DS Automobiles continues its exciting adventure of independence and the New DS 3 brings styling changes, some great engine options and high levels of trim. Perhaps it needs a greater visual distinction to differentiate from earlier models but it is well-equipped, refined and offers a real and contemporary alternative to the MINI or Fiat 500.
- Good range of engine options
- Refined and pleasing interior
- Prices at now in MINI and Audi territory
- Motorway ride a little firm in non-Cabrio version
- Hard to distinguish from earlier CitroŽn models, certainly from the side
As DS Automobiles continues its path of independence from the CitroŽn brand, the new DS 3 and DS 3 Cabrio - the company's most prevalent models - reach the UK. With over a quarter of DS 3 sales (that's more than 100,000 vehicles) sold in Britain so far, it is the car's largest market.
The car itself has evolved rather than undergone a ground-up overhaul. New engines, equipment, technology and trim all bring the familiar shape up to date. In terms of design, the DS3 is one of the most recognisable shapes on our roads, with its floating roof and distinctive 'shark fin' B-pillar detail. The front now encompasses the 'DS wings' (part of the DS design language, referring to the chrome forms running outwards beneath the headlamps) and Xenon-LED combination lights for improved efficiency and effectiveness.
The new model line-up consists of three main trim levels: Chic (starting at £13,995), Elegance (from £16,995) and Prestige (from £18,795). On top of these sits the Exclusive collection, with Ultra Prestige (from £20,795), Performance (£20,495) and Performance Black (£22,495). The two Performance models will be available from April 2016 onwards. The Cabrio with its slick, powered roof adds approximately £2,000 to these prices.
The DS 3 has a great range of engines. These are dominated by the smooth, charismatic and free-revving PureTech three-cylinder petrol units, now including the excellent 130 hp (132 PS) which emits just 105 g/km of CO2. There are also two THP four-cylinder petrol units. The THP 165 is available in the Prestige and Ultra Prestige; the THP 210 will sit in the performance variants only. The BlueHDi diesel is available with 100 and 120 hp power outputs.
Having driven the PureTech 130 and BlueHDi 120 versions, the petrol takes the edge when it comes to refinement and fun but the diesel is certainly no slouch and its wide torque band makes it much more flexible when pulling away at lower revs. A promised 78 mpg from the diesel was somewhat elusive though, managing a mid to high 40s to the gallon on mixed and enthusiastic runs.
The DS 3 remains an enjoyable drive with reasonably pliant suspension. The Cabrio's ride seemed a touch more supple, even though both cars sat on the same sized (17-inch) wheels. The Cabrio version is certainly refined and civilised; wind noise is kept to a minimum and with the roof operation possible at motorway speeds, it's easy to avoid the showers. Boot space is still reasonable at 245 litres for the Cabrio but access is compromised slightly by the smaller lid.
Inside, much of the neatly laid-out dash will be familiar to existing drivers but the central section now contains an integral 7-inch screen as standard. In fact there has been much subtle evolution, including the removal of 20 buttons from across the facia. New DS 3 models are equipped with Mirror Screen functionality (CarPlay for Apple users or MirrorLink for those with Android phones). A free MyDS app is also available to show fuel economy, parking location and servicing schedule. New DS 3 also comes with front and rear parking sensors plus a reversing camera as standard.
The evolution of the DS 3 has been sensitive and effective. It is also an attractive and viable alternative to its old adversaries: the MINI and Fiat 500. Like its rivals, it comes with a sizable range of options and considerable array of customisation possibilities (some enhancing the car's looks, others less so). What it has that the other two don't is a middle seat in the rear, making it a useful five-seater.
It might be a safe step for DS but its Parisian supermini feels fresh and looks smart. Starting prices put it in direct competition with MINI (and considerably more than a basic Fiat 500) but it is well-equipped and feels increasingly like a premium product.
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