What is it?:
The Citroën DS3 Cabrio is the new rival to cars such as the Mini Convertible and Fiat 500C in the convertible hatchback market.
A soft-top DS3 makes sense: with us Brits being such an optimistic bunch in spite of the climatic mayhem that ruins most summers, the UK remains one of the biggest European markets for convertibles, and Citroën’s stylish DS range has been pretty successful here too.
The DS3 Cabrio shares the 500C’s ‘sardine tin lid’ style roof opening, in which the canvas roof concertinas back onto the rear quarters of the car at the push of a button.
Although such a set-up is stretching the strict definition of a ‘cabriolet’, it also has merit from a technical perspective. More of the hard-top’s structure remains than with a full convertible, so less chassis strengthening is required. The DS3 Cabrio has extra cross-bracing at the top of the boot space and weights within the rear overhang to counteract vibrations that are common in cabrio designs.
Small styling tweaks differentiate the DS3 Cabrio from its hard-top sibling. There is a new spoiler along the width of the rear, aerodynamic deflectors on the quarter-light surrounds and a beguiling new three-dimensional LED rear light signature that was inspired by Citroën’s Revolte and Survolt concept cars. The snazzy lamps complement the DS’s prestige feel.
As usual, a dizzying array of body colours, roof designs, wheel styles and other customisation options are available.
The DS3 Cabrio will be available from launch with a choice of three petrol engines – the VTi 82, VTi 120 and THP 155, mated to either five or six-speed manual gearboxes. Three trim levels will be offered – DSign, DStyle and DSport, with prices for the most basic model starting at just over £15,000.
The most popular model in the UK line-up is expected to be the mid-spec DStyle VTi 120, which will cost about £17,425, but the only variant on offer for us to test was the range-topping DSport THP 155.
What's it like?:
One thing is for certain – if manufacturers are going to tout their drop-tops in Blighty, they’re going to have to make sure the lids can be redeployed pretty quickly to cope with our unpredictable conditions.
At the push of a button on the ceiling console of the DS3 Cabrio’s well-laid-out cabin, the folding soft-top can be set to one of three positions – intermediate, horizontal and total. The roof can be operated at speeds of up to 75mph and takes 16sec to close from the fully open position. The Mini’s roof is quicker to lower, but you have to slow down to 20mph to do it. The 500C’s lid can be retracted up to 37mph.
If you try to retract the Citroën’s roof at speeds above 75mph, you get a polite warning on the infotainment screen telling you it’s not possible, but the fact you can operate the roof at motorway cruising speed is a big advantage.
With the car’s major structural pillars still in front and to the side of the driver, you never get the full ‘wind-in-your-hair’ sensation that you would in a classic cabrio, but there’s still plenty of potential to feel at one with the elements in the DS3 Cabrio.
When the roof is fully closed, noise insulation is very good. When the canvas top has been retracted, wind levels are acceptable at the sort of speeds you'll do around town and on coastal roads. Out on the motorway, however, there is a fair amount of wind noise swirling around the cabin. An air deflector net can be deployed to reduce buffeting in the cabin, although we found the effect to be negligible at motorway speeds.
As with the 500C, when the roof is fully open and the fabric top is neatly folded back on the car’s rear haunches, it is impossible to see out of the rear-view mirror, so it is just as well that parking sensors have been included as standard.
Still, you could always ask your rear passengers to guide you into a parking space, and the good news is that the DS3 Cabrio can accommodate one more rear passenger than its four-seat rivals.
The well-proven 1.6-litre engine (the same unit as in the equivalent Mini Convertible) is a delight. With just a touch of lag from the turbo, it packs plenty of smooth punch up through the gears without being an overly raucous handful.
The DS3 Cabrio is only 25kg heavier than the equivalent hatchback version, which represents a relatively small weight penalty for a cabriolet. As such, the 0-62mph is only one-tenth slower than its hard-topped brethren, at 7.4sec.
For the most part, the DS3 Cabrio rides comfortably, even on the 17in wheel rims fitted to our high-spec test car (16in are also available). The vague steering feels at odds with the car’s ambition of mild sportiness, although it has to be said that this car’s primary use is likely to be moderate-speed cruising along a sunny seafront rather than B-road thrashes, and it is only really on twisty roads that the lack of steering feedback is highlighted.
The Citroën has an unconventional boot opening. The Fiat 500C’s flap is lifted via a normal top hinge, the Mini’s drops with a bottom hinge but can also be opened conventionally, but the DS3 Cabrio moves outwards and upwards, remaining flush with the rear of the car.
Citroën says the design makes it easier to access the boot even when the car is parked in a tight space, which is undoubtedly true, but our experience suggested that the boot lid also has a habit of obscuring your view as you’re trying to lift suitcases into the narrow opening.
The Citroën wins on boot capacity, though: it has 245 litres, trumping the 500C’s 185-litre storage space and the Mini’s cramped 125 litres.
Should I buy one?:
At £19,600, this range-topping DSport THP 155 certainly isn’t cheap, but if you’re in the market for a fun-to-drive, stylish small cabriolet the Citroën DS3 Cabrio joins the Mini Convertible and Fiat 500C in having plenty of reasons to recommend it.
The DS3 Cabrio doesn’t offer a full cabriolet experience in the same way that the Mini does, and the cheeky little Fiat remains the most charismatic of the bunch, but the Citroën does have the advantages of extra space, superior ergonomics and a roof mechanism that’s the most practical of the lot.
Citroën DS3 Cabrio 1.6 THP 155 DSport
Price £19,600 (est); 0-62mph 7.4sec; Top speed 132mph; Economy 47.8mpg; CO2 137g/km; Kerb weight 1231kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbo, petrol; Power 154bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 177lb ft at 1400-4000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual