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.