What’s it like?
It might sound like an obvious statement, but an evolution of 150DSport, rather than a transformation - by which I mean, as a consequence of its trip to the motorsport specialists the DS3 R does not feel like a completely different car.
But that is no bad thing, as the standard car is one of our favourites. The engine is noticeably stronger, but without any real compromise in low end response, and with a modified exhaust it also sounds more enthusiastic.
The steering is also improved. It is not going to rival the best hydraulic set-ups, but for an electric system it is really pretty good; although still a touch light, the weighting is at least consistent throughout the lock and there is reasonable feel. Which is useful, because if conditions are anything like those we faced during our test (wet and greasy) you’ll want to know what’s going on at the front axle.
With 215/40R18 tyres there is plenty of grip, and the Racing’s stiffer springs and wider track mean relatively little roll and good body control. However the DS3 R can struggle for traction – which is understandable with 203lbft of torque, but it is what happens when the torque overcomes the grip that’s a little disappointing.
The DS3 R has neither a limited slip differential or clever Revo-knuckle style suspension, which means at times you get torque steer at others a spinning inside wheel and understeer. We don’t expect full traction at all times, but perhaps a few more options how to manage it. With the DS3 R you either leave it to the ESP, which is a bit cautious, or ditch ESP entirely (something you can do here, unlike other DS3s) and live with the slip.
One further caveat, the ride at low speeds is firm – not so much to cause an issue on our Nice test route, but maybe in the UK. No complaints with the brakes though, which are huge for this size of car and don’t lack performance.
Should I buy one?
Overall this is a good hot-hatch, it is fast, agile, fun and certainly eye-catching. Whether it matters that it isn’t as engaging to drive as the Clio Cup depends on what you are looking for.
Certainly the DS3 R has a better appointed cabin. In truth though we suspect that the Clio and DS3 R will appeal to different buyers, and certainly different wallets. The £23,100 Citroen is asking, is over £6000 more than the Renault and the regular DS3.
Countering that, is relative exclusivity, only 200 (of a total production of 2000) DS3 Rs are coming to the UK, and the fact the Mini JCW costs £21,875. The real answer though is that with the carbonfibre, the DS3 R is clearly an expensive car to produce, and with the DS3’s current popularity, Citroen think the demand will sustain the high price. Despite a few reservations, we suspect it isn’t wrong.
Citroën DS 3 Racing
Price: £23,100; Engine: 4cyl in line, 1598cc, turbocharged; Power: 204bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 203lbft at 2000-4500rpm; 0-62mph: 6.5sec; Top speed: 146mph; Combined: 44.1mpg; CO2: 149g/km; Kerb weight: 1240kg; Gearbox: 6-spd manual