- We like...Looks; class
- We don't...Cabin plastics look cheap in places
New French supermini is Citrn's boldest car for a generation. Will you want one? We think you will - badlyLooked at one way, the DS3 is merely a three-door version of Citrn’s just-launched new small car, the C3. But we think there’s much more to it than that. Citrn has, in effect, ‘done a Mini’ by which we mean that it has made a big push towards buyers’ ever-growing appetite for premium-feel small cars.
The Mini has notched up huge sales because it is uber-classy and impossibly cheeky to drive, too. It’s not sold to a price and, indeed buyers spend thousands getting their cars just the way they want them. And so it is with the DS3. You can have yours in a boggling array of colourways, with seat fabrics, door mirrors, roofs – even key fobs and floor mats to match or contrast. There are 38 different roof/body paint combos and even the dash comes in a choice of six finishes.
Citrn badly needed such a car. Its strength has long been in making fun, affordable, zippy little motors. But recent past efforts have sold because they were cheap and rather dragged the brand down-market – to pitch slap up against new, much-improved models from the likes of brands such as Hyundai and Kia.
Now although the DS3 is based on the C3, sharing the same under structure and some engines, too, there’s little visually to tie the two. The DS3 is by far the more dramatic, its appearance heightened on all bar the cheapest models by rows of LED lights, set into the front bumper edges. The roof looks as if it ‘floats’ atop the car while the body pillar behind the doors is shaped as a shark’s fin. We reckon that, from most angles, it’s a handsome car although viewed from the rear it looks squat and undistinguished.
But the cabin, at least, is a treat, showing off in our top-spec model some of the classiest finishes and coverings we’ve seen in any Citrn. It’s straightforward, though: the car starts using a conventional, poke-and-twist key while the hand brake is a trad-style lever-and-button. Using tried and tested ingredients where rivals go in for fancy keyless systems and button-push starts keeps the price down but we don’t mind that. The car’s only novelty is a start-stop system (standard in all DS3s) which halts the engine whenever you’re stopped in traffic.
It’s a roomy car and there’s fair space for adults in its rear seats, while the fronts are huggy and boast ample head, shoulder and leg space. There’s even space to squeeze in a third passenger in the rear, giving it an advantage over the strictly-four-seats Mini. The boot is a good size, too – enough for a couple of medium suitcases, while the seat backs fold to extend load space.
On the move, it’s a little whizzer. Our top-spec D sport with 150bhp 1.6 petrol engine rode firmly enough to surprise anyone used to generations of softly suspended Citrns but it is comfy enough, if very different from the C3. The steering, too, is precise enough to let you drive quickly and confidently, though it lacks the last ‘nth’ of precision and feel you’d see from, say, a Mini.
The engine lays down its power easily and well while turning in better than you’d think fuel economy and CO2 emissions figures. It makes for a car that’s brisk, not sprinty-quick, but it’s manageable and fun to run cross-country in.
Should you buy one? We’d say yes. It’s distinctive, different and classy – but practical and fairly-priced, too. Best of all you can – using an online car configurator – colour co-ordinate your car to be as wild – or mild – as you wish. There’s nothing else quite like it to be had just now.
* Note that the insurance group quoted below is from the new 1-50 ratings system
- Engines1.6 litre petrol
- 0-60 mph7.3secs
- Insurance groups22E*
Motors.co.uk value verdict: