New DS 3 Performance Line 2024 review: a quirky, affordable route to a 'premium' badge
DS is going to great lengths to make owning its small SUV a truly luxurious experience
There’s more to like about this quirky small SUV than simply being an affordable gateway into the DS ownership experience. Interior quality and ride comfort are both strong points, and the base car’s petrol engine provides more than enough oomph to satisfy most drivers. But, as well built as it is, the cabin feels cramped and its unconventional controls will take a lot of getting used to.
As the luxury-focused arm of the omniscient Stellantis group, DS Automobiles relies on many of the same key components as Peugeot, Vauxhall and Citroen. But credit where it’s due: DS’s efforts to attract a slightly classier clientele go beyond slapping some velvet on a Corsa.
DS creates an indulgent ownership experience by way of several exclusive services to suit the lifestyles of its customers, including its own concierge service called ‘Only You’ that owners can use to book the finest restaurants, exclusive events and even private tours of museums.
There’s also the DS Valet, which can collect and return your car whenever it needs to go in for a service, while a DS Assistance helpline is available 24/7 if you break down – either in the UK or abroad.
For those of us whose bank account can’t stretch to a Bentley (or even a Bentley-branded set of espresso cups), the tailored ownership experience that DS offers sounds alluring. Better still, you get the same amount of pampering if you buy an entry-level version of the brand’s entry-level car: a petrol-powered DS 3 in Performance Line trim, like the vehicle we’re trying here.
Prices officially start from a whisker under £26,000, although DS is currently offering £2,000 off with a dealership contribution, meaning that for the moment, the DS 3 technically undercuts its mechanically similar sister cars, the Peugeot 2008 and Vauxhall Mokka. And they don’t come with a valet.
Nor can they match the attention to detail or quality of the DS 3’s cabin. Even this most basic model is adorned with a mixture of black Alcantara and leather, and stitching across the doors and dashboard. Some surfaces have also been given a pleasing knurled texture, while the off-white headliner fitted in the model we had made it feel less gloomy inside.
Add to that a generous kit list that includes a 10.3-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a seven-inch digital instrument panel, keyless start, rear parking sensors, LED headlights and daytime running lights, plus a bundle of handy driver assistance features.
Higher-spec versions of the DS 3 add larger wheels, upgraded leather interior, heated and massaging front seats and a head-up display, among other luxuries. However, they aren’t available with the simpler engine and manual gearbox combo offered in Performance Line trim, so they cost over £6,000 more than the bog-standard but already premium-feeling, well-appointed base model.
Unless you’re already springing for an automatic gearbox, or the fully-electric DS 3 E-Tense, we don’t feel the need to upgrade from the entry-level specification.
We’re less pleased by the unconventional user interface, but that’s been a DS 3 failing since day one. For whatever reason, the window switches are on the centre console and difficult to distinguish from one another. Meanwhile, the assortment of the diamond-shaped touch-sensitive buttons looks snazzy but often takes multiple prods before performing the desired function. The majority are just shortcut buttons too, so you spend most of the time fiddling with stuff on the (admittedly quite sharp) touchscreen.
It’s not impossible to get used to the bizarre set-up, as long as you’re a patient individual. Ideally one who doesn’t have tall friends, because once someone jumps into the passenger seat, you realise how cramped the cabin actually is. We found ourselves awkwardly brushing our passenger’s leg whenever we changed gear, and you can forget about carrying adults in the back, due to the limited legroom.
The DS 3 was given a mid-life facelift not too long ago, which added the “DS Wings” LED strakes and a wider grille to the front, and a couple of other minor tweaks. In the metal, there’s an attractive quirkiness to the design and we liked the Stromstopper-esque spec of our test car, with its white paint and contrasting black wheels, grille and C-pillar.
The pop-out door handles are a nice touch too, although the random kink in the car’s windowline looks like the designer sneezed and creates a large blindspot over the driver’s shoulders.
At least the car’s compact dimensions and pronounced bonnet edges makes the DS 3 easy to place the car on the road and weave through city traffic – helped by the relatively light steering. The DS 3 also provides a fairly lofty driving position – that many buyers in the small SUV segment will appreciate.
Ride comfort is a highlight, with the soft suspension rounding off the impacts from sizable potholes. The car does have a tendency to fidget at lower speeds, but settles down once you’re cruising on the motorway, and wind and road noise are kept at bay for the most part. Unsurprisingly, the soft suspension means noticeable body roll when cornering on twistier roads, and can cause the car to dive under very hard braking.
The 99bhp offered by the base DS 3’s petrol engine doesn’t sound particularly generous, but it’s enough to get the little SUV up to motorway speeds at a relatively quick pace; the near-11-second 0-62mph time seems conservative.
Honestly, we’d be hesitant to upgrade to the more potent version of this engine DS offers, especially as it's only available with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Not to say the standard six-speed manual is life altering, but we like the long throw of the shifter and light, easy-to-modulate clutch.
|DS 3 Performance Line PureTech 100
|Price as tested:
|1.2-litre 3cyl petrol turbo
|Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive