DS 3 (2009-2019) review
The DS 3 is an upmarket rival to the MINI with posh aspirations, but it's starting to feel its age
The DS 3 was a breakthrough car for Citroen, and was such a success that it prompted the firm to launch its DS brand with the DS 3 as its core model. It went on to be the DS brand's best-seller, with the appeal of its plush interior, decent performance and a variety of special models with plenty of kit on offer.
However, the DS 3 never really matched up against its rivals. It doesn't have the retro charm of models such as the MINI hatch and Fiat 500, while the Audi A1 has the edge for quality, performance and handling. Still, the DS 3 offers better value for money than most, while the range of petrol and diesel engines offer efficiency and punchy performance in equal measure, so the DS 3 is still an appealing choice.
First for sale as a Citroen, and then as part of the prestige DS brand, the DS3 is an upmarket supermini that's designed to take on models such as the MINI, Fiat 500, Audi A1 and even the VW Beetle. Like those cars, it offers a wide range of personalisation, while a variety of colours and trim spec mean there's plenty of choice when it comes to buying one.
Car group tests
- DS 3 Performance vs Ford Fiesta ST200 vs MINI JCW Sport
- MINI Cooper Convertible vs Fiat 500C vs DS 3 Cabrio
The DS 3 first arrived as a Citroen in 2010, and was only replaced in 2019 by the SUV-inspired DS 3 Crossback. So if you're looking to buy a DS 3, you'll be looking at used or nearly new versions from now on. Thankfully, the majority of cars come well equipped, while there's enough variety in terms of colours and options that you should find a decent car that's well specced and stands out from the crowd. On the other hand, the sheer variety on offer could be bewildering to the uninitiated.
First off, the DS 3 comes in two body styles: either a three-door hatch or the two-door DS 3 Cabrio, which was first introduced in 2013. The latter isn't a true convertible like a MINI, and is similar in execution to the Fiat 500C, with a fabric centre section of the roof that rolls back to sit above the tiny boot.
Under the skin, the DS 3 shares its platform with a wide range of Peugeot and Citroen models, including the Citroen C3, Peugeot 208 and crossover and MPV variants that have been sold alongside them. Where the DS 3 differs is with its design-led bodywork, although it stil has decent space inside when compared to its rivals.
At launch, the DS 3 came with either 1.4 or 1.6-litre petrol engines, but an update in 2014 saw Citroen's 1.2 PureTech turbo three-cylinder appear. This engine is a solid performer, offering decent economy, refinement and mid-range pulling power.
Another update came with the car's rebranding as a DS model is 2016. It got a new look, plus a 128bhp version of the PureTech motor. Also offered are two 1.6 BlueHDi diesels, offering 99bhp or 118bhp, although we'd only recommend these if you really need to maximise your fuel economy on long journeys.
Joining the line-up at this stage was the DS 3 Performance hot hatch, which was similar in concept to the older limited-edition Citroen DS 3 Racing. It has 1.6 THP turbo petrol engine with 204bhp, a Torsen limited slip diff and stiffer suspension. While it was designed as a rival to the MINI Cooper S, it didn't quite match that car for driving enjoyment.
Where the DS 3 stands out is with the sheer variety of models that have been offered over its lifetime. There have been Chic, Style, Prestige, Ultra Prestige and Performance Line model, while special editions have littered the price lists over the years. Models such as the Parthenon Cream, Ines de la Fressange, Cafe Racer, BRM Chronographes (which came with an exclusive wristwatch) and others have come and gone.
In some ways these cars are good to weed out from the classifieds, because while they come with extra kit, the effect of residual values mean they are usually a similar price to the more mainstream versions of the DS 3.
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingThe DS 3 is an upmarket rival to the MINI with posh aspirations, but it's starting to feel its age
- 2Engines, performance and driveTidy handling and an impressive range of petrol and diesel engines, but ride and refinement are falling behind class best
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsStrong fuel economy across the board equals low CO2. Insurance groups are a bit high on more powerful versions
- 4Interior, design and technologyStylish, fashionable interior is both customisable and upmarket - but awkward ergonomics and cheap plastics let it down
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceBoot is a decent size and there's reasonable space, but it's three-door only and cabin stowage is poor
- 6Reliability and SafetyGood general reliability but the odd electrical niggle can still arise. Safety score was good in 2009