Chasing the Germans

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Very few car makers have the clout to launch a new model right in the heart of Paris, inside the famous Louvre where the Mona Lisa lives, and under the dramatic glass pyramid that dominates the museum’s palatial courtyard. DS does.

The French brand is the prestige marque that until two years ago used to be part of Citroen, and is now a stand-alone car name. It is billing itself as the avant garde car range that leads the way rather than follow others. It has big ambitions: it wants to muscle in on the executive car scene and rival the success of the big three German brands of BMW, Mercedes and Audi.

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New DS3 with wings

The Louvre event was the debut of the new DS3, the smallest model in the DS range. It has been freshly revamped with a new front end design featuring sculpted ‘DS wings’. This sets the style for the face of a future generation of new models that will start arriving in 2018.

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The outgoing DS3’s Citroen chevrons have disappeared, replaced by the sinuous DS logo that the company is determined to quickly make much better known. As well as exterior styling tweaks, the car has undergone an interior overhaul. It now comes with an array of new driving assistance systems and upgraded connectivity.

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It has gained a seven-inch colour touchscreen in the middle of the dash, which does away with 20 of the switches and buttons that used to adorn the fascia of the old model. Echoing a theme that has been so successful for rivals like the MINI, the new car comes with lots of personalisation options.

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Spoiled for choice

There are 78 possible body/roof colour combinations. Taking very single colour/trim/upholstery and other personalising feature into account, there are some three million variations. Mind-blowing! It does mean that no two DS3s will ever be exactly alike.

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The base ‘Chic’ model has gone up by around £700 but gained extra equipment worth a lot more, and the price range still starts below £14,000. The new DS3 will start appearing in showrooms next month, and will as before include a cabriolet version.

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Buyers can choose between seven different engines, including both three and four-cylinder petrol engines and diesels, and there are both manual and auto transmissions. A sporty ‘hot hatch’model, called DS3 Performance, is coming in April and will have a 1.6 litre, 205 bhp petrol engine. You’ll be able to spot one of those by its twin exhausts.

British favourite

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In its previous guise as part of the Citroen range, the DS3 was very successful, and since the original model’s launch in 2010 some 390,000 have been sold around the world. Here’s a rather surprising fact about the DS3. The biggest demand for it in recent times has been here in the UK. Yes, that’s right, not in its native France but on this side of the Channel.

Last year, for example, we Brits bought a total of 16,522 of the DS3 hatch and cabriolet. The French figure was 16,059. Gallic car, rival-the-Germans ambition, British favourite.

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Sue Baker is a seasoned motoring journalist with a love of all things automotive.