A decent, if not game changing hot-hatch, but expensive

What is it?

Having driven the prototype earlier this year, this is the final production version of the DS3 Racing. To avoid any confusion, despite what the Racing tag might suggest, this is a road car. The reason for the name, that the DS3 R has been engineered and part assembled by Citroen Racing, which is responsible for Citroen’s rather successful rally cars.

Using the 150 DSport as a starting point the Racing uses the same 1.6-litre engine, but with the turbocharger turned up to give 204bhp (more than the prototype). Other modifications include a 30mm wider track, a 15mm lower ride height and larger front brakes.

To ensure the DS3 R stands apart from the lesser versions, it is being offered in just two colour schemes (black with orange, or white with grey), and the exterior is festooned with carbonfibre. The result is a look that’s clearly not for the shy and retiring - and strictly speaking the only parts that are necessary are the wheel arch extensions - but we imagine many people will love the way the DS3 R looks.

And credit to Citroen too for doing the job properly – because what you see is what you get - this is real carbonfibre. Completing the look are larger wheels and optional stickers.

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.

Back to top

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.

Jamie Corstorphine

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

Join the debate

Add a comment…
petrolheadinrussia 28 December 2010

Re: Citroën DS3 Racing

Doing some catch up reading over crimbo. This is going to be a top seller. Makes the expensive Renault redundant and with a certain Mr. Loeb tootling around in one - well it has to be a great success. What I love are the power figures for such a nice farting little motor. I remember the last time I had 200bhp set of wheels it needed either 1.8 (Audi turbo) or my favourite old Q car the Rover 620 Ti . But a 1.6 with MORE is nothing short of riotous. As an ex rallyman (15 years of it mainly in Greece when I lived there - and included the Acropolis!) I find this little bugger irresistable. Give me my youth back please!!

Mini1 13 December 2010

Re: Citroën DS3 Racing

michael knight wrote:
Have seen very few DS3s on the roads...are they selling?
I've seen loads... maybe you're not noticing them. Then again, I think it depends which part of the country you're in - cars are often more popular in some places than they are in others. It's certainly been a runaway success for Citroen from what I've heard.

ThwartedEfforts 13 December 2010

Re: Citroën DS3 Racing

tannedbaldhead wrote:

ThwartedEfforts wrote:
It's a nasty, cheap looking car from the Halfords school of design. Looks worse in the flesh than in photos as well.

I think you're doing the DS a bit of a dis-service here Thwarted old chap. I sat in one a couple of months back in a Citroen dealer next to the Peugeot's where I was looking at a RCZ I was considering as my next car. Something that really impressed me about both cars was the quality of their interiors which showed great progress over the French cars of old. I even visited Audi, BM and Volvo dealers to bring me up to speed on their latest offerings and the French pair stood up well to comparison.

I'll bet it drives well too. The Xara VTS I had as a courtesy car whilst a company Xantia was in for a service several years ago still sticks in my mind as one of the best front drives I have driven (praise indeed considering I have owned an Alfasud, a VW Corrado and a Peugeot 306) and thus I'm not surprised Top Gear named it their Car Of The Year whilst 5th Gear have it as Small Car of The Year. Where it does fall down is exterior asthetics. Pick the wrong colour combination and I think the DS is a car that can go horribly horribly wrong. Pick the right colour and the car call only manage to look not quite right which for a coupe selling its self on style should give cause for concern.

don't forget that my missus has a latest gen. C5 with the big V6 biturbo in it so I know all about what to expect of new French cars, i.e. not what one would expect given old French cars.

My complaint with the DS doesn't lie with the kind of thunk the door makes or the robustness of the hinge on the centre armrest (a pet hate of mine) but with the external appearance and hence the quip about Halfords. Plus the fact it is trading off the name of one of the most remarkable - if not the most remarkable - car of all time, a deception of marketing that really makes my toes curl.

You said yourself quite plainly, "Where it does fall down is exterior asthetics" - and on that score you'll have no argument from me. Because that is my argument. I too think it probably drives rather nicely but I just can't get past those Sony PlayStation2 looks which we both know will look dated by this time next Thursday...