Citroen DS3: Full on the road review

Arriving late to a party is never easy, but Citroen has always shown great confidence pushing the DS3 under the noses of both MINI and Fiat in the hotly contested premium hatch market.

With recent additions to the class from Audi and Vauxhall, I got my hands on a top spec DS3 DSport equipped with PSA’s peppy 1.6 THP petrol engine to find out if it has what it takes to compete…

2013 Citroen DS3 026

Citroen DS3 DSport: Full on the road review for First Vehicle Leasing

The exterior

Visually the DS3 packs a real punch and hides its C3 origins well. Its fairly squat stance is emphasised by its floating roofline, odd-but-attractive shark fin b-pillars and twin tailpipes. Citroen’s new 3D tail lamps also look fantastic especially at night, as do the vertical LED daytime running lights up front.

A premium hatch wouldn’t be worthy of the title without lashings of shiny finishes and the DS3 doesn’t disappoint with glitzy bits everywhere which add to the classy look. The model I tested looked excellent in Arctic Steel metallic (£495) with its contrasting Infinite Blue roof and door mirror housings. Flash looking 17 inch alloy wheels are just a small part of the DS3s vast array of personalisation options to make your car yours.

The cabin

The cabin is equally delightful, and is a breath of fresh air from recent Citroens, and there’s no denying that a lot of thought and effort has gone into the design. It’s obviously targeted at younger drivers with mock carbon fibre on the dash face and sporty looking dials that ooze class. Furthermore the interior is peppered with neat touches like a scented air freshener stick built into the ventilation system.

The only real gripes are the location of the stereo, which is too low on the centre console, obscured by the gear stick and a pathetically proportioned glovebox. What’s particularly remarkable is the depth of quality in both the construction and choice of materials from the premium leather to the richly textured plastics that cover the doors and dash top.

Interior Citroen DS3

Thanks to generous proportions the DS3s trump card is its spacious cabin, which is considerably bigger than the MINI, Fiat 500 and Vauxhall Adam. The greatest gain is in the rear which has bags of room for two, and it’s easy to get in as the doors are long.  The boot is also a good size and shape with 285 litres of luggage space at your disposal, making it easy to swallow a couple of weekend bags. Crucially it trumps the MINI’s paltry 160 litres and the 500s 185 litres.

Backseat Citroen DS3

The entire DS3 range comes with a good level of standard equipment, but the DSport you see here comes with a lot of toys. Digital climate control, tinted windows, electric door mirrors, electric windows, cruise control, a leather steering wheel, carbon fibre effect dashboard, aluminium pedals and a CD stereo with steering-wheel-mounted controls plus Bluetooth and USB connection. For external glitz, the DS3 comes with chrome door handles and door strips, front LED daytime running lights, fog lights, 17 inch alloy wheels, roof-coloured door mirrors, two-tone body and roof colours, tinted rear windows, an alarm, rear spoiler and double chrome exhausts.

The DS3 on the road

It’s clear on the road that the DS3 doesn’t drive like other Citroens despite its C3 origins. The DS3 turns in crisply with real poise and has plenty of grip. It tackles corners with real neutrality and offers decent feedback from the well weighted steering. The six speed gearbox too has a clean, snappy action, making it enjoy to use.

Its playful nature makes it easy to extract all 155 bhp nestled under your right foot from the superb turbocharged 1.6 litre petrol unit. Power delivery is smooth and strong and it’s an engine that’s always eager to rev, which enables it to scamper to 62 mph in a far-from-shabby 7.3 seconds and onto 135 mph

Only when really pushed does the DS3’s chassis begin to reveal its limits with a little understeer, but it’s a gradual process.  Bags of grip mean there’s lots of fun to be had at the helm. The brakes are also excellent at scrubbing off speed, and although the ride is a touch on the firm side it remains compliant on all but the worse surfaces.

Pricing of the Citroen DS3

Citroen DS3 DSport

Citroen DS3 DSport review for First Vehicle Leasing

At £17,330 the DS3 just undercuts the MINI Cooper S, but is significantly more expensive than the similarly equipped Fiat 500 Abarth. Running costs are low considering the power on offer, with economy in the high 40s on a combined cycle. It’s kind to the environment too, emitting just 135 g/km slotting neatly into VED band E (£120 per year). Depreciation is also less of an issue compared to other previous Citroens due to the premium branding and upmarket feel.

TECHNICAL DATA: 2013 Citroen DS3 THP155 DSport 

Price as tested: £17,330
Personal lease price: From £201.47 p/m
Engine: 1.6 litre 16v 155 bhp – 0-62 mph: 7.3 secs – Maximum Speed: 130 mph –
Economy: 34.4 mpg (urban) –60.1 mpg (extra-urban), 47.1 mpg (combined) – Emissions: 135 g/km (Band E) – VED (12 months): £120
Dimensions: Length: 3948 mm – Width: 1715 mm – Height: 1483 mm – Wheelbase: 2464 mm

*data from Citroen UK

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