In-depth reviews

DS 3 (2009-2019) review - Interior, design and technology

Stylish, fashionable interior is both customisable and upmarket - but awkward ergonomics and cheap plastics let it down

The DS 3 really lifted standards across Peugeot Citroen (PSA) when it was first launched; it’s maintained that for a number of years, yet the class standard has risen and it struggled to keep up by the time production had ended.

Performance spec adds some sportier detailing like 18-inch alloys, unique paint schemes, racier bumper designs and unique badging. It's more subtle than the old DS 3 Racing, but looks smart and mature. Performance Line spec isn't quite as racy to look at, though, and doesn't really live up to the name.

Inside the car is a good example of a French ‘boutique’ interior. The dashboard is nicely detailed, with glossy black plastics, polished metal highlights and a choice of dash inserts running across the passenger side fascia. The dials are attractive and we like the ‘floating’ hood sitting above them. Models with climate control look upmarket, too, while some even come with a fragrance dispenser to help disguise nasty niffs.

In ergonomics terms, though, the DS 3 is a mixed bag. The driving position is awkward for those with long legs thanks to high-set pedals, while the steering column-mounted cruise and audio controls are fiddly. Even the infotainment system introduced in 2016 felt a little out of date - especially with cars like the Peugeot 3008 raising PSA's game. Quality is a mixed bag, too - you don't have to look hard to find scratchy, hard plastics.

Top-spec DS 3 variants get indulgent ‘watch-strap’ leather seats, making it feel every inch the downsized premium car. You even get an integrated air freshener on all but base models, which is a nice touch even if you might not like the smell.

Equipment levels are very good on the DS 3, particularly if you steer clear of the basic Chic version. All models feature cruise control, speed limiter, front electric windows, tyre pressure monitor and front fog lights, for example – the distinctive LED daytime running lights that so characterise the DS 3 are also included on all. Inside, every version up from the base car gets LED interior mood lighting. High-tech Xenon LED Vision headlights are an option on all and standard on upper-line models.

Safety features like Active City Braking have been made standard as of 2016, which can’t be said for some rivals.

The amount of customisation options is vast, with over 3 million combinations of colour (including roof colour and classy Pearl White paint), trim, wheels, interior fabrics, you name it. DS groups these into various packs and trim lines, to make things a bit more manageable, but be prepared: buying a DS 3 is not as straightforward as choosing a regular Citroen. 

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The 2014 facelift brought new technology to the DS 3, the most appealing of which is touchscreen sat nav. This is standard on the Elegance trim and above, and controls almost all of the car's numerous systems. 

From 2016 it was updated further with better software and graphics, plus the optional addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto tech. It’s still not the easiest system to operate, though - the menus are slow to load and often confusing, while it lacks the rotary controller found in some rivals.  

DS 3 hatchback and Cabrio - reversing camera

The regular six-speaker stereo system is OK but an upgraded hi-fi, which includes a sub-woofer and central ‘surround sound’ speaker on the dash, is standard on top spec models. All models get remote stereo controls, and Bluetooth, USB socket and DAB features on all but the basic Chic.

Next Steps

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    1.2 PureTech 82 Parthenon Cream 3dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £16,390

Most Economical

  • Name
    1.2 PureTech 82 Parthenon Cream 3dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £16,390

Fastest

  • Name
    1.2 PureTech 130 Cafe Racer 3dr
  • Gearbox type
    Manual
  • Price
    £21,195

Most Popular

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
New Vauxhall Astra prototype review
Vauxhall Astra prototype - front
Vauxhall Astra

New Vauxhall Astra prototype review

A new Vauxhall Astra is on the way and we've driven a prototype ahead of its official arrival
14 Jun 2021
Illegal car modification hotspots revealed
Volkswagen Polo exhaust
News

Illegal car modification hotspots revealed

Gloucestershire has the highest proportion of illegal car modifications, with altered number plates the most common breach
14 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
New Porsche Macan facelift prototype review
Porsche Macan prototype - front
Porsche Macan

New Porsche Macan facelift prototype review

We get behind the wheel of a prototype version of the facelifted Porsche Macan SUV
13 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai production begins in Sunderland
Nissan Qashqai - front static
News

New Nissan Qashqai production begins in Sunderland

Nissan will offer every school child in the North East of England a place on the Nissan Skills Foundation course to mark 35 years of manufacturing in …
14 Jun 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
New hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender prototype in development
Land Rover Defender
Land Rover Defender

New hydrogen-powered Land Rover Defender prototype in development

The Land Rover Defender FCEV prototype will be assessed for off-road and long-range zero-emission motoring
14 Jun 2021
New SsangYong Korando e-Motion breaks cover with electric power
SsangYong Korando EV
Electric cars

New SsangYong Korando e-Motion breaks cover with electric power

The new SsangYong Korando compact electric SUV will be on sale later in 2021, says the financially stricken South Korean manufacturer
15 Jun 2021