From £11,7507
New three-pot engine and added kit among the upgrades for the relaunched premium supermini that completes the standalone DS range

Our Verdict

DS3
The Citroën DS3 launched the French marque's range of premium models; more DSs have followed

The Citroën DS3 is an upmarket, stylish supermini, but does it have what it takes to beat the Mini?

Richard Webber
24 February 2016

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%

Join the debate

Comments
10

24 February 2016
Ticks all the right boxes just wish they hadn't tried to pull the wool over peoples eyes by saying it was a new model. Anyhow this has enough advantages over the mini to make it a good seller, again.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

24 February 2016
"premium-brand philosophy" is a start. But at those prices "premium brand reality" might be better.

24 February 2016
This car's platform is now a quarter of a century old. Older than the internet. Older than Britain's entire fleet of Trident submarines. How many other "premium" cars can claim such an amazing feat?

24 February 2016
Really? What was the first model to use this platform?

24 February 2016
Norma Smellons wrote:
This car's platform is now a quarter of a century old. Older than the internet. Older than Britain's entire fleet of Trident submarines. How many other "premium" cars can claim such an amazing feat?
Just been reading up on this, it is based off the current C3, which is on the PSA PF1 platform, which has its roots going back to the 1998 206, which itself was an uprated 106/Saxo platform. While it might go back that far, I think the amount of modifications to the chassis & body means it probably doesn't share any components from that era

25 February 2016
superstevie wrote:
While it might go back that far, I think the amount of modifications to the chassis & body means it probably doesn't share any components from that era

Ah but I wasn't referring to the "body" was I? And nor the "chassis" hardware which, although of the same type (struts and a cheapo beam) have obviously been developed over the years. I was referring to the platform. That is, the the steel bit which supports all of that. And whilst it may have been lengthened here and there, over the decades, it is still fundamentally the same bit of metal which was developed largely in the 1980's. This is not to say that PSA have not applied some considerable skill in keeping such an antiquated component going. However its very presence makes a mockery of their "premium" pretensions.

The reason it's so old? Cost. Aside from the powertrain it is the single most expensive part of the car to develop. PSA cannot afford anything else. And guess what? Despite its antiquity, the "next" DS3 will use the same platform, just like the present 208. This means it will have a run of at least 30 years. Ford managed 26 with the original Fiesta's platform but that was a while ago and the car had become a joke by the end of it.

And for anyone thinking of comparing the DS3 with the Mini: the original 2001 Mini had a brand new platform which was way more modern and sophisticated than Citroen's. And BMW still went ahead and junked that in favour of another completely brand new one in 2014.

24 February 2016
I hope this poor thing hasn`t got to soldier on for too much longer. it looking very tired.

24 February 2016
My 3 year old DS3 drives brilliantly. It's a DSport, equivalent to this Prestige spec, and strikes a terrific balance between comfort and fun. I do 100 miles a day in mine. I disagree that it's looking 'tired' - the facelift hasn't done it any favours but it looks a lot less 'tired' than a MiTo does. The interior is where the most attention is needed, but I'd argue that the bigger screen now helps things.


"Work hard and be nice to people"

24 February 2016
But the DS3 has carved a safe niche for itself.

24 February 2016
I don't understand why you'd say this, the Performance will have virtually the same power output as the Racing AND it'll get the Torsen limited slip-diff from the 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport. If anything it'll be more sporty than the Racing.

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