$27,740 – $29,740
Good: Funky exterior styling; bespoke interior feel; refined engines; impressive dynamics; customisable options list.
Not so Good: DS3 badge lacks the heritage of the competing MINI Cooper; tyre noise on the DSport grade; we wish Citroen would change its mind and import the wickedly quick DS3 Racing grade to Australia.
Design and Engineering
Good : Arriving Down Under in September 2010 the Citroen DS3 is an all-new model from Citroen. Whilst it may share a platform with the more conventional C3 Supermini, the bespoke three-door body of the DS3 doesn’t share any body panels with the less sporty five-door only C3.Furthermore this little Citroen isn’t targeted at typical Supermini buyers – it’s going straight after a more premium target market – think MINI Cooper buyers.
The design is refreshingly bold – we’re fans of the sleek lines and the relatively low stance. Highlights include the distinctive ‘Shark-Fin’ side door pillars, the floating-style roof (which works best when painted with a contrasting colour to the body) and the LED light strips down both sides of the front bumper.
Not so good : One of our reviewer’s finds the overall design ‘a bit heavy’ and doesn’t think the DS3’s lines will ‘age as well’ as the MINI (but as they say, design is subjective).
Interior and Styling
Good : The adventurous styling continues inside and as with the exterior we give it the tick of approval. It’s a modern design with plenty of premium looking materials – the glossy lacquer finish across the dash looks great and the use of leather and chrome inserts is undertaken in a stylish, chic French way.
The two grades, DStyle and DSport, both feature comfortable seats up front, a generously sized glovebox and logically arranged switchgear. The design of the driver’s console is a cool three pod affair and the needles on the speedometer and tachometer look fantastic.
Second row legroom is better than the competing MINI Cooper and much better than the Fiat 500. You can take three of your friends out in the DS3 and unless they are Amazon-like tall they won’t need to attend a Pilate’s class the next day to untangle their limbs. The boot is a decent 285 litres (that’s more than 100 litres of space than the MINI Cooper can hold), fold down the rear seats and cargo space grows to almost 1000 litres (or approximately 300L more than the Cooper).
Not so good : The switchgear (control buttons and knobs) lacks the premium feel of an Audi; amazingly the interior does without a single cupholder (good luck Citroen if you ever decide selling the DS3 in Starbucks crazed America) and those over 6 feet tall may find it a little difficult to find an ideal driving position. Whilst leg room is better than most of the competition, remember this is a three-door Supermini!
Good : Two four-cylinder 1.6L engines are currently offered in the DS3, both of which were co-developed with BMW. The DStyle grade features the naturally aspirated engine (i.e. no turbo or supercharging), offering 88kW of power and 160Nm of torque and linked to a four-speed automatic transmission.
The DSport is the sportier of the two, with the help of a turbocharger the engine produces a healthier 115kW and 240Nm. This grade is only sold in Australia with a six-speed manual gearbox. Whilst the DSport offers significantly more power than the DStyle it’s also more frugal, with an official combined fuel economy of 6.7 litres per 100kms versus 7.0 litres per 100kms for the DStyle.
No big surprise that we think the 1.6L turbo is the pick of the two engines. It’s a flexible, refined and relatively linear motor which can take off with zest from the lights from surprisingly low revs. However it’s the mid-range power delivery that is most impressive.
Not so good : Whilst the DSport is an entertaining drive, it isn’t a true ‘go-fast’ hot hatch (but nor is it trying to be). Even so we wish the exhaust note was a little louder and the six-speed manual gearbox could be slicker in its shifts (but it’s by no means bad).
Ride and Handling
Good : Citroen has tweaked the suspension and steering over the less sporty C3. After spending some time behind the wheel of the DSport grade, we say the changes are definitely worth it as the DS3 has real dynamic ability. The DSport grade offers surprising amounts of cornering grip on the standard 17 inch low-profile tyres (the DStyle comes standard with a size smaller 16 inch alloy wheel package). It is also a lovely smooth handling Supermini, feeling more composed and comfortable than a MINI Cooper over most Australian road surfaces. The ride is a real highlight, the DS3 absorbs mid corner bumpers impressively and its low speed ride is equally good. The DSport’s chassis balance and engine ‘oomph’ are well-matched. The DS3’s electric power steering is set-up better than most. It feels nice and linear, turns accurately and quickly and doesn’t suffer from kickback over poor road surfaces.
Not so good : Under maximum attack a MINI Cooper S will likely holds its line longer before body roll and understeer kicks in (but how often can or should you drive like this on a public road) compared to the DSport grade (but we’d wager the difference is smaller than the difference in ride quality between the two – so a win to the DS3 than?). The amount of tyre noise in the DS3 over coarse road surfaces is more than we’d hoped and steering feel at straight ahead is also a little lacking in feel.
Buying and Owning
Good : Both DS3 grades come standard with twin front, front-side and side-curtain airbags as well as Anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake Distribution, Electronic Brake Assist and Electronic Stability Control.
A growing request from premium Supermini segment buyers is vehicle customisation and the DS3 well and truly gets the thumbs up in this regard. Customers can order a DS3 in an almost infinite number of body and wheel colour combinations and inside the bespoke combinations are almost as numerous. Different materials, trims and equipment levels are all just a tick on the options list away (fancy a leather dash or a different coloured gearknob?).
Not so good : Whilst an auxiliary audio socket is thankfully standard, USB and Bluetooth connectivity is unfortunately a cost option. The true hotch-hatch ‘DS3 Racing’ grade isn’t coming to Australia – with a big 147kW from its tuned 1.6L turbo engine it would make a cracking competitor to the MINI Cooper John Cooper Works grade.