From £11,7506
The Citroen DS3 DSport Plus has been given more power but greater efficiency, as well as more equipment. However, is it any good?

Our Verdict

DS3

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

28 January 2015

What is it?

It's the recently face-lifted Citroen DS3, in punchy THP 165 petrol DSport Plus form. 

Citroen’s sister company Peugeot has been grabbing headlines recently, with its new 208 GTi 30th Anniversary reminding people of the company’s past glories; I speak of course of the wonderful 205 GTi.

However, it’s easy to overlook Citroen’s own achievements in this respect. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to go for a blast in an AX GT, you’ll know it should rank up there as one of the all-time great hot hatchbacks.

Today the DSport is Citroen's lone performance contender, and a warm one at that. This is a little surprising when you consider the company's stranglehold on the World Rally Championship over the last decade, which you'd think would spawn more extreme models like the DS3 Racing seen a few years back.

So, Citroen has been tinkering with the DSport to make it quicker, more efficient, and added some new equipment for good measure.

What's it like?

The previous THP 155 engined model produced 154bhp and 177lb ft of torque, alongside CO2 emissions of 137g/km and an official combined fuel economy figure of 47.9mpg.

Although it’s based on that previous engine, this new THP 165 version is better in every area, with power now reaching 161bhp, lower CO2 emissions of 129g/km and an improved combined fuel economy figure of 50.4mpg. You might question ‘the better in every area’ statement when you see that torque is still 177lb ft, but it’s available from 1750rpm and spread over a wider range; in theory this makes the DSport more flexible. 

Thankfully the theory stands up to scrutiny. On the road the engine pulls strongly from low revs, and apart from tailing off slightly over the final 1000rpm if you rev it out, its delivery is pleasingly uniform. It’s pretty smooth, too, but it lacks a sonorous sound track to fit with the model’s semi-sporting pretentions.

Being limited to just 161bhp means the DS3 can’t match the firepower of the benchmark pace setters – models like the Mini Cooper S and Renault Clio RS 200 being two that spring to mind - but it feels zippy enough to make the claimed 7.5sec 0-62mph dash seem entirely believable.

When you aren't giving it the beans, that newfound spread of torque makes the DS3 easy to drive, without having to constantly swap gears and overwork the six-speed manual gearbox. Not that changing gear is a chore; the gearlever has a slick action, which is only marginally spoilt by a long throw. 

It’s just a shame that the rest of the car doesn’t quite match up to the new engine’s breadth of ability.

The ride, especially at low speed, is harsh. Alright, so the same can be said of the Mini or the Fiesta ST. However, in those two the firmness translates into sublime body control combined with razor-sharp responses.

In the DSport the body control is merely average. In the main the car feels weighty, which along with the slow and rather inert steering (it feels all of its 3.1 turns lock to lock), doesn’t goad you into exploring its limits and edging it towards the precipice of grip - which is a shame, as that limit is relatively high.

When you get there you’ll find the DS3 understeers, although you can alleviate this by playing with the throttle to bring the rear into play, but that’s it as far as excitement goes. The DS3 feels safe and secure, but if you crave playful and fun, you’ll be left disappointed.

Inside it’s also a mixed bag. The stylish cabin looks and feels good, with enough high quality, tactile materials on upper surfaces to disguise the inevitable harsher materials used lower down - this is a supermini not a limo, after all. The small glovebox, narrow door pockets and absence of any cup holders mean storage options are limited, too.

Then there’s the driving position; at over six feet tall and long-legged, I didn’t find the set-up worked for me. It puts you in a less-than-ideal arms outstretched, knees bent stance; the slightly awkward pedal arrangement doesn't help much either. The leather trimmed sports seats may look good but you feel perched on top of them rather than comfortably ensconced within. 

Other frustrations include the dashboard’s distracting reflection on the windscreen, the cruise control and radio controls completely hidden behind the steering wheel, and the previous generation PSA infotainment system, which is light years behind that of the Mini’s or VW Polo’s - or the Peugeot 208's for that matter - for ease of use.

On the plus side, the DSport's boot size is reasonable for a car in this segment at 285 litres, and the cabin has enough space (just) for four adults, although rear headroom is tight.

The DSport comes well equipped, too. As part of the refresh Citroen has added new features like xenon and LED headlights, an emergency city braking system, as well as a dial-up assistance system with SOS option. The rest of the equipment list includes cruise control, tyre pressure monitors, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity and climate control.

Should I buy one?

In the style stakes, the DSport is a modern alternative to the retro-looking Mini and Fiat 500.

However, apart from its decent engine, the DS3 is a car with too many shortcomings, many of which you could accept if it were cheap. Unfortunately, at £20,095, it isn't.

To put that into perspective, you can buy either a Seat Leon 1.8 TSI 180 FR, Renault Clio RS 200, Mini Cooper S, Fiesta ST3, BMW 116 SE or Audi A1 1.4 TFSI 140 Sport for that kind of money. In fact, all bar the Leon are available for less than £20,000.

Whether you are interested in style, performance, handling finesse, practicality or comfort, all the cars on that list will do some or nearly all those things brilliantly, whereas the DS3 majors on relative mediocrity.

Citroen wants its DS3 DSport Plus to be considered as a premium contender to the rival Mini, but hasn't quite equipped it with the tools to pull it off. It's not a million miles away, and these upgrades move the DSport in the right direction, but it'll need more to see eye-to-eye with the best. 

Citroen DS3 DSport Plus THP 165

Price £21,095; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbo, petrol; Power 161bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 177lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1225kg; Top speed 135mph; 0-62mph 7.5sec; Economy 50.4mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 129g/km, 18%

Join the debate

Comments
6

28 January 2015
First time I've heard a DS3 ride described as "The ride, especially at low speed, is harsh" for this type of car, I've only ever heard it descriped as compliant and soft compared to the Cooper S and Fiesta ST. Anyhow my main bug bear is that is has SOS button, LED headlights etc but you can't get a factory fitted DAB radio (at least you couldn't with the current version), unforgiveable on a £20,000 car! Makes it worst as I otherwise love the look and what the car stands for.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

28 January 2015
Although I'm not surprised from Autocar. The ride definitely isn't harsh in comparison to a MINI. In fact the majority of people that get into mine (granted, diesel) always say it's smooth. It's also unfair to describe the cruise control buttons and radio controls as "hidden" behind the steering wheel. They're FAR MORE ergonomically positioned than cars that have the controls on top of the steering wheel because you don't have to look down; you just know where the controls are. Harsh verdict from Autocar once again; but I'd suggest that this car is better off with the 120bhp diesel engine anyway. Much better fusion of economy and fun handling (which I think is subjective anyway).


"Work hard and be nice to people"

28 January 2015
Tester is right about the driving position though - I have a soft-spot for most PSA cars but they really need to employ some decent ergonomists. The DS3 I rented a few months ago had pedals the size of postage stamp. Added to the stretched-arms driving-position, frankly it's something that would put me off buying a car. That's one area where VAG have PSA completely beaten.

28 January 2015
Autocar : "In the DSport the body control is merely average. [...] The DS3 feels safe and secure, but if you crave playful and fun, you’ll be left disappointed."

Autocar, have you tested the car?!

I had a DS3 THP 155, its handling was sporty and exciting, with a participating rear as many sports Citroën.

Michael Knight, you're right.
It's the same with a lot of french cars.
I have the impression that the referent person is 1,50m tall.
In the german cars, the setup ranges are generally taller.

28 January 2015
I'm glad its not me that has problems with the DS3's driving position. I really like this Citroen, and I've been so close to buying one a number of times but having to drive arms stretched out all the time is so tiring. Some more rearward travel on the seat, and a lot more steering reach adjustment (as in the MINI) would make all the difference to this lanky-legged driver.

28 January 2015
I meant I'm glad its not JUST me..... (wish you could still edit posts..)

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