Refinement is the name of Citroen’s game with its new DS3 hatchback. Frederic Manby found it to his liking, both in the fittings and furnishings and its general performance.
IT has been compared with BMW’s Mini for its chic shape but what surprised me was how much refinement Citroën has poured into its DS3.
The doors close with a sweet kerumph and while my Sport version was tuned for a firmride, the resounding thumps on bad surfaces did not create rattles or vibration. Under the bonnet was a 1.6-litre, 155ps petrol turbo.
Twin large-bore tailpipes emit enough of a burble and thrum to excite the bowls chaps from the Camshaft Arms, who to a man abandoned the lawn to have a butchers at the DS.
There is no avoiding its shape and detailing. The front is a brilliant piece of design, and the sides of this three-door hatch is cleverly interrupted by a shark’s fin spike between the door windows and the blacked-out rear windows. The end view is rotund but not dumpy.
Inside there is more of the classy work so far lacking in French hatchbacks. The facia is a mix of piano black gloss, some smart instrumentation and a large information screen. The heater controls are cleverly contrived as three segments inside each of two circular bezels. The steering wheel is a handy size, with what felt like real aluminium on part of the rim, and there is more metal on the foot pedals.
Oddly, then, Citroën keeps a conventional key-starter rather than a push button. It is no ordinary key, inset with a roundel which can match the body paint, and worthy of a Jag or an Aston.
The car pulls away smoothly and there is no hint of shunt or sloppiness in the transmission. Flatten the throttle and it will get from rest to 60 in about seven seconds. That is seriously quick.
There is faint torque steer when accelerating and on the over-run but few owners will begrudge this intrusion. It is a quick car but not too thirsty. The DS3 Sport can average 40-50mpg depending on how and where you drive.
It does have a change-up arrow prompt to select a higher gear but no arrow advising a lower gear if the engine is labouring.
This was mostly a very enjoyable car. It has a decent luggage area and with the seats folded (I could not get them quite flat) it will take a bicycle frame (with the wheels removed).
There are three rear seats and Citroën ought to have engineered an easier release latch to tip the front seats forward. Theseplastic levers
are a potential nail-buster.
Another imperfection is the positioning of the audio controls, which are so low on the central stack that you have to take your eyes off the road.
However, there are duplicate controls on column stalks with the station, etc, displayed on the info screen.
The DS3 is the smallest of three DS models based, respectively, on the C3, C4, C5. The DS initials are famous from one of the most significant cars of the modern era, which Citroën launched in 1955, simply called the DS.
Its aerodynamics, shape and lightweight components, including a plastic roof, were complemented by some fancy mechanics. Notably, it had oleopneumatic suspension, an air versus oil damper system, which gave a level and comfy ride and allowed the car to be raised or lowered.
When the engine was turned off, the car sank to the ground. On restarting, the car rose: it was uncanny.
The first one I saw doing this squat and thrust was on the harbour in St Ives, Cornwall, the same place I saw my first Jowett Jupiter.
The far-flung position of St Ives caused most visitors to go by rail in “those days”.
Our family always motored down from Yorkshire overnight and one morning we were sleeping off the journey on the harbour in a newly launched Ford Anglia.
It said Anglia in script on the boot. I was woken by a distinctive Cornish voice announcing to his chum “It’s a Ford Anclia”.
The same chaps would have trouble deciphering the badge on the back of the DS3, which, in part, utilises a stylised motif of the double chevron – Citroën’s emblem from the days when it made huge gear wheels.
The DS’s 21st-century namesake picks up the name, with a positive publicity spinoff: “Citroën is making a modern DS”, etc etc. Actually, it has just borrowed the name. It does not have the visual links with their forbears that BMW achieved with its Mini, or Fiat with the 500.
The DS3 is, though, a car which people will remember for their first sighting. Mine was lurking on the waterfront in Penzance, where there is the country’s most southerly Citroën dealer. It is then, a breakthrough car for Citroën and it will be interesting to see whether it can get near the ubiquity of the Fiat or Mini.
At the moment, I just want to try another, probably with a diesel engine.
• This report has appeared in the Yorkshire Post