As Citroen introduces its trendy new DS3, wheelworldreviews Editor DAVID HOOPER thinks Mini buyers now have a brilliant alternative.
LET’S say from the off that Citroen has done a cracking job with its new DS3. Not only does it look great, it is an excellent car to drive and it won’t break the bank to buy and run either.
Owners also have the chance to personalise their car with an almost endless choice of optional extras, so buyers looking for a second hand car will struggle to find two the same.
If this all sounds ever so slightly familiar, begins to ring a bell or two in the old grey matter, you shouldn’t be too surprised. You’re absolutely right, the marketing pitch sounds very similar to that of another, similarly sized car – the BMW Mini.
The Mini has been so successful, perhaps the only surprise is that it has taken another manufacturer over 10 years to copy the format, and although Citroen may dispute the fact that they’ve “copied” the Mini’s formula, the comparisons are unavoidable.
DS3 buyers have a choice of 38 body and roof colour combinations to pick from and finishing details like door mirrors, wheels and wheel centre caps can be ordered in a range of colours and combinations. If you want to go even further, there is a selection of ‘Spirits’, which include stylish roof graphics and matching carpet mats.
Inside, drivers can select from several colour cloths and premium leathers, with the dashboard available in up to six finishes including red, blue, white and even aluminium or carbon fibre effects. The gearstick knob is also offered in several colours, which blend with satin-finished chrome.
But in truth, I think Citroen has out-Minied the Mini with its DS3. Having recently tested the Mini Clubman, and now having spent a few days with this car, I would say that my money would go in the Citroen’s direction, for several reasons.
First or all, and perhaps most importantly, it’s better to drive. While I love the Mini’s kart-style handling, it’s jittery ride, particularly on the sportier models, can become a little tiresome, but the DS3 has a more compliant, typically French set-up, which makes it more comfortable to live with, especially if you use the car for long journeys on a regular basis.
Then there are its looks – although I thought the Sport Yellow paintwork and Opale White roof of my test may not be everybody’s cup of tea, there are plenty of other colours to choose from, but regardless of your paint preferences, the car looks fantastic. The Mini has become very familiar in the last 10 years or so and few people now give them a second glance, but this little Citroen is fresh and a bit different. Its signature LED daytime running lamps, positioned vertically on either corner of the front vallance are certainly very eye-catching, but so is its distinctive ‘Shark Fin’ B-pillar and “floating” roof perched atop a swathe of darkened glazing.
Inside, the DS3 feels more spacious than the Mini and I loved the look of its dashboard. The fascia is finished in the modern piano black style, with lots of chrome touches on the buttons, while the dashboard top features an attractive soft-touch slush moulded material which adds to the car’s quality feel.
The build quality also impresses and this well equipped car weighs in considerably cheaper than the German alternative, so all in all, I think it is going to do rather well – even before you drive it!
Now, this is where it becomes even more interesting. Many Mini buyers will not realise that the latest engine under their Mini’s bonnet is actually a Peugeot/Citroen Group engine, the same engine that features in the 207 GTi and, you’ve guessed it, the Citroen DS3, as tested here, albeit slightly tweaked for the different applications.
Decisions, decisions – which to choose? Well, that’s obviously the buyer’s choice at the end of the day and the performance is going to be similar, so you need to look further into the car’s ride and handling, and everyday practicality before making your choice and signing the cheque.
I was most impressed with the DS3 I tested. With very respectable 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 133mph, there’s plenty of fun to be had. The car is quick off the mark, and most enjoyable to hustle along your favourite country back road. Ample mid-range punch also means despatching slower A-road traffic isn’t a problem, in fact, it’s quite fun, with the little Citroen always eager to please.
Driven more sympathetically, the car is capable of more than 55mpg on the extra urban cycle, and a gear change indicator on the dash helps you to drive more economically.
There is far less “bouncing” than you get in a Mini on poor surfaces and while some younger people may not mind about that, when you reach a certain age you look for a degree of comfort, which the DS3 provides. The leather-clad sports seats in the car I tested not only look good, but are also very comfortable and supportive. The combination of good seats and compliant suspension absorb the worst of the bumps along the way, providing the best of both worlds which French carmakers seem to do so well – a comfortable ride combined with sporty handling – so there are no fears of loosening your fillings!
Three trim levels, DSign, DStyle and DSport are available. As well as the 150bhp model I’ve been testing, there is a good choice of other engines in the DS3 range. They all meet the latest Euro V standards and include three petrols and two HDi diesels, as well as an environmentally-considerate DStyle 99g version – a new version of the HDi 90bhp engine – for the environmentally conscious.
The boot is a reasonable size and should you need more space, the 60:40 split/folding rear seats can be easily folded down.
There are plenty of other things you can add to personalise your car even more by adding auxiliary, USB and Bluetooth® connectivity, Citroën’s integrated widescreen colour satellite navigation system, or an eight-speaker hi-fi system.
It is safe, too, having been awarded a five star Euro NCAP rating for occupant protection, it is also packed with all the latest safety kit including ESP, ABS with EBD & EBA, six airbags, and two IsoFix child seat anchorage points.
Prices for the DS3 start at £11,700 for the petrol VTi 95hp DSign and rise to £15,900 for the top-of-the-range petrol THP 150hp and diesel HDi 110hp DSport models.
Citroen has done a superb job with the DS3. I loved it and perhaps more importantly, so did everyone else I showed it to. I think a lot of Mini customers will be having a good look at this car next time they change and who knows, perhaps Citroen will be embarking on an adventure or three of its own.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Citroen DS3 DSport 1.6i 16V THP 150.
CITROEN DS3 RANGE: From 1.4 VTi 95hp DSign (£11,700) to 1.6 HDi 110hp DSport (£15,900).
ENGINE: 1598cc, 150bhp four-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through 6-speed manual gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 155g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 133mph. 0-62mph in 7.3 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 30.1mpg. Country: 55.4mpg. Combined: 42.2mpg.
Fuel tank: 48 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 22.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.
• All data correct at time of publication.