Citroen DS3 Cabrio 1.6 THP

A peel-back roof adds appeal, but is the new Citroen DS3 Cabrio a true convertible?

Sometimes less is more, but in this instance, removing as little of the roof as possible hasn’t made the DS3 Cabrio any more desirable than the standard hatch. In some ways that’s no bad thing, as the Citroen has more space than the MINI, is more comfortable and is nearly as engaging to drive. We just wish that the wind-in-the-hair thrills were bigger.

Ever since its launch in 2009, the Citroen DS3 has had one car firmly in its sights: the MINI. An engaging driving experience and long list of personalisation options make it an attractive alternative to the British-built car, but it’s only ever been available as a hatchback. Now that’s changed, with the launch of the DS3 Cabrio.

But with the roof up, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the Cabrio and the standard car. That’s because Citroen has gone for a Fiat 500-style top that leaves most of the bodywork untouched, save for a central fabric roof section that slides back and sits on the rear deck.

In some ways that’s no bad thing, as the DS3 looks smart. The LED running lights and large grille with chevron logo are in contrast to the MINI’s retro design, and the ‘shark fins’ behind the doors are a distinctive touch.

At the back, the DS3 Cabrio gets new LED tail-lights, while fabric trim around the rear window is the biggest clue to the folding roof.

The top opens in two stages; one push of the button opens it to just above the rear window. Press it again, and the rear window hinges forwards, the roof spoiler lowers and the canvas rests on top of all that. From the front, the only clue that the roof is down is the wind deflector that pops up from the top edge of the windscreen – so if you want to let everyone know you’re driving a convertible, the MINI makes a bigger impact.

When you close the DS3’s roof, there are three stages. The first reinstates the back window, then the second brings the roof back to just above the driver’s head, creating a sunroof. Keeping your finger on the button completely closes the top. The roof can be fully opened or closed in 16 seconds – five seconds faster than the MINI’s – and you can do it at speeds of up to 75mph, too.

Save for the roof button, the rest of the cabin is as in the DS3 hatch. That means you get a well built layout with seats for five, if not much space, which gives it an advantage over the four seats of its rival, while the top-spec DSport tested here has lots of standard kit.

Refinement is on par with the DS3 hatch, and boot space is nearly double that of the MINI, too. However, while the DS3’s clever bootlid can be opened in tight spots, the letterbox opening is narrow. The back seats are easy to fold, though, and a total capacity of 940 litres beats the MINI’s 660 litres.

The bunched-up canvas also obscures your view rearwards. There’s more wind noise than you get in the MINI, too, thanks to the fixed roof rails and mesh wind deflector, but you won’t get blown around with the roof open to its first stage. Fully retract the top, and you get a bit more bluster from the wind, but it’s nothing compared to the MINI.

Despite the minimal changes to the bodywork, the removal of the roof still has an effect on the DS3’s chassis. At moderate speeds, the Cabrio handles just as well as the hatch, but over bumps you can feel the car shake.

Performance from the 1.6 THP turbo is strong, because the Cabrio is only 25kg heavier than the standard car, but the more powerful Cooper S was faster than the DS3 in our tests. Crunch the numbers, and it’s a close match between the Citroen and MINI. But at £19,680, the DS3 Cabrio is around £1,000 cheaper than the Cooper S, and it comes with more kit as standard, too.

Despite being less powerful, the DS3 has similar fuel economy to the MINI, while tax and company car costs are similar, too. Citroen is also offering three years’ free servicing at the moment to counter MINI’s £200 five-year fixed-price deal. The DS3’s poorer residuals are the major downside in terms of costs.

Does all this make up for the fact that the Citroen is not a fully fledged convertible?

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