Citroen DS3 review

The new Citroen DS3 packs quite the Gallic punch; like a cheeky, full-bodied claret, the DS3 is packed full of surprises. Based on the Citroen C3 supermini, the three-door DS3 supermini revives a classic name in Citroen history, and has a lot to live up to as a result.

Citroen says the new DS range, which will include new versions of the C4 and C5, isn’t a direct link back to the classic Bertoni-styled exec but an evocation of the spirit. Say it out loud: DS. It sounds like déesse – French for Goddess. That’s even more to live up to.

The new DS3 does not disappoint. We took the DS3, equipped with a gutsy 150bhp turbo petrol engine, onto the A roads of West Yorkshire and found a spirited little car with plenty of power and torque under the bonnet and plenty of chrome and quirky design features on top of it.

Powered by the 150 THP unit, a renowned engine built by Peugeot-Citroen with BMW, the DS3 is a pocket rocket with enough power and handling ability to square up to the Mini Cooper S – which is powered by the same engine. Alongside its 150 horses, it’s packing a hefty 177 torques, which make for good low-down acceleration and sustained performance across the rev range – all of which means it’s good for a 62mph sprint time of 7.1 seconds and a top speed of 133mph, all the while returning over 40mpg on the combined cycle.

Other engines in the line-up include an entry-level 95bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, a 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol unit, two 1.6-litre turbodiesel engines in 90bhp and 110bhp guises.

Prices start from £11,700 and top out at £15,900 for the DSport 1.6 THP, but Citroen says the amount of configurations for the DS3 make every model sold virtually bespoke – with a huge range of additional options, colour schemes and styling tweaks available to stamp your personality on your own DS3.

Citroen has reengineered the DS3’s suspension over the C3’s to sharpen up handling, and there was no noticeable body roll or understeer during some energetic cornering on the winding roads of the Pennines. On the flip side the ride quality is not diminished over the C3’s and the DS3’s cabin is a comfortable, relaxing place to be.

Front leather bucket seats in the front of DSport models are comfortable and cosseting, while the dashboard is smart and intuitive. The interior of the DS3 is a vision of chrome and leather in the DSport spec we reviewed, and the piano black interior contrasts with white across the dashboard. It’s a long way from the image of the modern supermini and its acres of black plastic.

In the back there’s certainly room for two adults, and maybe three at a push, plus an impressive 285 litres of boot space – two more areas where the DS3 gives the likes of the Mini a bloody nose.

The DS3 is in its element in the city – its head-turning looks are designed to be savoured from an outdoor cafe, to attract attention and appreciative nods. Its shark-fin B pillar, tinted rear windows and two-tone colour scheme make the DS3 stand out a mile, and little touches like the DS badging and LED lights made to resemble air vents are the icing on the cake.

Overall the Citroen DS3 is a supermini that leaves its C3 sibling behind; it’s a very different car to look at, to sit in and to drive. It’s a head-turner, a Mini baiter and a genuinely cool small car. And with prices starting at £11,700, this is a premium supermini without the premium.

Citroen is back to its bonkers best, which is the way things should be.