The cheeky little DS3 is a car that blends just the right mix of style and practicality for June Neary.
Will It Suit Me?
I've always rather liked the idea of this car, once known as the Citroen DS3 but now merely badged 'DS3', a nod to its status as the entry-level model for the Peugeot Citroen Group's new luxury DS brand. Now it's been updated to reflect its fresh marque status, though remains still sharp enough in the styling department to be a head turner in town but with enough space inside for me to get on with it on a daily basis. A promising start.
Although the basic silhouette of the DS3 seems typically supermini, I must say that I was instantly in love with the detailing. From that 'shark fin' B-pillar and the contrasting roof panel to the vertical strips of LED running lights that flank the front grille and the distinct sill line connecting the wheelarches, the DS3 is seriously unconventional, now featuring the smart DS-style nose with its sculpted 'wings'. It has the look of a concept car but the DS people have built it and you can buy it. Inside, the cabin is much as before, but benefits from the addition of a freshly-added 7-inch colour infotainment screen that incorporates the latest smartphone-compatible technology. There are smarter trim choices too and the option of classic DS 'watchstrap leather' seating and laser engraving on the dashboard trim and the door mirrors. It's easy enough to park at just 3.95m long and it's about the same width as a Ford Fiesta but you get a bit more interior space. It's a three-door-only design - the only bodystyle option to the tin-top model I tried is a fabric folding Cabrio version. Still, it's reasonably practical. There are three seat belts in the back and the designers have created additional legroom by fitting some rather natty lightweight sculpted front seats. In the tail, the boot is 285-litres, which is large for the supermini class and 60:40 split rear seats give options for extending that capacity still further.
Behind the Wheel
The DS3 feels pleasantly sparky with a sporty feel to the suspension, which may be a touch busy for some tastes, and direct steering. The chassis provides high grip levels with taut body control and the DS3 can be a hoot on twisty roads where the opportunity to make the most of that engine arises. The gearbox is the slickest unit that I've tried on any Peugeot Citroen-derived design for a long time. Even though it's slightly notchy, there's good weight and a positive feel to the shifting action. Although the driving position may not suit everyone with its widely spaced and slightly offset pedals, the wide scope of adjustment offered by the steering column and seat should accommodate most body shapes. Under the bonnet, the key changes with this revised model centre on the introduction of a more efficient EAT6 automatic gearbox and a pokier 130bhp three cylinder 1.2-litre PureTech petrol powerplant. In all, seven engines are on offer, including an entry-level 110bhp PureTech petrol unit. There are also two THP four-cylinder petrol units, with the top 'Performance' model putting out 208bhp. Plus, as before, there are two 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesels. In my opinion, if you really want to see the DS3 at its best, forget about the diesels and head straight to the 1.6 THP engine. This gives the car some real zip and unlike many turbo engines it never feels baggy if you're caught in the wrong gear.
Value For Money
The sum of around £19,000 didn't seem unduly expensive for the 1.6THP DSport model that I tried, although I'm told that dealers are open to a spot of negotiation and if you're willing to be bold, some quite sizeable discounts can be gained. Prices actually start a lot more affordably than that: you're looking at only just over £13,000 for the entry-level PureTech 82 petrol version, though there's quite a premium - £2,000 or more - if you want the fabric-topped Cabrio version. Safety equipment includes ESP stability control as standard an advanced ABS braking system and six airbags. Like many of the trendier models out there at the moment, the DS3 makes a vast range of personalisation options available so customers can ensure that their car is suitably different to the one down the street. The roof comes in four colours, there are numerous finishes for the mirrors and rubbing strips, there are different wheel colours, six dashboard colours, five gear knobs and whichever bodywork colour you choose, you get a matching key fob. Nice.
Could I Live With One?
The DS3 is exactly my sort of car. It's fun, it doesn't feel as if it ever takes itself too seriously, it won't cost a fortune to run and it even has a halfway practical side. It's hard not to fall for its sheer chutzpah.