Citroën heads its advertising for the new DS3 with the extraordinary claim that the car is ‘anti retro’. Buyers of the DS3 should not set their hopes too high because this model is based on the second generation C3 (yet to go on sale), but boasts much more extroverted styling with a strong sporting flavour.
The DS3 is an interesting car because it reveals how Citroën wants to be perceived, namely as a style-leader and innovator, deeply conscious of its credentials within the industry.
This is the first of three ‘DS’ offerings, all of which will be distinguished by radical appearance and a high level of funkiness. The coming DS4 and DS4 will be based respectively on the C4 and C5. There is a wide range of DS3 variants available in Europe, all the way from an entry level 70 kW 1.4 litre model through to the 149 kW DS3 Racing, neither of which is available locally. Between these extremes come the 88 kW DS3 DStyle and the 115 kW DS3 DSport.
Citroën DS3 DSPORT Overview
A huge range of striking two-tone combinations is available. In most cases the colour of the lower body is contrasted with the roof. The test DSport variant was metallic black with matching alloys, and a white roof and fascia. So the DS3 Sport makes a forceful aesthetic statement backed by quite high levels of standard equipment, strong performance and agile handling, as well as generous interior and luggage space.
Air-conditioning, cruise control, plush seats with alcantara highlights and an air freshening system operated by a round chrome knob of utterly retro design are all included in the recommended retail price of $35,990 (plus on-road costs). Nice touches include a cooled glovebox and an oil level readout.
The usual multitude of safety features including electronic stability control reflect the French company’s commitment to the issue (as evidenced, for example, by the former flagship C6’s pedestrian-friendly bonnet).
Citroën DS3 DSPORT Engine
The DS3 DSport gets a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine closely related to that of the MINI Cooper S, although less powerful. Maximum power is 115 kW backed by 240 Nm of torque on offer right through from just 1400 rpm to 4000 rpm. Torque is the key to the DS3 Sport’s urgency. Zero to 100 km/h takes just 7.3 seconds.
The car is available only with a six-speed manual transmission, the upper three ratios of which are quite tall, contributing to exemplary economy. On test this distinctly sporty hatch used little more than 5.0 litres per 100 kilometres on the highway. Carbon dioxide emissions are just 155 g/km. (Choose the standard DS3 and you get a four-speed automatic transmission with no choice of a manual.)
Citroën DS3 DSPORT Interior
It is the interior treatment that is the most retro aspect of the DS3 Sport. The white plastic dashboard is a pleasing point of difference from the mainstream, contributing to a light, airy, spacious feeling. There is indeed more space than in most rivals.
The split-fold rear seats yield a substantial boot. Ergonomics are not a strong point. Consider the operation of the cruise control. The stalk is almost perfectly obscured by the left spoke of the chunky, handsome leather and chrome steering wheel (the bottom of which is flat) and, if you can work out how to operate the cruise without resorting to the owner’s handbook, you have passed a test.
It is combined with a speed control system. Why manufacturers persist with such silliness is a mystery when simple and intuitive steering wheel-mounted buttons were standard on the 1986 Honda Legend! But that wheel is truly elegant and constitutes another highlight in a truly elegant cabin. It is unfortunate though that when you are rushing to the city with suit jacket and large drink bottle, there is neither hook nor holder to accommodate them!
Citroën DS3 DSPORT Exterior & Styling
Like its rivals the DS3 turns heads with the distinctiveness of its on-road presence. The Sport variant has radical LED strips down the outside of the front bumpers. Plenty of chrome highlights, the ‘floating’ roof and the ‘Shark Fin’ B-pillar are key elements. The DS3 Sport has especially handsome 17-inch alloys.
Car Showroom’s black and white test car had a really custom feel to it but perhaps the Sport Yellow colour with black roof and carbon fibre style fascia would be the most extroverted choice with the yellow seats adding further richness. Even the key fob is colour-keyed to the car and the DS3 badge is funky in the extreme.
Citroën DS3 DSPORT On The Road
Only the steering detracts slightly from what is otherwise an excellent driving experience. That elegant wheel does not deliver the sense of intimate connection with the tarmac expected of this type of sports machine. Handling is outstanding with great turn-in and sharp responses. Ride comfort is on the firm side but more comfortable than most rivals, especially the MINI Cooper S.
Some owners might find the advice about when to change to the next gear useful. The tall sixth gear (at 100 km/h the rpm are about 2250) makes for quiet progress and remarkable open road economy. Really, with more feel at the wheel, this car would be difficult to fault dynamically.
Citroën DS3 DSPORT Challenges
When it comes to stowage solutions, the DSport puts funk before function. Surely the manufacturer of the clever C4 Picasso could have fitted a pair of coat hooks in the rear passenger area. The steering is too light for driving enthusiasts.
The cruise control is non-intuitive. The audio quality is excellent but radio reception was mixed.
Citroën DS3 DSPORT Verdict
This is a highly seductive machine that will make some customers wish the importer offered the premium DRacing variant.
Citroën DS3 DSPORT Competition
Rivals include the MINI Cooper range, the Volkswagen Beetle, Alfa MiTo and even the Fiat 500. The Citroën DS3 DSport offers the most integrated and adventurous design, thanks to so many brilliantly conceived styling details which maximise a sensual shape. There is a bespoke feel to the DSport usually found only in more expensive vehicles.
Citroën DS3 DSport Likes:
Aesthetically brilliant with custom feel, outstanding economy, good torque
Citroën DS3 DSport Dislikes:
Infuriating cruise control