Not even the most ardent of Citroën admirers would accept any connection between the Citroën DS3 and the original DS, the firm’s iconic model. The DS broke new ground in several areas and 12,000 were ordered on its first day of launch in 1955; the DS3, on the other hand, is, in effect, the three-door variant of the regular C3 hatchback.
The Citroën DS3 exists for two reasons. The first is a need to counter the firm’s own decade-old push downmarket, a trend that has taken it into direct competition with Far Eastern brands such as Kia and Hyundai. And the second is to capitalise on the burgeoning market for premium-feel, customisable small hatchbacks created by Mini.
Chic, small runabouts used to be home turf for French manufacturers. But over the past decade Mini – or rather, BMW – has opened up fresh, profitable sales in that area. More recently, Fiat has jumped on the bandwagon with the 500. And now Audi is involved with the A1.
So the DS3 faces a major task. It must feel considerably plusher than the C3 on which it’s based, deliver a driving experience that can at least push the Mini close on dynamics, offer enough customisation and options to satisfy the buyer in search of ‘individuality’, and still stay competitive on price. Only a blend of all four will justify bringing the classic DS badge out of retirement.
Depending on engine, some DS3s are more about style than performance, although the limited run DS3 Racing range-topper does bring some of the firm's World Rally Championship success to the road. There are 1.4 and two 1.6 petrols, plus two versions of a 1.6 diesel; all engines are familiar units used within the Peugeot/Citroën empire and under the bonnet of the Mini.