DS 3 Cabrio (2015 - 2019) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

The DS3 stylised performance compact cabrio was first launched with Citroen badging back in 2013, then re-launched as a stand-alone DS product when DS became a brand in its own right in 2015. It's this later 'DS' DS3 Cabrio that we look at here, a car that saw the brand through the next four years to the period where it could create its own bespoke designs. The change from 'Citroen' to 'DS' branding in 2015 was accompanied by a few changes, a light model refresh adding fresh engine options, more media connectivity and greater scope for individuality with this Cabrio bodystyle. This DS3 Cabrio is anything but a conventional convertible - but then, that's exactly why you might buy one. You don't get a full-blown folding roof, but then neither do you get the usual compromises in rear seat and luggage space - and there are no speed restrictions on soft top use. If you thought you could neither justify or afford a cabriolet, then this car aims to make you think again.

Models

3dr Cabrio (1.2, 1.6 petrol, 1.6 diesel [Chic, Elegance, DSign, DStyle, DSport])

History

The small affordable cabriolet. It's a lovely idea in principle, inexpensive open-roofed motoring for those rare occasions when the sun makes an appearance. In practice though, there are often frustrating compromises to be made in a car of this kind. Here's one though, that doesn't require you to make too many: the DS3 Cabrio.

Let us explain. Wouldn't it be nice if a model of this sort didn't buffet you roof-down and shimmy over bumps? Wouldn't it be neat if you could react instantly to the weather and retract its top at almost any speed? And wouldn't it be good if you could actually fit three people in the back if need be - and more than a token amount of luggage? None of the cars which most readily come to mind as affordable open-tops - say the MINI Convertible, the Fiat 500C or even the Mazda MX-5 - can satisfy on all these counts.

This one can. No, it's not a full-blown convertible - but then the French DS brand argues that to be a good thing, the resultant design better suited to enjoyment of our testing roads and changeable climate. It was first introduced in 2013, back then bearing Citroen badges. After that though, the PSA Group launched DS as a unique stand-alone premium brand and upgraded previous Citroen DS models like this one to comfortably sit within that new marque's growing product portfolio. Hence the re-launch of this car as the 'DS3 Cabrio' in the Spring of 2016, creating the car we're going to look at here.

There was more though, to this improved DS3 Cabrio than merely a different badge on the bonnet. Smarter styling was complemented by the addition of two fresh engines to the line-up, including one for the kind of properly potent hot hatch variant the standard model range had previously never had. There was also more equipment, extra scope for personalisation and, inside, extra media connectivity via a smartly hi-tech 7-inch colour touchscreen. It was all just about enough to sustain the car through to the end of 2019 when a new design based on a more modern CMP2 platform, the DS3 Crossback small SUV, took over.

What You Get

The move to full DS branding brought with it the opportunity to re-style the front end, where the vertical grille was changed to proudly incorporate the 'DS Wings' brand logo and extends smoothly into headlights that feature 'LED Vision' xenon technology on plusher variants.

At first glance you'd be forgiven for not realising this to be a soft top variant at all. After all, the profile of this model is identical to that of its fixed-top counterpart, the fabric opening section limited to the very top of the car. Actually though, the roof mechanism is quite sophisticated, made up of over 180 different parts and electrically operated by a button on the overhead console that, impressively, can retract the roof at any speed up to 75mph. Prodding the button once will slide the canvas back so that it concertinas like a busker's accordion above a rear screen which, if you continue to press the button, will hinge forward to lie on the parcel shelf, before the folded canvas sandwich motors back to take its place. As with the folding tops provided by most rivals, you'll find that when retracted, this one almost totally blocks rearward vision - hence the Cabrio variant's standard parking sensors. The roof acrobatics take only 16s from start to finish and when the whole thing's open, there's a pop-up wind deflector that springs out of the top roof rail to quell the worst of the turbulence.

Of course, when you do have the roof down, you don't want it to take up so much space at the back that there's no room for people or packages. In the DS3 Cabrio it doesn't. Take rear cargo space, accessible via a cantilevered boot lid that rises neatly outwards and upwards in a circular motion that means you can open it even when parked close to obstructions. It's unfortunate that once it is open, the aperture available is pretty small, though actually, the capacity on offer is greater than it first appears - 245-litres in all. That's 30-litres more than you'd get in a rival MINI Convertible and 63-litres more than you'd get in an equivalent Fiat 500C. Plus you can extend it by folding down the same 60/40 split-folding rear bench you'll find on the DS3 hatch, revealing up to 980-litres.

What You Pay

There's a premium of no more than around £400 to get this Cabrio model rather than the fixed-top version of the DS3. Prices for post-2015 DS3 Cabrios start at around £5,000 for the entry-level 1.2-litre 82bhp petrol variant in base 'DSign' trim, ranging up to around £6,100 for a later '17-plate model. Budget around £800 more for plusher 'DStyle' trim, at which point you'll also have the option of the perkier 110bhp version of this engine for around £300 more. Prices for the 1.6 THP petrol variant start at around £6,400 on a '15-plate with 'DStyle' trim, with values ranging up to around £6,200 for a later '17-plate car. For the 1.6 BlueHDi diesel, price start from around £6,200 on a '15-plate for a BlueHDi 100 'DStyle' variant, with values ranging up to around £7,900 for a later '17-plate car. Allow around £500 more for plusher 'Elegance' trim, at which point you'll be able to find another £200 or so to get the same engine in perkier BlueHDi 120bhp guise.

What to Look For

We should start by pointing out that as a whole, DS3 Cabrio owners are a very happy bunch. If your perception of DS / Citroens corresponds with unreliability, then it's time to change your perspective. The later post-2015-era DS3 range we're looking at here comes from a time when most of the original post-2010 model's teething issues had been sorted out. All that having been said, there have been faults reported and we found a number on our various surveys: you might want to look out for these on the used market.

There have been reports of sticky rear door hinges and a few owners have reported minor electrical faults, some connected to the wiring harness. One owner we came across had a windscreen wiper fuse blow. Another had experienced fuel sensor and fan cooling issues. Watch out for trim rattles, particularly in areas like the exterior rubbing strip. And a few petrol models have reported issues with light and temperature sensors, turbo pumps and cam chains. Not that there's any real issue with the turbo THP petrol engine that sustains pacier models. It was co-developed with BMW and is an excellent powerplant with a great reliability record. You'll find versions of this engine in cars such as the Peugeot 208 GTI and the MINI Cooper S, so it's tried and tested tech.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2015 DS3 Cabrio 1.6 BlueHDi 100) Parts prices won't break the bank, with an air filter priced in the £10 to £19 bracket, while a fuel filter costs around £21-£26 and an oil filter costs in the £10 to £11 bracket. A water pump will be priced in the £28 to £63 bracket, while a starter motor is around £66. On to brakes. A set of front pads tend to retail in the £14 to £44 bracket (rears £11-£30). Front brake discs retail in the £33 to £88 bracket, though you can pay up to around £128 if you go for a more expensive brand. Brake callipers retail in the £150 to £175 bracket. A radiator is around £85.

On the Road

Under the bonnet of mainstream Cabrio models, there's a wide choice of engines. For petrol people, there's a choice of either a 1.2-litre three cylinder PureTech unit or a 1.6-litre THP powerplant. Go for the PureTech variants and the range starts with a normally aspirated 82bhp derivative, but it's better to stretch to one of the turbo options, offering either 110 or 130bhp. The 'PureTech 110' variant is the only one in the range offering the option of automatic transmission - the PSA Group impressively efficient EAT6 gearbox. For more performance, you'll need the turbo THP unit. This was offered with 165bhp - or with 208bhp if you choose the 'Performance' hot hatch variant that was added in at the top of the range with the range to DS branding. This gets a wider track, lowered suspension, uprated brakes and a Torsen limited-slip differential.

As for diesel power, well there's a choice of either 100 or 120bhp versions of the PSA Group's usual 1.6-litre BlueHDi engine. These are impressively clean and frugal: expect 83.1mpg on the combined cycle and 87g/km of CO2 from the BlueHDi 100 variant, for example (both NEDC figures). Whatever engine you choose in your DS3, you should find the car good to drive: it certainly feels very different from the Citroen C3 supermini it's based upon. And with this Cabrio bodystyle, there's the added bonus of fresh air thrills whenever you want them, courtesy of a roof you can operate at speeds of up to 75mph.

Overall

You can see why the car struck such a chord with its customers. Even today, the basic shape looks fresh and fashionable and from new, it was personalisable to an extent that simply wasn't possible with many rivals. Plus the subtle DS-branded re-style of this post-2015 model was just enough to keep the design feeling current.

It all means, in summary, that if you think you know this DS3 Cabrio, then you probably don't. The brand letters stand for a 'Different Spirit' and in this updated form, this car aimed to offer just that. Of course, it's not designed to suit someone really intent on getting the full al fresco experience. The looks don't shout 'convertible' and there are still door pillars to look past. But if you're okay with that and just want to feel the sun once in a while from a small cabrio made in the 2015-2019 period. Without the wobbling bodywork, practical compromises and awkward styling of most small cabriolets, then this car could be exactly what you've been looking for.

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