The artist and fashionista supermini formerly known as the Citroën DS3 made a splash when it was launched in 2010, but ekeing out its success story over a full model cycle is proving a challenge for the newly founded DS Automobiles.
Worldwide, the DS 3 has now reached almost 400,000 owners, and nowhere is it more popular than in the UK. But its popularity is slowly declining.
By 2015, fewer than 50,000 units were being delivered inside the EU – in a year when Mini almost tripled that tally with three-door and five-door hatchbacks.
Attempts to keep orders flooding in have included the introduction of the 3 Cabriolet in 2013 and the update of most of the car’s engine range, its styling and its equipment over several gradual steps since.
But now comes a bigger overhaul.
New styling, new engines, new infotainment features and a new hot hatch derivative are the ingredients being used here to spice up the 3’s recipe. And we’re taking an interest, because the 3 is car we rated highly at its launch for its frothy performance and rounded, engaging handling.
The headline additions to the range are the new 128bhp turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder PureTech version and the new 207bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre 3 Performance variant that’s out to give Mini John Cooper Works buyers a little pause for thought.
The version we’re testing is, in its own way, as rare a bird as the 207bhp tyre-shredder: a 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel supermini that promises to mix sub-10.0sec 0-60mph sprinting with 70mpg-topping fuel economy for less than £20,000.
Peppy diesels remain uncommon among small hatchbacks, it’s falling to the premium brands – such as DS, Mini, Audi and Alfa Romeo – and their more generous profit margins to supply them. So is this a good one and should we grab it where we can?