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The Top Gear car review:DS 3
For:Pretty bodywork, cool cabin, lovely three-pot engine, new infotainment
Against:Pricey Cabrio, still not as rewarding as a Mini
1.2 PureTech DStyle 3dr
What we say:
A former TopGear Car of the Year. That was a long time ago, though.
What is it?
Finally and belatedly stripped of all Citroen badging, DS is now beginning the long and treacherous road to becoming a credible standalone premium carmaker.
In order to keep challenging the Audi A1 (older, better badge) and Mini Cooper (newer, better everything) and until DS gets around to making some actual new cars, DS has bequeathed the, er, 3, a new grille which ironically appears to steal a few Audi design cues, some token tech inside, and a go-faster hot hatch version called the DS 3 Performance.
Before Citroen handed the 3 over to its DS foster parents, it was treated to new powertrains, so engineering wise there’s little new here. As far as driving goes, the 3 remains a tidy, fairly chuckable little supermini that’s not ultimately as gratifying as a Mini, but little else is. It’s certainly good enough to match an A1, and the popular 1.2-litre turbo triple is a sweet, thrummy, eager motor. The 1.6-litre diesel is similarly popular and able.
With thoughts of the engaging old Citroen DS3 Racing foremost in our mind, we had high hopes for the Performance, which borrows the Torsen diff and 205bhp 1.6 engine from Peugeot’s 208 GTi Peugeot Sport, but it’s foiled by characterless power delivery, locked-down handling and unnecessarily stiff suspension. A Fiesta ST does the hot hatch funster thing better. So does an S1. And a Cooper S… you get the picture. Oh, and avoid the Cabrio at all costs, because FOR £2,400 extra you effectively get fleeced for an XXL-sunroof and a bodyshell that shudders with horror every time there’s a ripple in the road.
On the inside
Considering it’s essentially a seven-year-old Citroen C3 with some jazzier trim, the DS 3’s cabin is ageing rather well. The driving position’s still let down by the not-adjustable-enough steering wheel and haphazard pedals, but the build quality is fair and the tech game’s recently been upped with the fitment of a revised touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The rear seats are more usable than those of a Mini or Fiat 500, but like the Italian car the 3’s, er, a three-door exclusively, so an Audi A1 Sportback will swallow rear seat passengers with less hassle.
Don’t be fooled by bucket seats in the Performance – the bolsters are squidgy and couldn’t hold a takeaway upright on the way home from the chippy, yet alone your torso on a B-road blast.
DS 3s start at £13,995, but for any semblance of kit or the more chic-looking Elegance models that fit the car’s fashion-led brief, you’ll need well into £16k. Still, that compares favourably with Mini, even if the drive and finish isn’t as strong. The DS 3 Performance is £20,495, a bargain next to the £24k price of the less well specced DS 3 Racing a few years ago.