John Swift Portrait Photo

Want to know what it’s like to test drive the Citroën DS3?

Find out what Motoring Journalist John Swift thought when he took one for a test drive.

 

With its DS brand Citroën takes drivers further on their journey towards more luxury or more performance. 

Driving 5/5

It seems an obvious place to start given its title and the market it is clearly aimed at, a market which despite the best efforts of the insurance industry, continues to thrive as manufacturers cater for the demand for powerful cars in small packages.

Given that brief, the DS 3 is absolutely bang on target with some 200 bhp on tap from its fizzy 1.6 turbo which is a lot for a small front wheel drive car and it feels fabulous. This thing goes like a bomb from pretty much tick over in any gear. Forget about power bands or torque curves, it just accelerates and accelerates and you will run out of usable road before the DS runs out of steam. This engine is addictive.

DS3 Cabriolet rear view

As indeed is pretty much the whole car, if it’s thrills you’re after. I have just taken it on one of my favourite B-road test routes with some fast sweepers blessed with good sight lines through them, some crests and a few hairpins added to the mix for good measure, and I reckon this is one of the most fun cars I’ve driven that section in for a long time.

DS say it has a 0 to 60 time of 6.5 seconds but it feels faster and the mid-speed performance is spectacular. Top speed is quoted at 143 mph and I’ll take their word on that but you get the message this is a properly powerful car and the real joy is you can really feel all that performance, you know you are going quickly because the second great attraction of the DS is that it is an engaging car that connects with the driver. 

So many performance cars with more power than this may cover the ground as fast, maybe even faster, but you could be in an armchair for all that they offer by way of excitement. In contrast this is just one constant adrenalin trip.

DS3 Cabriolet interior

Ride and handling 4/5

OK, let’s accept that in a car like this you are quite prepared to forgo a bit of ride comfort in the interests of a flatter, stiffer and more responsive chassis. Just as well really because that is exactly what you’ll get. The handling is great and the faster you go the better it gets.

It has a quick steering ratio, a torsen diff to control what otherwise could be a hysterical amount of torque steer on a 200 bhp front wheel drive car and it is set up to be as responsive as a go-kart. It has a short wheelbase but with the inherent understeer of a front wheel drive car nicely dealt with it seems well balanced. On one bit of my route I was pushing it hard through a tightish fifth gear bend and it didn’t roll or understeer, it just grips and goes.

That’s the good bit. The bad is the ride which – and let me be generous here – is challenging and I’ll leave it at that.

DS3 dashboard

Styling 5/5

It looks great inside and out, very eye-catching. My test car rode on 18 inch gloss black alloys with wheel arch extensions to accommodate them with the big Brembo brakes visible through them. Just in case anyone confuses this with a more humble Citroën the DS has a contrasting black roof to the base colour (yellow in the case of my car), a little spoiler, big bore tailpipes.

The inside is a nice place to be, from the sports seats holding you in place when you are driving it as it should be driven, the carbon-look trim, nifty instruments, alloy pedals and so on. The seating position is a little `sit up and beg’ for me and the back seats are obviously a little cramped but it is only a short hatchback, after all.

DS3 seats

Safety 5/5

Although I would always prefer to use my own right foot and judgement when braking the DS 3 does have Active City Brake which stops the car if a pedestrian or something steps out (a taxi from a side street when the driver didn’t look in my case the other day). It operates up to 20 mph and if nothing else, the insurers like it and helps the cost of premiums although with a pocket rocket like this that is a relative term!

Verdict 4/5

I’m not buying one so perhaps the £24,000 price tag for this top doesn’t bother me. Ditto the ride but on every other score it’s dynamite, a little car with a big heart that puts a smile on your face and in today’s increasingly restrictive car environment where the opportunities to enjoy yourself are ever more restricted that must count for something.

Book a DS3 Test Drive


DS3 Cabriolet front view

Test Drive Info:

  • DS 3 Performance THP 210 S&S
  • £24,025
  • 0 to 60 6.5 seconds
  • Top speed 14 mph
  • Average mpg 52
  • CO2 125 g/km
  • Insurance Group 36A