|Model tested:||DS3 1.2 Puretech 82 Chic|
|Economy / CO2:||61.4mpg/107g/km|
Review: DS3 (Overall score = 3.5/5)
Don’t use the C-word! The car in these pictures is absolutely not a Citroen; instead it’s a DS. Now hived off as a separate brand, for now DS has no cars that we haven’t already seen as Citroens (DS3, 4 and 5), but each has been facelifted to do battle until some all-new models start to arrive from 2018. As such, this car is little more than a revamped version of the car we’ve known and loved since its introduction in 2010. More popular in the UK than its native France, the DS comes in hatchback or cabriolet forms, the latter being little more than a huge roll-back fabric roof. Consequently the open-topped DS3 is as usable as the hatchback alternative and something that’s bound to be a hit with your pupils when the sun is out.
DS wants to be thought of as a rival to German brands such as Audi and BMW, and while the 3’s cabin is a great place to be it’s not as good as those more prestigious alternatives. The fit and finish is excellent and so is the build quality, but the ergonomics let things down. Everything is controlled via a large touch-screen multi-media system. As a result you sometimes have to navigate through menus to make minor changes and it doesn’t help that it isn’t always intuitive.
What isn’t controlled through the display is generally adjusted via the remote control stalks (stereo, cruise control, speed limiter) behind the flat-bottomed steering wheel, hidden out of sight; frustratingly, Citroen and DS shun multi-function steering wheels. Practicality is another issue as rear seat space is tight and because the DS comes in three-door form only, access to the back is awkward. But while the practicality and ergonomics could be better, the general cabin design – and the exterior styling – will make your pupils feel special.
You can choose between three-cylinder 1.2 and four-cylinder 1.6-litre petrol engines or a 1.6 diesel, all turbocharged. The 1.2 is a peach of an engine that’s smooth, peppy and seriously frugal while the six-speed manual gearbox is slick and a pleasure to use. The diesel is no less enjoyable to drive; whichever model you go for refinement levels are excellent. If there’s a gripe it’s that the clutch pedal is awkwardly positioned which can make the car hard to drive smoothly. Thick A-pillars hamper visibility on junctions too, but the seats are supportive and there’s plenty of adjustment in them as well as the steering wheel, which can be altered for reach and rake.
There have always been lots of personalisation options for the DS3 so you can spend plenty on options. Buy off the peg and you’ll have to stump up £13,995 for the cheapest model, the 1.2 Chic in 80bhp form; a 108bhp model is available for £15,295 while the 1.6 HDi diesel starts at £15,895. Even the entry-level DS3 comes with air-con, 16-inch alloys, cruise control and speed limiter, a 7-inch touch-screen, DAB radio, Bluetooth and remote central locking.
Moving up to Elegance trim brings climate control and rear parking sensors plus sportier trim, but the premium is too much at £1100. Expect low running costs as DS3s have held their value reasonably well up to now, while efficient engines mean low fuel and road tax bills. The 1.2-litre Puretech petrol engine is rated at 107g/km in 80bhp form (£20pa road tax); the cleanest 1.6 HDi is pegged at a mere 87g/km (free road tax). Insurance groups start at 12 for the 1.2 Puretech Chic but quickly climb to 18-21 for mid-range cars and entry-level diesels.