Don’t mention the C word. It’s hard not to, and it may take a while before the habit fades, but that’s history. This car is not a Citroen. Not any more, anyway. The chevrons are missing. That is the first thing that catches the eye of any keen car buff at first sight of the new DS3.
This perky star turn in the newly-minted DS car range is the charismatic hatchback that used to be a Citroen and now isn’t. It has just undergone a makeover, and a re-branding, and is now freshly on UK roads just two months after its official unveiling in Paris.
This is unusual. It normally takes longer, often much longer, for the right-hand-drive models to arrive after a new car’s international launch. This car is an exception though, because unusually it is even more popular in Britain than it is in its native France. Last year, by a whisker, numbers of the old Citroen DS3 bought by British motorists outsold those bought by French drivers.
It is going to take a while for the car’s previous identity to fade though. Friends who heard I’d been driving a new DS3 were keen to know “what’s different about the new Citroen then?” Well for a start, it’s a different brand. But the real answer is that not as much has changed as DS brand executives would have us believe, and in some ways that’s no bad thing.
As the smallest model in the new stand-alone DS range, the DS3 is a practical three-door hatchback with distinctive style and personality, just as it was when it was still a C … oh sorry, that’s all in the past now. Anyway, it is nimble, economical and fun to drive, maybe not quite as pertly engaging as a MINI, but with more poise than a rival Fiat.
The DS3 is a fashion car, in a similar vein to a MINI hatchback and Fiat 500, both of which are its key rivals. It comes with lots of options for personalising the look of the car, including a wide choice of body colours, roof options and interesting decals for the windows, such as the palatial design on one of the cabriolet test cars.
Putting the boot in
Boot space is one of the DS3’s strong points. With 285 litres, it is the same as a Peugeot 208, close to a Fiesta’s at 290, and much bigger than either a three-door MINI’s or a Fiat 500’s rather meagre luggage room. If carrying capacity really matters, though, it’s worth noting that a Renault Clio outstretches the rest for boot room with its 300 litres.
The DS3 has a classy cabin with a healthy dose of French flair about its design, and it feels nicely put together with good quality materials. The peach of the décor choice is leather seats with a design that mimics a high-class watch strap, and really gives the cabin an upmarket look well in excess of the car’s price.
There are hatch and cabriolet versions of the DS3, and engine options from a 1.2 litre three-cylinder petrol to a 1.6 litre four-cylinder diesel. All versions come equipped with six airbags, tyre pressure monitoring and cruise control. The DS3 has yet to be tested for Euro NCAP safety, but its Citroen predecessor was rated a top five star score. Oops sorry, mentioned the C word again!
All Images: Sue Baker