From £15,2157
New powertrain strengthens DS 3’s case, just as inconsistent cabin quality and ageing fittings weaken it

Our Verdict

DS 3 Prestige

Reworked supermini aims to take the fight to, among others, Mini

What is it?

This is the latest version of the DS 3 supermini – as of 1 May, without a mention of Citroën anywhere on the car, or on the brochure. The French car maker wants the DS premium brand to stand on its own two feet and is investing in five all-new or renewed models over the next five years to lure customers into showrooms. Eventually, even the famous double chevron will disappear from the car’s radiator grille.

The DS 3 received what could be thought of as the first half of a mid-life refresh last year, with new petrol and diesel engines, new headlights and a styling refresh hitting the range. Now comes a torque converter automatic version of PSA’s turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder ‘Puretech’ petrol engine, as well as a new touchscreen multimedia system and some additions to the colour and trim palette.

The 109bhp Puretech petrol engine replaces PSA’s old 118bhp 1.6-litre normally aspirated petrol unit, trumping it on torque and emissions by about 30%. It’s expected to be a fairly significant part of the sales mix, with petrol autos accounting for more than 10% of UK sales of Mini Coopers and Audi A1s.

What's it like?

The DS 3 is likeable and as pleasing to drive as its predecessors were – but it isn't as easy to recommend as it was five years ago.

The Puretech turbo engine certainly adds strength to the DS 3 range where it was notably lacking. We’ve always rated the 1.6-litre turbo petrol versions of the car, and now there’s another, more affordable derivative with similarly zesty performance to match its agile, natural-feeling handling.

The engine is a little more raucous than rival turbo triples and sends eddies through the body structure of the car around idle, but otherwise it balances refinement against spirited character well. Accelerator pedal response is just soft enough to allow you to detect the presence of forced induction, but the engine creates bountiful torque at low and medium crank speeds, making swift progress easy. It also revs willingly to beyond 6000rpm.

The gearbox is good enough to make a virtue out of both. It takes a split-second to react to a plunged right foot, but invariably chooses its ratios well, and allows the engine to work towards high revs rather than shifting in and out of them. Performance levels are sprightly enough to engage your interest, but not at the expense of genuinely modern fuel economy.

The DS 3’s handling complements that enthusiastic performance. Its makers talk, in confusing but endearingly Gallic terms, about a concept called ‘dynamic hyper-comfort’: the fusion, they claim, of a taut but compliant ride with class-leading seating comfort and acoustic cabin refinement. Obviously.

What matters is that the DS 3 remains one of the more pleasing driver’s cars in the premium supermini ranks. Handling is crisp and balanced, yet natural, communicative and uncontrived with it. The steering is consistently and sensibly paced, with decent feedback and weight that builds as you add lock. Ride quality, meanwhile, is taut yet reasonably pliant.

In the cabin, the car’s new touchscreen multimedia system is a worthwhile improvement on what went before, particularly so for mid-spec cars (the system is standard on DStyle trim and upwards). But it’s still not as good as the equivalent systems offered by Audi and Mini, with blocky-looking sat-nav mapping and iffy usability.

Elsewhere, rich leathers and colourful foils decorate the cabin to agreeable effect, but behind them the DS 3’s fascia mouldings and switchgear materials aren’t as solid or as apparently expensive as they should be.

A big boot and fairly generous rear seats make for adequate practicality, but there’s no five-door bodystyle here – something that both the Mini hatchback and Audi A1 now offer.

Should I buy one?

The DS 3 certainly remains the DS brand’s best individual model – and this version balances price against ease of use, performance and driver engagement better than most.

This tester would still consider it a strong if slightly left-field alternative to the Audi A1 and a more desirable prospect than a lot of the more sensible but more worthy new superminis from mainstream brands.

But with a greatly improved Mini hatchback now on the scene, it’s hard to imagine DS 3 sales continuing to propel the brand’s success like once they did – whether the car has got a Citroen badge on its tailgate or not.

DS 3 Puretech 110 auto

Location Paris; On sale Now; Price £17,495; Engine 3 cyls, 1199cc, turbo, petrol; Power 109bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 151lb ft at 1500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1090kg; Top speed 117mph; 0-62mph tbc; Economy 60.1mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 108g/km, 16%  

 

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Comments
6

6 May 2015
No 5-door option is neither here, nor there. Sure, a 5-door option would be nice. But don't pretend that a 5-door MINI is more practical (or spacious) than this 3-door DS3. Because it flippin' well isn't. The middle seat in the back of a MINI 5-door is all but unusable (I speak from experience). You can at least fit people in the back of a DS3 and have them be reasonably comfortable.


"Work hard and be nice to people"

7 May 2015
Emm "similarly zesty performance " as the 1.6 turbo, not quite that 1.6 is around 160 hp and is considerabily quicker. Like to think the replacement is a bit sooner than hinted at in the test as the interior is beginning to show it's age in an otherwise fine looking car. ALSO in a near £18,000 car I hope you can finnaly have DAB as it's available in nearly all super mini's, think it's even standard in the Fiesta.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

7 May 2015
Autocar wrote:

Ride quality, meanwhile, is taut yet reasonably pliant.

Either the ride has been massively fettled since I had mine or Autocar have different criteria for what constitutes 'pliant'. #Skateboard


7 May 2015
The problem for DS, the brand, is that it has three pretty lackluster models. The DS3 is the best, but it's getting on a bit. The DS4 is the worst and should never have been released. The DS5 is interesting but nowhere near good enough.

DS sales in France are falling faster than just about any other brand, so they'll have to do something pretty quick or the whole DS experiment will come to an end.

9 May 2015
I like the DS3 but can't help wondering that they should have fixed the more pressing issues first, before tinkering with equipment levels. It's the same in the Cactus I tried; really poor seat-pedal relationship with the result that it's not a pleasant car to get comfortable in. Citroen need to invest in a decent fully-telescopic steering coloumn, and hire some decent VAG ergonomists to sort out the seat/wheel/pedal packaging.

11 May 2015
michael knight wrote:

I like the DS3 but can't help wondering that they should have fixed the more pressing issues first, before tinkering with equipment levels. It's the same in the Cactus I tried; really poor seat-pedal relationship with the result that it's not a pleasant car to get comfortable in. Citroen need to invest in a decent fully-telescopic steering coloumn, and hire some decent VAG ergonomists to sort out the seat/wheel/pedal packaging.

Or someone from MINI. I've nearly bought a DS3 on a couple of occasions, but I really cant put up with the driving position: Having to drive with my arms stretched out when the seat is fully back is really tiring. The MINI is one of the few small cars that offers more than enough room for my lanky legs and big feet, and lets me have a comfortable steering wheel position. I'm interested in the Cactus,but I fear that when I try it it will be the same story as the DS3.

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