The engine is noticeably stronger
The Racing’s stiffer springs and wider track mean relatively little roll and good body control
The brakes are huge for this size of car and don’t lack performance
The ride at low speeds is firm
The DS3 R can struggle for traction – which is understandable with 203lbft of torque
The twin stainless steels exhausts help the Racing look the part
With 215/40R18 tyres there is plenty of grip
The 1.6-litre engine uses a turbocharger to boost power to 204bhp
The steering is much improved and is one of the better electrical set-ups around
Two colour schemes will be offered - black with orange, or white with grey
The dashboard is anything but subtle
New sports seats are one of the interior highlights
The carbonfbre trim used for the interior trim is real, hence the high price
Citroen Racing is behind the DS3 R; it's best known for its successful WRC cars
Citroen's hot hatchback is appealingly intense, and good fun, but its high price and firm ride let it down
What is it?
Having driven the prototype earlier this year, this is the final production version of the DS3 Racing. To avoid any confusion, despite what the Racing tag might suggest, this is a road car. The reason for the name, that the DS3 R has been engineered and part assembled by Citroen Racing, which is responsible for Citroen’s rather successful rally cars.
Using the 150 DSport as a starting point the Racing uses the same 1.6-litre engine, but with the turbocharger turned up to give 204bhp (more than the prototype). Other modifications include a 30mm wider track, a 15mm lower ride height and larger front brakes.
To ensure the DS3 R stands apart from the lesser versions, it is being offered in just two colour schemes (black with orange, or white with grey), and the exterior is festooned with carbonfibre. The result is a look that’s clearly not for the shy and retiring - and strictly speaking the only parts that are necessary are the wheel arch extensions - but we imagine many people will love the way the DS3 R looks.
And credit to Citroen too for doing the job properly – because what you see is what you get - this is real carbonfibre. Completing the look are larger wheels and optional stickers.
What’s it like?
It might sound like an obvious statement, but an evolution of 150DSport, rather than a transformation - by which I mean, as a consequence of its trip to the motorsport specialists the DS3 R does not feel like a completely different car.
But that is no bad thing, as the standard car is one of our favourites. The engine is noticeably stronger, but without any real compromise in low end response, and with a modified exhaust it also sounds more enthusiastic.
The steering is also improved. It is not going to rival the best hydraulic set-ups, but for an electric system it is really pretty good; although still a touch light, the weighting is at least consistent throughout the lock and there is reasonable feel. Which is useful, because if conditions are anything like those we faced during our test (wet and greasy) you’ll want to know what’s going on at the front axle.
With 215/40R18 tyres there is plenty of grip, and the Racing’s stiffer springs and wider track mean relatively little roll and good body control. However the DS3 R can struggle for traction – which is understandable with 203lbft of torque, but it is what happens when the torque overcomes the grip that’s a little disappointing.
The DS3 R has neither a limited slip differential or clever Revo-knuckle style suspension, which means at times you get torque steer at others a spinning inside wheel and understeer. We don’t expect full traction at all times, but perhaps a few more options how to manage it. With the DS3 R you either leave it to the ESP, which is a bit cautious, or ditch ESP entirely (something you can do here, unlike other DS3s) and live with the slip.
One further caveat, the ride at low speeds is firm – not so much to cause an issue on our Nice test route, but maybe in the UK. No complaints with the brakes though, which are huge for this size of car and don’t lack performance.
Should I buy one?
Overall this is a good hot-hatch, it is fast, agile, fun and certainly eye-catching. Whether it matters that it isn’t as engaging to drive as the Clio Cup depends on what you are looking for.
Certainly the DS3 R has a better appointed cabin. In truth though we suspect that the Clio and DS3 R will appeal to different buyers, and certainly different wallets. The £23,100 Citroen is asking, is over £6000 more than the Renault and the regular DS3.
Countering that, is relative exclusivity, only 200 (of a total production of 2000) DS3 Rs are coming to the UK, and the fact the Mini JCW costs £21,875. The real answer though is that with the carbonfibre, the DS3 R is clearly an expensive car to produce, and with the DS3’s current popularity, Citroen think the demand will sustain the high price. Despite a few reservations, we suspect it isn’t wrong.
Citroën DS 3 Racing
Price: £23,100; Engine: 4cyl in line, 1598cc, turbocharged; Power: 204bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 203lbft at 2000-4500rpm; 0-62mph: 6.5sec; Top speed: 146mph; Combined: 44.1mpg; CO2: 149g/km; Kerb weight: 1240kg; Gearbox: 6-spd manual