Well, it still looks the part. The standard model’s compact good looks well suit the subtle bodykit treatment; bigger, wider wheels under lower arches, a more serious looking rear spoiler and diffuser plus polished twin exhaust are all that’s really required for the DS 3 to convincingly growl ‘hot hatch’. Ditto the inside, where a tumescent pair of sports seats are the only telling enhancement.
To drive, its more persistent personality is unmistakable from the get go. At low speeds, the stock DS 3 is a bubbly, undemanding steer; fidgety of ride and only modestly refined – a throwback supermini, even in its facelifted format. The Performance, as you might expect, takes it all up a notch – both the good and the bad.
The firmness, certainly, gets that bit more stringent on lowered springs, and there is no clever hydraulic bump stops or adjustable dampers to save the body from the occasional jarring pitfall. The steering, meanwhile, gets a good deal more directional heft, which is immediately discernible away from centre.
It is very keen too, although perhaps not in the explosive, free-revving way which might convince you there was any more power on tap than you get in the current Fiesta ST. Despite ramping up peak twist in the mid range, the four-pot does sometimes feel a little flat and has none of the Ford’s amplified burble to keep you rooting for it.
If the forced-induction whininess doesn’t exactly help, the gear change qualifies as genuine impediment. The Performance’s shortened ratios are all well and good, but the ‘box that accesses them is far too ungainly and snag-happy to work through in a hurry. Its lack of oily, palm-cheering intimacy is glaring when you consider the rival options.
The quality of the competition is also hard to forget when you start cornering in earnest. The regular DS 3 makes a very decent fist of body control and lateral grip – so it’s no surprise that both are incrementally improved by the Performance, which chews through the apexes competently enough; its exit bearing neatened by the unobtrusive diff if you stray close enough to the limit.
What’s missing though, conspicuously, is the rampant sense of fun which separates class-leading fast superminis from the merely accomplished ones. The DS 3 goes through the motions well enough and isn’t the least bit resistant to being taken by the scruff of the neck – yet its engine is too toneless, its gearbox too raggedy, its ride quality too unsophisticated and its appeal not three-dimensional enough to shine with anything like the consistency of its peers.