The Citroen DS3 is a premium supermini that’s hugely customisable and is fun to drive, but does it have what it takes to knock the Mini off its perch? We hopped into the £15,900 DS3 DSport THP 155 to find out.
There’s no denying the Citroen DS3 is a pretty car. Its silhouette is a fairly standard wedge shape, but it has plenty of interesting detail about its body work. The reverse shark’s fin effect on the half height B pillar makes a change from the dull vertical columns that are the norm and it almost gives the impression the car’s roof is floating in mid-air.
We’re huge fans of the vertical LED day-running lights integrated into the bumper and the chunky front and rear light clusters. In our eyes, these are enough to help the DS3 stand out from the crowd, but if you’re feeling adventurous, it’s also possible to spec the DS3 with contrasting roof colours and designs (tribal patterns, anyone?) and a plethora of alloy wheel styles.
It’s pretty inside, too, with glossy, posh-looking, colour customisable plastics lining the dashboard, satin accents around the steering wheel and gear stick, sculpted air vents and a good looking instrument cluster. If you like a car that screams “look at me”, you need look no further.
Citroen doesn’t seem to have been quite as bothered about ensuring the DS3 is practical. There really isn’t a lot of room inside the car, either for stashing your bits and bobs or for carrying more than one passenger. Citroen seems to have taken the glove compartment concept very literally, as it’s almost impossible to carry anything larger than a pair of mittens inside the thing. Also, we couldn’t find a single cup holder in this car, so you may have to risk your reproductive organs by carrying hot beverages between your legs.
Rear space is lacking, too. Knee and headroom are limited for anyone approaching six feet tall, and even if you’re considerably shorter, there’s every chance you’ll start feeling claustrophobic back there on long journeys. The boot is quite ample, however. With the seats up, it’ll let you haul 285 litres of stuff, which is 125 litres more than you can carry in a Mini. With the rear seats folded down, this jumps to 980 litres, which again dwarfs the Mini’s 680 litre seats down capacity.
Performance & handling
The DS3 is available with a 1.6-litre diesel engine or petrol engines with either 1.4- or 1.6-litre capacities. The fastest of the bunch, the 1.6 THP 155, is essentially the same engine as used in a Mini Cooper S, only here it produces 154bhp, as opposed to 185bhp in the Cooper S.
As a result, it takes 7.3 seconds to reach 60mph and has a 133mph maximum speed. The Cooper S does the same sprint 0.3 seconds quicker and, flat out, can go 9mph faster. The DS3 isn’t quite as agile as the Mini, either. It’s fun to throw about if you’re that way inclined, but a lack of steering feel and noticeably more body roll means it isn’t quite as rewarding a drive.
Economy & environment
With less power at its disposal, one might assume the DS3 is more economical than its Cooper S rival, but that isn’t the case. The car delivers slightly worse fuel economy than the faster Mini and coughs more CO2. The 1.4-litre petrol engine isn’t particularly attractive, either, as it isn’t as frugal or powerful as the entry-level Mini One. The Mini One has a larger engine, but it’s more efficient, cleaner and more powerful.
The DS3’s diesel engines fare slightly better against the competition. The 1.6-litre e-HDi Airdream emits 95g/km, and is therefore exempt from tax and the London congestion charge. It’ll even return decent fuel economy of 78.5mpg, which compares favourably to the Mini 1.6 One diesel.
Equipment & value
The Citroen DS3 is available in four main trim levels, each with more features than the last. These include DSign, DStyle, DSport and the all-singing, all tarmac-shredding Racing edition. All models come with ABS and ESP, cruise control, a speed limiter and front fog lights. Citroen can supply an integrated sat-nav system as part of the MyWay City signature pack for an extra £1,100, but we’d advise against it as it’s fairly rubbish.
The sat-nav has a litany of flaws, including an inability to accept 7-digit UK postcodes. It also has a penchant for making its users wait while it scrolls POI and street names horizontally across tiny text boxes. Also, by including MyWay, you have to forfeit a USB port. Ultimately, you’re better off buying a TomTom.
All DS3 cars come with a 3-year/35,000-mile warranty.
The DS3 is a relatively safe car to be in, scoring 87 per cent in the Euro NCAP adult occupant tests. Child occupant safety was slightly less impressive at 71 per cent, though the car does have the awesome Citroen Localized Emergency Call feature. In the event of a serious accident, this system will automatically initiate a call to the emergency services, who will ask you, over the car’s internal speaker system, whether you need assistance. The car also includes an SOS button which puts you in touch with emergency services.
The Citroen DS3 is a solid alternative to rivals such as the Mini and Alfa Romeo MiTo. It’s more spacious, practical and some might argue more attractive. It’s also less common on UK roads, which might appeal to motorists that don’t like to follow the crowd.
It’s far from perfect. Its engines aren’t as efficient, clean or powerful as those in the Mini range, and it isn’t quite as rewarding when driven enthusiastically. However, if you want a supermini that is easy on the eye, highly customisable and relatively unique, the DS3 is very worthy of consideration.
Model tested: Citroen DS3 DSport THP 155
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol
Acceleration: 0-62 in 7.3 seconds
Top speed: 133mph
Emissions: 139g/km CO2