The stylish DS3 is one of our favourite hot hatches and has already won group tests against heavy-hitting premium rivals such as the Audi A1
and MINI Cooper. However, the Ibiza represents a different kind of challenge. In FR trim, it matches the Citroen for style and pace, but a price cut for the new model means it now offers better value, too.
From the outside, the DS3 definitely looks a more premium product. The eye-catching LED running lights, 17-inch alloys and tinted rear windows that are all optional on the Ibiza come as standard in the Citroen, and there are more opportunities for personalisation, too. The roof panel can be finished in a variety of contrasting colours, or there’s also the option to add a distinctive decal design like the special-edition Ultra Prestige model in our pictures.
Step inside, and the attractive cabin looks just as good as when the DS3 was launched in 2010. Details like the drilled alloy pedals and chrome inserts on the wheel and gearlever add a touch of flair, and there’s much more character on show than in the conservative Ibiza.
Like the SEAT, some of the Citroen’s interior trim feels flimsy and cheap, but quality materials used higher up the dashboard make the cost-cutting less obvious at first glance. The extra outlay for the DS3 also means you get Bluetooth and a USB connection included as standard, which are £410 extra in the SEAT.
You sit much lower down in the DS3 than the Ibiza – and as a result it’s harder to find a comfortable driving position straight away – and the ‘shark fin’ B-pillars create significant blindspots when joining the motorway.
Elsewhere, the Citroen holds a clear advantage in terms of practicality. It’s only 59mm taller than the Ibiza, but those extra millimetres have a big impact on headroom, helping to make the DS3 feel roomier.
The boot has a higher loading lip, but the deep floor means it can swallow more luggage than its rival, and with the rear seats folded, the capacity is increased to 980 litres.
Yet where the DS3 really stretches out its advantage is on the road. With an extra 6bhp and 20Nm of torque and a lighter kerbweight, the Citroen was three-tenths quicker from 0-60mph, setting a time of 7.3 seconds. It also feels much more planted through corners thanks to its wide stance, while the weighty steering gives lots of feedback to the driver.
On the motorway, longer gearing and better refinement from wind and road noise make it a relaxed cruiser, and although the ride is firm, it’s more composed than the Ibiza.
While the Citroen looks more expensive on paper, it comes with equipment that will set you back a hefty £1,790 in the SEAT – which goes a long way to offsetting its slightly higher running costs. So once again the DS3 has set the bar high. However, will it be enough to beat the sleek new SEAT?
Chart position: 1WHY: It’s more expensive, but a compelling dynamic package that offers a supple ride, strong engine and agile handling should make the DS3 tough to beat.