Citroen DS3 Hatchback review
French firm’s stylish new DS3 comes close to toppling mighty MINI from its place at the top of the premium supermini tree.
Styling/image Designers at Citroen have ignored the retro-route taken by the MINI, VW Beetle and Fiat 500. As a result, the DS3’s bold shapes, creases and curves certainly make it stand out from the crowd. Buyers can pick from DSign, DStyle and DSport trim levels, with the latter two models benefiting from alloy wheels and eye-catching LED daytime running lights. As with the MINI there’s plenty of scope for personalisation. Owners can colour code the roof, wheels and door mirrors, as well as add decals and extra chrome trim.
Interior/Practicality Decent build quality and classy detailing mark out the DS3’s cabin. The dashboard is carried over from the firm’s C3 supermini, which means you get eye-catching dials and a logical layout. Buyers can colour co-ordinate the dash, gearlever and key fob with the exterior paint finish. The newcomer steals a march on the MINI thanks to its five-seat layout – the British car can only accommodate four occupants. Opening the tailgate reveals a useful 285-litre load bay.
Engine/Performance Three petrol engines are available, all co-developed with BMW and also used in the MINI. Entry–level models get the 93bhp 1.4-litre, while further up the range is a 1.6-litre unit in either 118bhp normally aspirated or 148bhp turbocharged tune. As you’d expect from Citroen there’s a line-up of punchy and refined diesel units – an 88bhp 1.4-litre and 108bhp 1.6-litre. The most powerful petrol and oil-burning powerplants get a slick shifting six-speed gearbox.
Driving experience All versions of the DS3 get a sports suspension set-up, but it can’t rival the MINI for driving thrills. Body control is good and grip is strong, meaning the DS3 feels poised and agile. However, the direct steering lacks weight and feedback, while the five-speed gearbox has a slack and vague action. A supple ride and low noise levels make the Citroen a relaxing long distance cruiser.
Ownership costs Not only does the DS3 undercut the MINI on price, but it’s also much better equipped. All versions get air-conditioning, cruise control and a trip computer. Citroen is also offering a three-years inclusive servicing package for £199. The range-topping 1.6-litre turbo emits 155g/km of CO2, while the fuel efficient 1.4 HDi diesel returns a claimed 74.3mpg at the pumps. However, don’t expect the French car to match the MINI’s excellent residuals when it comes time to trade-in.
Safety/Environment The DS3 has already earned a five-star EuroNCAP rating, making it one of the safest models in the class. All trim levels get six airbags and electronic stability control as standard. Eco-friendly motorists will be drawn to the 1.4-litre diesel version, which emits only 99g/km of C02. Bosses claim that the newcomer’s green credentials will be further boosted when stop-start technology arrives late in 2010.
Our choice: DS3 DSport 1.6THP