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Top Gear drives the Citroen DS3 cabrio
Soon after the Citroen DS3 poked its walrus-horned LEDs into the world in 2010, it clambered over a stack of supercars to become Top Gear Magazine’s Car of the Year. Now here’s the cabrio. Hmmm. Many little convertibles are heavy, cramped of back seat, mean of boot and, most of all, tragically wobbly.
So it’s fair to say the very best thing about this one is that it doesn’t muck up the DS3.
Instead of hacking away the whole upper body, they inserted a kind of roll-top desk effect - an enormo-sunroof, as per the Fiat 500C. The side structures are fixed, keeping the car stiff. Any remaining strength lost to the absent roof is compensated for by new metal where the hatch has a bendy parcel shelf. And the conversion adds just 25kg.
So it’s not floppy and it’s not heavy. It still drives like a DS3. And with the roof in place, it’s barely noisier than the hatch either. Because the canvas doesn’t park in the boot or the sides of the car, the hatchback’s three-person rear seat is intact, and nearly all the boot space too. So it’s a far more useful daily driver than a Mini convertible, Peugeot 207CC or the little 500C.
It also looks like a DS3. The shark’s fin side pillar, the apparently floating roof; they keep their identity.
The canvas motors back in a few seconds, especially if you let it stop with the rear windscreen in place. You can drop that glass and let the canvas go all the way back to the tip of the boot lid, but this just obliterates your rear vision and frankly makes the car look a bit silly. You can open and close it anywhere up to 75mph, so if you spot a rain squall on a motorway you don’t have to take to the hard shoulder or get drenched all the way to the next junction.
At speed with the roof back, there’s impressively little turbulence. Mind you I wouldn’t want to go too far in the back seat without a stoutly fixed beanie.
OK, so there aren’t many of the drawbacks of a full convertible. Are there the advantages? Of course not.
It’s simply not very open. The windscreen top rail is fat, the side rails emphatically more so. Still, with the windows down, there’s a cheeriness to the whole thing, as you feel you’ve at least acknowledged any appearance of the sun.
OK, let’s briefly remind ourselves about the DS3. I’m driving the 155bhp turbo petrol, and it’s affectingly vivacious. The engine never has much of a struggle, going willingly on with the job as soon as you tickle the accelerator.
Into big sweeping bends the steering is almost over-eager: it can feel a mite small-car twitchy and unprogressive just off-centre. But get onto the sort of tighter roads where you can enjoy the car’s small size, and you find the thing’s wonderfully engaging, agile and full of steering feel as you lean on it. The handling is happily slithery too. Even so, the ride is nicely unflappable.
The cabrio is about £2500 more than the corresponding hatch. If the choice was between an engine upgrade and a canvas roof, we’d go for the engine any time. But if you’ve arrived at the top engine already and still have the spare £2500 (the 155 turbo DSport Cabrio is £19,600 all-in) then go for it. Nothing’s spoiled.