What is it?
It’s the newly relaunched DS 3, which, like the DS 4 and DS 5 before it, has shed its Citroën branding and completes the standalone DS brand’s line-up. It’s the same three-door, C3-based hatch and Cabrio as before, but the nose has been sharpened and embellished to toe the DS corporate line, trim levels have been totally revised and include better basic kit, and two new engines have been introduced.
We’ll have to wait a few weeks to drive the new 207bhp 1.6 THP engine in the upcoming Performance model (think DS 3 Racing-lite), but this is our first chance for a steer of the Puretech 130 - a perkier tune of the DS 3’s existing 1.2-litre turbo three-pot - that has the Mini Cooper firmly in its sights.
Our car was the tin-top in Prestige spec - third of the six new trim levels - although the Puretech 130 is also available in cheaper Elegance trim.
What's it like?
The car’s nose is certainly bolder than before, but whether or not it’s better is your call. Inside, meanwhile, there's a new and responsive central 7.0in touchscreen, and the resultant de-cluttering of the centre console (it has 20 fewer buttons on it) make it look much cleaner. There have also been improvements to materials, but most are hidden away.
There’s plenty of style in the cabin, but only the dash top is made of soft-touch plastic, and there are quite a few moulding seams on show. Other bugbears remain with the control stalks being hidden away behind the steering wheel and the shortage of cup holders, but the driving position and control ergonomics are otherwise sound.
A six-footer sitting behind another will find kneeroom and headroom compromised, but space is reasonable for the class; there’s room for a very small fifth occupant, and the boot holds a decent 285 litres, extending to 980 with the 60/40-split rear seats folded.
While the new engine matches the Mini Cooper’s 134bhp 1.5 turbo three-poty for emissions (105g/km) and combined economy (62.8mpg), the Puretech 130’s official figures have it a second slower to 62mph, at 8.9sec.
But the DS 3 feels a fair bit quicker than that, pulling heartily between 2000rpm and 5000rpm. There’s a bit of lag, but it’s not disruptive, and the engine sings a pleasant, restrained tune when pushed yet hushes up when cruising. It’s far from the slightly wearing neuroticism of the Fiat 500’s TwinAir, for example.
The engine’s responsiveness means you may have to shift gears less often than expected, but there’s an obliging action when you do. Exploit this enjoyable drivetrain combination along a country road and you’ll carry good pace between corners. However, a combination of body roll, understeer and steering that hasn't enough feel undermine the fun a bit.
The trade-off is a ride that is pretty comfy despite occasional jitters, although suspension noise and tyre roar inhibit refinement, and the steering, while responsive, could settle down better than it does on the motorway.
Should I buy one?
If you’re tempted by the DS 3’s premium-brand philosophy and adventurous aesthetics, the new Puretech 130 is a must-try option. It’s a frugal and flexible engine that’s fun when you want it to be, and fades away when you don’t, while the new touchscreen system is an added draw. As a package, though, £1900-cheaper Elegance trim makes more sense and still features sports seats, rear parking sensors, DAB, and cruise and climate control.
Those more focused on dynamics will prefer the less expensive Mini Cooper, however, thanks to its superior driver engagement that comes at little cost to comfort.
DS 3 Puretech 130 Prestige
Location Sussex; On sale Now; Price £18,795; Engine 3 cyls, 1199cc, turbo petrol; Power 128bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 170lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1090kg; 0-62mph 8.9sec; Top speed 127mph; Economy 62.8mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 105g/km, 16%