Citroen DS3 review
The Citroen DS3 offers the same great handling as the MINI, but is bigger inside and more refined
The Citroen DS3 is Citroen's answer to the MINI Cooper, Alfa Romeo MiTo, Vauxhall Adam and even the more expensive Audi A1. The French manufacturer's luxury 'DS' range - which now includes the Citroen DS4 and DS5 - was kicked-off by the Citroen DS3. Based on the standard Citroen C3, the Citroen DS3 is designed to provide more style, more equipment, as well as a sharper drive. It's pretty efficient, too, with the engine line-up fronted by a tax-free 1.6 e-HDi model which emits just 91g/km of CO2. There's also a 1.6-litre petrol turbo that produces 153bhp. The Citroen DS3 is centred around four main specifications - entry-level DSign, mid-range DStyle, as well as DSport and Ultra Prestige versions. The entry-level Citroen DS3 DSign gets a leather steering wheel, body colour painted door mirrors with a chrome base as well as six speakers and an MP3 compatible CD player. DSign and DSport specifications also come in 'Plus' versions, which includes upgrades such as bigger alloy wheels and digital air-con for DSign spec and rear parking sensors and automatic headlamps for DSport spec. On top of this, the Citroen DS3 is available in a limited edition Racing version and a special Red edition. There's a cabriolet version, too - the Citroen DS3 Cabrio went on sale in February 2013 and comes with a fully reclining canvas roof.
Our choice: DS3 1.6 e-HDi DStyle
The Citroen DS3 hatchback comes in four main specifications - DSign, DStyle, DSport and Ultra Prestige. Entry-level DSign gets two imposing vertical LED strips in the front bumper, a neat chrome bar grille and a shark-fin window line. A huge number of accessories can be used to personalise the car, including various wheel designs and different roof patterns and colours. DStyle specification gets 16-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows and interior mood lighting. DSport versions get sport seats, leather steering wheel and gear knob as well as a Hi-Fi system. Ultra Prestige versions, meanwhile, get 17-inch alloy wheels, white leather dashboard and an Ultra Prestige roof sticker.
The Citroen DS3 engine range features the efficient 1.6 e-HDi diesel engine, which emits a tax-free 91g/km - this can be had with either 90bhp or 153bhp. Meanwhile, the 1.2-litre VTi petrol returns 61.4mpg and emits 104g/km - this also falls into insurance group nine, while other engines fall between insurance groups 15 to 32. There's also a nippy 1.6 THP DSport, which reaches 0-62mph in just 7.3 seconds. DSport specification also gets stiffer suspension to give it better handling and grip, but the downside to this is reduced driving comfort. Steering is light and easy across all models, but the limited-edition DS3 Racing model has improved handling and goes from 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds.
Traditionally, reliability has been a weak point for Citroen, with the brand finishing a disappointing 24th out of 30 in the 2013 Driver Power manufacturer results. Granted, Citroen has made huge efforts to improve its reliability, especially with newer models such as the exclusive 'DS' range. This was especially made evident in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, where the Citroen DS3 managed to secure the French manufacturer its best ever entry in the results - ranking 36th out of 100. There are still some issues that Citroen needs to crack down on - some have complained of faults with the electrics and windscreen washer jets. The Citroen DS3 was awarded a maximum five-star rating from the Euro NCAP crash safety test - it comes with ESP, an immobiliser and seatbelt pre-tensioners.
Due to the compact dimensions of the Citroen DS3, practicality isn't one of its strongest points. Getting into the rear bench is quite a task due to its three-door layout and the lack of space between the front and back wheels means that the DS3 has limited knee room in the rear - a Volkswagen Polo would be a better choice in terms of space in this department. The sloping roofline hinders headroom, too. Still, while the Alfa Romeo MiTo is probably a little larger inside, the Citroen DS3 offers more interior space than you will find in a MINI hatchback. Plus, the Citroen DS3 surpasses both the MINI and the Alfa with 285 litres of boot space, which can be extended to 980 litres with the back seats folded down.
The 1.6 e-HDi DStyle is the cleanest engine in the Citroen DS3 lineup - it uses the manufacturer's stop-start technology to reduce emissions to just 91g/km. Because the Citroen DS3 doesn't weigh much, even the quickest petrol version manages 47.1mpg and emits just 136g/km - that's only £155 in road tax. Bear in mind, though, the automatic gearbox nudges the CO2 emissions quite high, with the 1.6-litre VTi emitting 150g/km. Be careful not to get carried away with the accessories catalogue, as Citroen DS3 prices can soon build up. 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.