This time last year the two cars that I was itching to drive were the two-cylinder Fiat 500 and the Ferrari 458 Italia.

So why are neither my most memorable car of 2010? Well, even though the Fiat’s got character in spades and is an interesting answer to the problem of making more frugal cars, its real-world economy didn’t impress us at all – despite the ‘official’ figures.

And the Ferrari? Even better than I expected it to be, but then I even expected that.

Which brings me to the car that massively exceeded my expectations this year: the Citroën DS3 THP 150.

A year ago I already knew that I liked the look of it. I also admired Citroën’s ambition to create DS as a new sub-brand in an attempt to lift itself above the ‘pile ‘em high sell ‘em cheap’ image it has garnered. What I couldn’t quite square was the ambition for it to be a genuine rival to the Mini as a car to buy and own. Especially when it is so heavily based on the rather ordinary C3 supermini.

Yet as long as you have the 1.6-litre turbo version, the DS3 is an absolute joy. It’s swift, fun to drive and makes you feel good about life. Just like the Mini in fact. It also feels just as solid as the Mini (and the one in the office we’ve been thrashing for the past six months seems to bear this out). Unlike the Mini you can also contemplate ferrying three passengers around too.

Perhaps the toughest test of all though is that it seems to have passed the scrutiny of the fashion police. My bit of West London is Mini-central. And now it’s beginning to be populated with plenty of DS3s.

Job done all round it seems.