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Diesel hot-hatch duel

Two superminis... one engine! The diesel versions of the Citroen DS3 and Ford Fiesta both use the same 1.6-litre unit. Which gets our vote?

Diesel hot-hatch duel

You can’t have pleasure without pain – at least that’s the perceived wisdom when it comes to hot hatches. Buyers who want a boost in performance, a sharper chassis and go-faster looks normally have to make sacrifices elsewhere. Usually, it’s in the form of increased running costs or a drop in refinement. But the latest crop of diesels aims to deliver high-octane thrills, a dash of practicality and a smattering of style, all on a shoestring budget.

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Leading the charge is the new Citroen DS3, fitted with the company’s punchy 109bhp 1.6-litre HDi oil-burner. In £15,900 DSport trim, it attempts to mix the premium feel of the MINI with the adrenaline-pumping driver appeal of Citroen’s legendary Saxo VTS. Up against it is the reigning Auto Express Car of the Year, the Ford Fiesta. The Zetec S TDCi uses the same 1.6-litre diesel engine as the DS3, which makes it a formidable rival.

The Ford delivers only 89bhp, and carries a price tag of £16,395, so it’s out-gunned and undercut by its opponent here. But with a sparkling chassis, spacious cabin and head-turning looks, the Fiesta will be no walkover.

Verdict

At a time of steeply rising fuel prices and increasing environmental concerns, these cars deliver guilt-free thrills. Both provide hugely entertaining driving dynamics and bargain-basement running costs.
If fun is your priority, the Fiesta is hard to ignore. Its sharp chassis will leave you grinning from ear to ear, even on a short drive. It also looks good, and the spacious cabin means it’s practical, too. But there’s no escaping the higher price and weaker straight-line pace. As a result, the Ford takes second place behind the stylish Citroen. While it can’t match the Fiesta’s fun factor, the DS3 is still great to drive, plus it’s faster, more refined and comes with a longer list of standard equipment. It’s also cheaper, and adding to its appeal is the huge range of personalisation options – so the DSport diesel takes a deserved victory.

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