The most popular version among buyers is the 1.6-litre petrol engine producing 154bhp; that’s closer to the Mini Cooper S’s level of grunt than a mere Cooper’s, and the performance backs that up. Which is to say that the turbocharged Citroën DS3 does feel like a hot supermini rather than a fashion item.
Citroën claims a 0-62mph time of 7.3sec, and our 0-60mph time of 7.7sec – set on a slightly damp test track – supports that. This pace is comfortably clear of the Mini Cooper and only slightly shy of the Cooper S.
What impresses most is the manner of the power delivery; not chasing a headline figure has allowed Citroën to give the THP unit an excellent spread of power and torque, to the point where it really doesn’t feel like a turbocharged powerplant.
The 118bhp naturally aspirated 1.6 is lacking in excitement compared with the turbo. The diesels may have economy on their side, but they’re no great shakes when it comes to putting a smile on your face.
The entry-level 81bhp 1.2-litre three-pot engine, which replaced the 1.4-litre four that was part of the original engine line-up, hasn't been sampled in the DS3, but our experience of it in the Peugeot 208 suggests that its performance is mediocre.
As you would expect, given the huge price differential, the DS3 Racing offered a marked improvement in performance. With 204bhp from an uprated version of the DSport's 1.6-litre turbo, the Racing was capable of 0-60mph in just 6.5sec and a top speed of nearly 150mph.
Should you want to overtake in a hurry – or you just fancy getting involved – the transmission surprises by adding to the experience. We’re still not entirely convinced by the five-speed gearboxes in some DS3s, which often feel sloppy even when new. But the six-speed unit in the higher-spec models is a revelation for the brand; it’s slick and precise, with a positive action.
More basic DS3s make do with drum brakes at the rear, but the DSport gets discs all round (283mm ventilated items up front, 249mm solid ones at the rear). Overall stopping power is excellent; we were particularly impressed with its stability during our wet braking tests, and the overall figures are better than both the Mini and the Mito can manage. What’s more, there’s greater pedal feel than in any other Citroën of our recent acquaintance.