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.