power manufacturer results. However, the company has made a big effort to improve the reliability of its newer models, particularly the exclusive ‘DS’ range. No major problems have been reported with the DS3 so far, so it seems to be working, although some have complained of issues with the electrics and windscreen washer jets packing up. Safety isn’t a problem, though, and the DS3 was awarded a maximum five-star rating from crash safety body Euro NCAP, and comes with ESP, an immobiliser, and seatbelt pre-tensioners fitted as standard.
Getting access to the rear bench is a little tricky in the DS3, but it’s surprisingly practical for a car of this size. Room in the back is decent and there's plenty of headroom, although taller passengers will find their knees touching the seats in front. The 285-litre boot doesn't sound like much, but is nearly double the size of the equivalent space in a MINI. The boot opens nice and wide, too, so using the 60/40 split folding seats is easy and frees up 980-litres of room for larger items of luggage. There’s a reasonable amount of storage, but the glovebox is almost completely taken up by the fusebox and the stereo control buttons are small, fiddly and almost completely obscured by the gearstick.
The cleanest DS3 uses the company’s e-HDi Airdream stop-start technology to reduce emissions to just 91g/km. It can also return an official fuel consumption figure of 78.5mpg, which isn’t at all bad for a car that will still do 113mph. But because of its small size, even the quickest petrol versions manage 47.1mpg and emit just 136g/km. So none of the range should see you spending too much on fuel. But don’t get carried away with the accessories catalogue, or the DS3 can start to look expensive. Parts and servicing should be relatively cheap, and a range of fixed-price deals is available. Residual values are much stronger than on the rest of the Citroen range, though, with most models holding more than 50 per cent of their value after three years of ownership.