Citroen DS3

Famous name returns on new MINI rival. Will it live up to the legend?

After an absence of 34 years, the DS name is back! This is the car bosses hope will rekindle Citroen’s reputation for style and sophistication.

The DS3 has been designed to go head-to-head with the MINI. And while its compact dimensions, bright colours and a host of personalised options are a far cry from the Fifties DS, the newcomer shares its ancestor’s sense of style.

At the front there are bold, swept-back headlamps, vertical LED strips ahead of the wheelarches and a large chrome double-chevron grille. Look down the DS3’s flanks and you’ll spot a distinctive kink in the B-pillar that mirrors the SM’s back bumper.

Citroen is aiming to give customers as much scope to personalise their car as MINI buyers – so the ‘floating’ roof can be finished in a contrasting colour, while a variety of decals will enable owners to add a few individual touches.

There is also a wide range of alloy wheel options, including the head-turning two-tone rims fitted to the car in our pictures. Inside, the centre panel of the dash – the design of which is carried over from the new C3 supermini – can be finished in a selection of colours.

There’s also the opportunity to pick bold shades for the seat trim, as well as the stitching in the door panels. Drivers get a chunky three-spoke steering wheel, stubby gearlever and colour-coded key fob.

But there’s plenty of substance to match the style, as the cabin provides decent practicality and comfort. The driving position is good, while the optional sports seats give plenty of support.

Occupants in the rear will find much more head and legroom than in a MINI, plus the boot has a healthy 285-litre storage capacity. There’s plenty of equipment available, too, including sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity and a powerful stereo with iPod connection.

If you were hoping for a revolution under the skin, however, the DS3 can’t match its illustrious predecessors’ mechanical advances. For instance, the suspension is entirely conventional, with MacPherson struts at the front and a coil-sprung transverse beam axle at the rear – as on the latest C3. Still, in common with the SM, the electric power-steering features variable assistance, and there’s a wide range of engine options.

Entry-level models use the firm’s tried-and-tested 93bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, with a 118bhp 1.6 sitting higher in the line-up. Top-spec variants feature a 148bhp 1.6 THP turbo, which is closely related to the unit in the MINI Cooper S. Diesel fans can choose from 88bhp or 108bhp versions of the smooth, punchy 1.6 HDi. Even without revolutionary underpinnings, bosses claim the DS3 will be great to drive.

It certainly appears to have all the right ingredients, and its wheel-at-each-corner stance promises excellent agility and stability. But we’ll have to wait until we get behind the wheel to find out if the newcomer can claim a place in the list of greatest-ever Citroens.

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