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The next phase of DS's premium push hits the UK with this new small crossover, but can it deal with the competition?
Autocar
17 April 2019

What is it?

With the DS 3 hatchback not long for this world, the last physical ties between the DS brand and parent Citroën are almost cut.

The 7 Crossback was the first stand-alone model unique to the luxury-tilting DS marque and set out its stall with a distinctive cabin and an exterior that caught the eye. Now the 3 Crossback is here to take the fight to a bigger audience, albeit still a somewhat niche one.

The small premium crossover segment may be relatively small beans, but it is dominated by two big hitters in the shape of the Mini Countryman and Audi Q2 – and now the Volkswagen T-Roc is starting to muscle in.

The 3 Crossback is important to more than just the DS brand, because it provides the first taste of the CMP platform that will underpin a slew of forthcoming PSA Group cars that include the Peugeot 208 and the next Vauxhall Corsa. In addition, it will be the first DS car available with pure-electric power as well as conventional petrol and diesel engines when the E-Tense version arrives in September this year.

In the meantime, the 3 Crossback is available with three flavours of the 1.2-litre three-cylinder PureTech petrol: 100bhp, 128bhp and 153bhp, the last two featuring an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. The sole diesel option is a 101bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

Trim levels are Elegance, Performance Line, Prestige and the range-crowning Ultra Prestige, with a launch edition dubbed La Première that adds some unique design details and extra technology from the options list.

What's it like?

Immediately impactful, not least because its design is a little more daring than its bigger brother's. The wide-cheeked, curvaceous nose echoes that of the 7 Crossback, but it continues the theme down the flanks with a deep scallop that flicks up into the side window and leads into a bulbous arch that match the front.

This is a car with no shortage of junk in its trunk, and while that might turn off some potential buyers, it’s easy to see others getting a kick from its modern freshness. The term ‘avant-garde’ is punted around with abandon in the car's accompanying PR blurb, but you certainly can’t accuse the 3 Crossback of being boring.

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Step inside and there is more evidence of stylistic bravery, although the accountants clearly had an overall veto on all decisions. It is a trigonometrists’ dream in here, with not a roundel in sight and every button or display framed by intersecting angles. It’s also quite dark. Most of the interior options are black on black or paired with dark colours, and the narrow window frames reduce the amount of light coming in.

There is also something of a quality tide mark inside, too, with the pleasant materials above the waterline and the cheaper, tougher parts-bin elements saved for lower down. In practical terms, there is good space for occupants front and rear, making the 3 Crossback viable transport for four adults, and boot and oddment space are competitive, although the glovebox's capacity suffers from the car's conversion to right-hand drive.

The 1.5-litre diesel is clearly not the most refined of units but the sound deadening does a good job of shielding you from its worst outbursts, so you are only ever aware of its busyness rather than disturbed by it. Its performance is also strictly adequate: 0-62mph takes 11.4sec and full-throttle acceleration keeps you with the pack rather than putting you in front of it. The pay-off is strong economy, with up to 62.7mpg combined under WLTP rules, and so long as you are realistic with your demands, it allows the 3 Crossback to cruise in comfort.

Dynamically, the 3 Crossback also seems to fall between two stools. Despite running on 17in alloy wheels in Prestige specification, it tolerates enthusiastic driving rather than displaying any relish for it. The steering is accurate but suffers from slightly curious weighting off centre and little in the way of communication, while the suspension is slightly on the stiff side of the middle ground. There is a little body roll when pressing on, but more of a concern is how frequently it picks out small and medium imperfections in the road surface.

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Should I buy one?

Although the 3 Crossback offers no class-leading attributes in terms of its driving experience, it does at least provide something distinctive and appealing in a segment where style has a big influence on purchasing - or leasing - decisions. If you’ve never driven one of the competition, it could prove to be a satisfying ownership prospect, all the while giving you something to admire on the driveway when you put it to bed for the night.

But what really hurts the 3 Crossback is the pricing strategy, which contrives to make the Audi Q2 and Mini Countryman look like suspiciously good value. An equivalent Q2 is within £1000, while a 2.0-litre diesel with quattro four-wheel drive and an S-tronic gearbox is within £500 of our test car. It may well be that the best of the 3 Crossback is yet to come, with the E-Tense version offering around 180 miles of range, an 80% battery charge in 30 minutes and 134bhp - all for £32,850 in Prestige trim.

Matt Joy

DS 3 Crossback specification

Where London Price £27,105 On sale Now Engine 4 cyls, 1499cc, diesel Power 101bhp at 3500rpm Torque 185lb ft at 1750rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1205kg Top speed 112mph 0-62mph 11.4sec Fuel economy 54.4-62.7mpg CO2 97-102g/km Rivals Audi Q2, Mini Countryman, Volkswagen T-Roc

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Join the debate

Comments
16
Add a comment…
alfie4 19 April 2019

ds3

No Thanks, I'll wait for the Alfa Tonale - that dash and it's array of geometric vents and switch housing would make you googly eyed! Fit and finish especially where the top of the dash meets the meets the vent housing looks dubious... What's the story these days with all these wanton slashes across the side of cars! Can we not keep it pure and emotive, not contrived!

That's my sixpence worth....

SilasGordon 19 April 2019

 I assume VW and Audi diesels

 I assume VW and Audi diesels that are equipped with emissions cheating software will not pass my state's motor vehicle emissions test. 

xxxx 18 April 2019

DS

Mentioned before about their range and falling sales, with this £27k effort it's almost as if they know the writings on the wall

Rick Maverick 18 April 2019

More to the Wall theme: Different Spirit

This car is destined to remain a wall flower. A left wing also ran. Which is a shame. The DS3 HB was / is a great funky car, still fresh after 6 years. The 'Sharkfin' element worked on the 3 doors HB, but radiates clumsiness here. For such a successful company as PSA (highest penetration of SUV's in the EU, highest margin, leaders in the lucrative LCV segment) it should have been wiser to tone down the DS3 CB design anomalies and chose a safer track not to lose a conservative client base.