The 3 is the entry point to DS ownership. Is it a viable alternative to the Mini Cooper S?
Another month, another DS model, this one the entry-level DS 3. Like its big brothers, the little three-door follows the DS Avant Garde design ethos to a T and as such there’s nothing much like it on the road. The shape is familiar, it’s been around since 2010, and this particular car still sports the double chevrons on the nose. This feature, however, is due to change imminently for New Zealand with the DS 3 to adopt the DS ‘architecture front’ which will delete the chevrons and insert a DS 4-looking grille. The jury is still out on whether it’s an improvement though, but it will bring the DS 3 in line with the rest of the range. And so if you want the latest DS 3 look, probably best to hold off for a month or two.
However, it has been updated under the bonnet with the adoption of the beaut little 1.2-litre turbocharged triple, a sprightly little number complete with an interesting operational warble. There’s genuine torque off the bottom making for easy commuting; the go in the 1500-3000rpm zone is plenty for urban manoeuvres. Beyond city limits it’s not quite a fireball, but from 3000-5000rpm it’s got reasonable punch for such a little tyke, though starts to fade past 5500rpm if you keep up it. We must have had too much to eat at lunch as we were adrift of the 9.9sec 0-100km/h performance claim, registering 10.4sec while the overtake requires 212m and 7.4sec. As we mentioned, a fireball it ain’t but the six-speed auto does the job nicely, provided you find the little sport button that’s all but invisible to the driver, obscured as it is by the gear lever on the chromed shifter gate. With Sport mode hooked up, the gearbox responds better to the demands of the throttle and largely renders the manual sequential operation redundant.
The DS 3 is a sporty looking number – Citroën used it as the basis of its WRC programme a few years back – but a bit like its DS 5 brethren, it’s more suited to high street strutting. This is no Cooper S competitor on the go, and even Cooper would run rings around it. Being short on wheelbase it’s nimble, and the steering response is keen, with a dose of feel which is encouraging, and also enables maximum extraction from the grip reserves. With a sports suspension tune and a torsion beam at the rear, it never quite manages to smooth the mid-corner bumps though and the frontal weight bias needs careful attention too.
A few bumps are felt during round town ramblings, though it’s not overly firm in the ride. DS 3 is an easy commuter with that torque, light-weighted steering and small stature, while a camera and rear sensors make for easy parking. The addition of city auto braking adds to the safety package to help avoid nose-to-tails, and there are plenty of those at this time of the year. You’ll quickly tire of the Eco stop/start function; it’s too eager to shut down and at times it can seem hesitant to get back on the job (how French). Even when nudging slowly into a car park it can shut down prematurely which is more than a little frustrating. The DS 3 has a quoted combined average of 4.7L/100km, though even the 5.8 urban figure proved difficult to achieve, and we think somewhere in the 8s is probably more likely overall.
Inside, it isn’t quite the event the DS 5 is but it carries some design flair. The seats come complete with good support and are comfy given they are trimmed in premium feeling nappa leather. You can add colour inside too with alternate trim options including browns, whites and purples. The touch screen infotainment system takes care of most functions, though can take a while to rouse itself on start-up, and the sat nav kept trying to tell us we were somewhere in France, if only. The driver’s seat is set high, and finding a decent position takes a few attempts but it makes for easy entry, save for the heavy doors. Thanks to its breadvan-like shape, the rear has plenty of headroom and though legs may find it a squash, access isn’t too bad as the front seats flip forward and slide easily enough. While the cabin storage is minimal, there’s a handy sized boot.
These DS cars carry a price premium, and the DS 3 ain’t cheap at $42,990, even with its three years and 60,000km service plan included. Like the rest of the range, the DS 3 has a unique character which, if you take a shine to it, is more likeable now with its sweet wee powertrain.
|Engine||1199cc, IL3, T/DI, 81kW/205Nm||Drivetrain||6-speed auto, front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Use||4.7L/100km||C02 Output||108g/km|