From £15,2155
The Performance Cabrio looks like it has all the ingredients to be a success, but the finished product is too compromised to be a real contender

What is it?

An ambitious and, let’s face it, rather questionable attempt to blend Parisian style with hot hatch substance. To DS, the idea of creating a DS 3 Performance sans roof makes sound business sense. Us Brits have an insatiable appetite for convertibles and a long-standing affection for hot hatches, so clearly combining the two would result in a best seller, right? Well, perhaps.

First impressions are positive. Like the hatchback, the Cabrio is powered by a 205bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder THP engine, a six-speed manual gearbox and lowered (by 15mm) sports suspension. The DS 3’s tracks also go out by 26mm at the nose and 14mm at the rear and Brembo-calipered 323mm brake discs are housed behind 18in alloy wheels.

Surprisingly, the Cabrio is only 25kg heavier than the standard DS 3, which represents a relatively small weight penalty for a cabriolet. Factor in an impressive 221lb ft and a Torsen limited-slip differential and the Cabrio shouldn’t be far behind the hatch in terms of real-world performance.  

What's it like?

Despite the fact that the Cabrio retains substantial-looking roof rails, the lack of a fixed centre section results in a package that shudders and bangs over the smallest of imperfections. It’s a genuine impediment on undulating B-roads, with this DS 3 never feeling truly locked onto the surface.

Thankfully, on smoother surfaces the Cabrio inspires more confidence. Due to its aggressive suspension set-up, the DS 3 resists body roll admirably, and the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres provide impressive levels of grip; we did eventually manage to tempt the rear-end to rotate, but it took some serious provocation.

However, like the hatch, the Cabrio suffers from steering that feels vague off-centre, a characteristic that had us second-guessing our inputs on the way in to faster corners. Granted, once turned in, the DS 3 does settle, but it never flows down the road in the same satisfying manner as a Mini Cooper S Cabriolet or Fiesta ST.

In a straight line, the DS 3 is undoubtedly quick, with a 0-62mph time of just 6.5sec. But the little four-pot – the same unit as found in the Peugeot 208 GTi – never feels as powerful as the raw numbers would suggest thanks to a characterless engine note and a mid-range that lacks real punch.

However, the biggest disappointment ultimately comes down to the Performance’s six-speed gearbox. The ratios have been shortened to give better acceleration and to make the car more engaging to drive, but the shift is simply too long and indistinct to work through in a hurry. Compared to the competition it feels positively archaic.  

Inside, the cabin looks almost identical to that of the standard car, with a pair of wing-back sports seats being the only telling enhancement. However, if you tick the box for the £2000 Performance Black trim, you also receive a rather questionable gold dashboard, swatches of carbonfibre and a gloss black gear lever surround.

Is it worth the extra outlay? No, not really, but the majority of buyers are likely to be image conscious, so it's likely to be a popular option. 

Should I buy one?

When we tested the DS3 Performance hatchback earlier this year, we found it to be too expensive and too compromised to count as a real contender in the fiercely competitive hot hatch sector. So when you consider that the DS3 Performance Cabrio is less dynamically polished than the hatch and a whopping £1850 (plus £2000 for our car's Black trim) more expensive, it becomes very difficult to recommend.

Back to top

Ultimately, if you have your heart set on an open-top DS 3, you’d be better off opting for the less powerful 128bhp three-cylinder petrol variant. It offers the same open-air enjoyment of the Performance, yet is significantly cheaper to run and the engine is strong enough for occasional B-road fun.

Or if outright performance is high on your agenda, you’d be better off opting for the well-rounded Mini Cooper S Cabriolet. It’s more comfortable, handles more competently and is more likely to hold its value. 

Neil Winn

2016 DS 3 Performance Cabrio Black

Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £23,295; Engine 4 cyls, 1598cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 210bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 221lb ft at 3000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1241kg; 0-62mph 6.5sec; Top speed 143mph; Economy 52.3mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 125g/km, 22%

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Add a comment…
bowsersheepdog 19 August 2016

Shocking forecast

Leaky roof combined with French electrics. What could possibly go wrong.
catnip 17 August 2016

Maybe the small weight

Maybe the small weight penalty over the hatch is a reflection of the fact Citroen (DS) have done little to strengthen the body of this version. I don't get this sort of Cabriolet: You lose the hatchback versatility and your rear visibility, yet get little more than a full length sunroof. What's the point?
inside_man 17 August 2016

Gold Dashboard???

Unfortunately that dash just makes it look like the numerous badly modified saxo's of old where the owners had taken a can of spray paint to various internal panels - horribly gharish...