We get to grips with DS Automobiles’ new DS 3, completing the “DS family” in Europe – for now.
You might be aware that DS Automobiles is now a standalone premium brand now (so don’t mention Citroen), but we’re going to have to wait a year or two before the first completely car from the brand is launch.
That said, DS says it’s planning to launch six totally new cars by 2020, so the future looks bright.
The DS 3 is an important car in the UK where more DS 3 hatchback and cabrio models were sold last year than in France or any other global market.
Cynics might say the new DS 3 is the same as the old car, but with the signature DS nose tagged on.
The reality is that a bit more has gone on. Yes, it’s had a nose-job, but there are now even more personalisation options (three million!) and it’s more connected than ever.
New DS 3 highlights include “DS LED Vision” lights, Mirror Screen functionality (meaning you can connect up your iPhone ot Android to the 7-inch colour touchscreen), plus an Active City Brake system to help to prevent minor collisions at low speeds.
There are also front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, new interior trims, body colours, alloy wheels and revised (efficient) engine options.
Officially classed as ‘supermini’ and available as a hatchback or cabrio, the DS 3 is up against some strong opposition – notably the MINI.
I tested the DS 3 featuring the new Puretech 130 engine – a 1.2-litre turbocharged unit – for the first time.
DS has played it safe with the new DS 3 because, to be frank, you will probably struggle to differentiate it from the outgoing version.
The biggest giveaway is likely to be that it looks more distinctive than ever, because there are a bewildering number of body, roof and trim colour options available.
Start up the car and there’s no mistaking the thrum of the three-cylinder which produces a decent 128bhp and can reach 62mph in 8.9 seconds.
I’m a big fan of these small engines which are usually higher revving, but combine punchy performance and good fuel economy for a petrol car. The official figures for the DS 3 are 62.8mpg combined, while emitting just 105g/km CO2… meaning that road tax costs just £20 per year. For what’s it’s worth, I achieved closer to 50mpg in mixed city, A road and motorway driving.
The car feels quick and it’s a mostly enjoyable experience, though the ride is on the firm side and there’s a fair bit of road noise, so best to steer clear of rougher roads.
The excellent little engine adds to the fun element, but if you’re after a truly sporty DS 3 you’ll have to wait for the new ‘Performance’ model.
Inside I’d say it’s more funky than avant garde, but distinctive all the same. The DS 3 is well equipped and there are three “basic” trim levels – Chic, Elegance and Prestige – with air-conditioning, alloy wheels and the new 7-inch touchscreen infortainment system coming as standard on them all. Every DS 3 also comes with six airbags, rear Isofix child-seat mounts and electronic stability control.
Further up there’s Ultra Prestige, then the range is topped by the Performance and Performance Black versions.
It’s spacious up front with comfortable seats and good visibility. My only slight quibbles are that the driving position is a tad high and I kept knocking the centre armrest with my arm when changing gear. It’s a little more compromised in the rear, not just for longer legs, but also headroom.
The centre console is less cluttered than before because the new infortainment system has allowed DS to do away with no less than 20 buttons. The most intriguing remaining button (high up on the left hand side of the centre console) is in fact a scented air freshener.
The Prestige hatchback version I drove, which retails at £18,795, came with DS signature brown “watchstrap leather” seats. However, plush though they are, some of the materials used elsewhere in the cabin are slightly less premium.
Boot space is a handy 285 litres – 74 more than the MINI – and 980 litres to 731 with the rear seats are folded down.
Verdict: The 3’s DS restyle and upgrade have given it a new lease of life. It’s still fun to drive and it’s hard to choose between the economical engines on offer, while the all-important multitude of personalisation options on offer mean that DS 3s are always going to look distinctive.