Trust the French. Only our Gallic mates could transform the already elegant Citroen DS3 three-door hatchback and turn it into ridiculously chic DS3 Cabrio.
Well the Italians down at Fiat do the same thing with the 500C – but it’s a spin on retro whereas the Citroen DS3 is thoroughly modern. Yes folks the Citroen DS3 is as stylish as a Paris frock store.
Citroen DS3 Cabrio Overview
Our Citroen DS3 Cabrio test car was the range-topping DSport model ($32,990) which gains a more powerful engine, satellite navigation and larger alloy wheels over the entry-grade DStyle model ($30,990).
Of course the Citroen DS3 Cabrio, like the Fiat 500C Cabrio, isn’t a ‘full-on’ cabrio – rather the soft-top roof folds like a giant sunroof leaving the side body architecture and B-pillars in-place. Apart from less wind buffeting for the old ‘bonce’, this configuration also assists driving dynamics by maintaining a more rigid bodyshell without the need for weighty chassis reinforcement (the Citroen DS3 Cabrio is just 25kgs heavier than the standard model and runs only a reinforcing brace in the boot).
Citroen DS3 Cabrio Engine
Buy the Citroen DS3 DSport and you’ve got ‘International Engine Of The Year’ propulsion. That would be PSA’s excellent turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine which also sees duty in the Peugeot RCZ amongst others.
With 115kW/240Nm on-tap and combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.9l/100kms, the Citroen DS3 Cabrio is both lively and fuel-efficient.
Drive is to the front wheels via a slick six-speed manual transmission.
Entry-level Citroen DS3 Cabrio DStyle is powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre engine good for 88kW/160Nm and combined cycle fuel consumption of 6.7l/100kms.
Citroen DS3 Cabrio The Interior
We tip our beret to Citroen’s interior designers for the DS3 – ‘modern’ and ‘distinctly different’ are not claims some rivals can make about their interiors. We certainly like the clever interpretation of the curved instrument binnacle – a bit reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House in fact.
Same for the instruments themselves – a clever and stylish combination with modern white lights.
Operation of the roof is governed by a ceiling-mounted console.
With plenty of adjustment available, the driving position is excellent – aided by the sporty, small diameter (363mm) steering wheel.
Seats are nicely shaped and good looking and the DS3 Cabrio is the only five-seater in this segment (the Fiat 500 is a four-seater). Leather seats can be specified as a $2,000 option.
And Citroen reckons the DS3 Cabrio is ‘numero uno’ in another area – cargo space (245-litres).
Over the lower-grade DStyle model, the Citroen DS3 Cabrio DSport model as tested gained floor mats, a carbon-fibre look dashboard, satellite navigation and upscale audio. DStyle buyers can add the audio and nav as a $2,000 option.
Citroen DS3 Cabrio Exterior & Styling
Citroen says the DS3 Cabrio is the ‘heir to the unique styling of the DS3’. The French company has a good point because its stylists have done a great job of integrating the folding roof while not upsetting the overall slick design of the compact three-door hatchback.
Of course the DS3 isn’t the ‘full’ cabrio so the overall exterior proportions did not alter. Size is also unchanged (overall length 3.95-metres, width 1.71-metres and height is 1.46-metres).
For the roof, buyers can select from three colours – ‘Noir Onyx’, ‘Bleu Infini’ and ‘Gris Monogram’ (the latter only on the DSport model we tested and adds matching colour for the dashboard, gear lever, exterior mirrors and wheels). There’s a fixed glass rear window and roof operation takes 16 seconds (at speeds up to 120km/h).
We like the front-end with its distinctive Citroen wing grille and large air intake. Large headlights and side-bumper air-intakes reinforce the contemporary design.
And of course the distinctive B-pillar look is unique to the DS3.
The cabrio version of the Citroen DS3 is further identified by some extra chrome at the rear and 3D LED tail-lights with a very effective look at night.
Our DSport model rode on black-colour 17-inch ‘Belltone’ alloy wheels.
Citroen DS3 Cabrio On the Road
Selection of the DS3 for its World Rally Championship vehicle was significant for Citroen – this sent a message to rivals Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta that the French giant’s compact hatchback had sporting aspirations to match theirs. That flows onto calibration for the MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspension and steering.
However without careful re-engineering those sporty on-road dynamics can be jettisoned when a Cabrio version enters the picture – lacking the body rigidity of the regular models.
But of course the Citroen DS3, like the Fiat 500, isn’t a ‘full-on’ cabrio as it maintains the B-pillars and side architecture of the regular DS3. So, unlike conventional cabrios, the Citroen DS3 Cabrio actually weight only 25kgs more than its standard sibling and runs structural reinforcement around the boot.
Underpinning all of this is Citroen’s excellent turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine and slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission.
So here’s how it goes with Melbourne weather: we left home with the top of the Citroen DS3 Cabrio open to enjoy the spring sunshine and barely 100kms later on top of the Dandenong ranges we had the wipers on high-speed, heater/demister doing double-duty and we could barely see 100-metres ahead through the flooding rain. Erm, the roof…well it was tightly closed by that stage and we were thankful for the fixed glass rear window which was mercifully clear.
Bottom line however is our trusty Citroen DS3 Cabrio was sure-footed and dynamic regardless of the conditions.
There’s typical European firmness for the ride, precise feedback from the steering and an impressive flat stance even when cornering hard. Balance was nice and predictable and we enjoyed the ‘chuckability’ of the DS3 which responded immediately to mid-turn throttle input.
Around town that zippy turbo 1.6 was a definite ally when looking for a gap in the rush-hour but the Cabrio’s restricted rear three-quarter visibility wasn’t so much of an ally when parking (hey ‘fashion’ has its price you know!).
Citroen DS3 Cabrio Issues
When you remove that mass of metal over your head and replace it with a soft top, any car is going to introduce an extra intrusion of noise from the outside world and the Citroen DS3 is no exception (although to be fair the sound-proofing is reasonable). However we were surprised by the level of tyre noise, particularly on poor quality roads.
Citroen DS3 Cabrio Verdict
We’re calling the Citroen DS Cabrio one of the new car surprises of the year. Sure that punchy turbocharged 1.6-litre powerplant plays a big role in its sporty dynamics – but so does that enthusiastic suspension calibration (as per the regular DS3 hatchback).
Sure Citroen has shrugged-off its reputation for quirky styling but the good-looking DS3 deserved a Cabrio and Citroen has delivered with typical French flair.
And sure we expect top-notch build quality from all European brands but it must be said Citroen is now in the ‘big league’. As evidenced by the DS3 Cabrio, the sometimes problematic French brand now matches the best of the Euros for fit, finish and material quality.
Citroen DS3 Cabrio The Competition
Fiat’s cute 500C Cabrio also offers chic European style (Italian of course) and a similar folding roof but isn’t really a fair comparison to the larger and more luxuriously kitted Citroen DS3 Cabrio. However if your budget can’t stretch to north of $30,000, the Fiat 500C Cabrio, priced from $17,900 to $22,700 brings a touch of open-top Italy to your garage.
Then there’s Fiat’s red-hot Abarth version – the 1.4-litre 500C Esse Esse ($38,990) – which is fast and better kitted than a Rome boutique.