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New DS 3 automatic 2015 review

New auto gearbox aims to bring the classy DS 3 hatch in line with the top premium supermini contenders

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

The DS 3’s new six-speed EAT6 automatic gearbox is a vast improvement over the old four-speed. It’s faster and smoother when shifting both up and down, plus it boosts efficiency by 36 per cent. It’s just a shame there aren’t any steering wheel-mounted paddles for when you want to flick between ratios yourself. If fun is your main priority when it comes to buying a car, the cheaper MINI Cooper is still a better bet.

Around 13 and 18 per cent of MINI and Audi A1 sales respectively are now automatics – that’s an increase of around two per cent year-on-year. So, it’s clear that style-conscious urban drivers are placing ease of driving right at the top of their wish lists. And that trend looks set to continue.

DS, Citroen’s recently separated upmarket sub-brand, is some way behind, though. Its slow and jerky four-speed auto accounts for 4.5 per cent of DS 3 sales, with most buyers preferring the five or six-speed manual.

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However, that’s all set to change later this year, when DS begins production of its new DS 3 110 PureTech turbo petrol – complete with a new six-speed automatic gearbox. 

Citroen claims it boasts 40 per cent faster shifts, plus improved economy. Compared to the old 1.6 VTi 120 auto, the 108bhp 1.2 three-cylinder turbo petrol is 28 per cent cleaner (reducing CO2 emissions by 42g/km to 108g/km) and 36 per cent better on fuel – quoting 60.1mpg versus 44mpg.

It’s faster, too, cutting the VTi’s 0-62mph time by a full second, to 9.9 seconds. Thanks to the new small turbocharger, the engine feels much more responsive than the old naturally aspirated unit, and it’s happy to cruise along at 70mph on the motorway. 

The shifts are smooth, and if you put your foot down, the DS 3 has no problem dropping a couple of cogs for a surge of acceleration. It’s not as fast as the three-cylinder MINI Cooper (0-62mph in 7.8 seconds), but it’ll feel plenty quick enough for most drivers.

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Around town, the new box swaps gears seamlessly. There is a slight vibration from the three-cylinder at idle, but that’s remedied by the efficient and reliable stop/start system. As you build speed, it feels much quieter than Ford’s award-winning EcoBoost engine, as it quickly settles into rhythm.

The problem comes when you get out of the city and want to have some fun. The DS 3 is as composed as ever and finds a great compromise between ride and handling, but without steering wheel-mounted paddles, it’s hard to get the most out of this new automatic box. 

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Pressing the Sport button tweaks the gearbox’s settings for shorter ratios, but if you want to shift yourself, you’re forced to use the conventional gearlever on the centre console. In this day and age, it feels quite archaic, and we preferred leaving the car to its own devices than steering with one hand through tighter bends. Still, we have no complaints about the speed at which it reacts to user input.

However, while the lengthy kit list and personalisation options will appeal to many, the near-£20,000 price tag will not. A MINI Cooper auto undercuts the DS 3 DStyle by £740 – and that’s without coughing up another £1,000 for the DStyle Nav version. 

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