The DS 3 is certainly a striking-looking car, especially when finished in the most daring of the numerous colour combinations. Its defining design features are a ‘shark’s fin’ B-pillar and ‘floating roof’. Together with a vertical array of LED lights mounted either side of the front bumper, bold alloy wheels, boomerang front and rear lights, and DS badging, they give the DS 3 a unique style of its own.
The DS 3’s cabin features soft-touch materials and glossy panels that give it an impressive feeling of class, while the thoughtfully designed dials and funky touches add a fair dose of sophistication. That’s before you’ve even begun to start customising your car’s interior with the vast array of colour options available for the fascia panels, air-vent surrounds and upholstery. These can be selected to match – or clash – with the car’s exterior colour, depending on your preference. In terms of ergonomics, the dials and switches work well enough, although some functions are tucked away in the touch-screen sub-menus. All models have a height-adjustable driver’s seat and two-way adjustment on the steering wheel, so most folk will find it easy to adopt a comfortable driving position. It’s not so easy to see out of the back, though, due to the small rear windows.
The DS 3 has a much bigger boot than the Mini and Fiat 500, with 285 litres that can be can expanded to 980 litres with the rear seats folded down. However, to put that in context, it’s similar to what you get from a ‘regular’ supermini like a Ford Fiesta. Sadly, although there’s plenty of room up front, the amount of interior space you get isn’t as generous in the back; the seats are very short on both headroom and legroom, making them a no-go area for tall adults. The three-door-only body style also means that accessing the back seats takes a little contortionism.
Ride and handling
Grip is strong and the body control is tight, so the DS 3 feels alert and agile in faster bends. However, it doesn’t have the same balance or responsiveness as the Mini, and the steering doesn’t give as much feedback. As a result, it’s not as enjoyable to fling down your favourite county road. What’s more, the DS 3’s hard suspension saddles it with a punishing ride, so it’s not as comfortable as a Mini, either. To top things off, the amount of road noise you hear at motorway speeds spoils the car’s refinement. The powerful Performance models are more hardcore still, so the ride is even harsher.
It’s easy to see why the 1.6-litre THP 210 engine option will hit the spot with hot hatch fans
The latest advances in 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engines means they are likely to take star billing from the previously dominant diesel engines in the DS 3 line up, especially the turbocharged 128bhp version. Although a little flat below 2000rpm, it’s encouragingly strong and flexible above this point and happy to rev long and hard. If it has a weakness, it’s the high levels of boom it generates when lugging higher gears and cruising at motorway speeds. It’s easy to see why the 1.6-litre THP 210 engine option will hit the spot with hot hatch fans. Muscular and flexible when driven in a relaxed manner, it transforms into a fizzy and rev-hungry monster when you stamp on it. There are two diesel engines available, 1.6s with either 98bhp or 118bhp, but we’ve only tried the higher-powered unit. It gives strong, smooth acceleration, but its flexibility is hampered somewhat by tall gearing.
The DS 3’s residual values are very good, although they still can’t match the exceptionally strong values achieved by an equivalent Mini. Fuel economy is pretty fair, the three-cylinder petrol engines coming close to diesel levels of economy. Even the potent THP 210 turbocharged petrol engine is claimed to better 50mpg, which is impressive given its power and performance. Both the diesels, meanwhile, can better 75mpg, and the correspondingly low CO2 emissions – and tax liabilities – make them the obvious choice for company car drivers.
The DS 3 ranks impressively highly in the JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey
The DS 3 is a Citroen in all but name, and the French company has suffered some stick for the reliability of its cars in the past, but that’s not supported by what the various studies say. The brand currently sits in the top half of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings, and the DS 3 ranks impressively highly in the JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey.
The DS 3 has been awarded the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, scoring 87% for adult occupant protection. All trim levels come with anti-lock brakes and stability control as standard, as well as six airbags and ISOFIX rear child seat anchor points.
Top-of-the-range Ultra Prestige trim adds a reversing camera and full leather upholstery
The entry-level Chic trim has some very nice features, including a 7.0-inch colour touch-screen, cruise control, a leather-bound steering wheel with audio controls, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and alloy wheels to add to the remote locking and electric front windows you’d expect. Elegance trim adds even more styling goodies, including darkened rear windows and LED front foglamps, while moving up to Prestige trim adds 17-inch alloys, sat-nav and Alcantara seat trim. In amongst its additional design fripperies, top of the range Ultra Prestige adds a reversing camera and full leather upholstery. The Performance models, too come in a choice of trims that echo the higher-end trims available on the rest of the range.
By any objective measurement the DS 3 is a disappointing car to drive: its uncomfortable ride and high levels of road noise are especially disappointing. However, for many prospective buyers, the distinctive looks, high-quality interior and myriad customising options will no doubt compensate for any short comings in the way it behaves on the road. Even so, if we were spending this this type of money, we’d head straight to the nearest Mini showroom.