Motoring journalist, Tim Barnes-Clay, tested the new DS3 Performance hot hatch out in France a few months ago. But now he takes one for a drive this side of the Channel to see how it copes with our roads.
I’m a big kid at heart, so I love superminis – even though I feel vaguely silly driving them these days. I don’t know why – maybe it’s because I’m at the age where I should be driving family cars and vehicles that are perhaps more ‘sensible’. But in my job, it’s a great excuse to feel like a boy racer again. Only last week I was in the Peugeot 208 GTI by Peugeot Sport, and now I’m in the DS3 Performance – the musclebound version of the DS3. I feel a midlife crisis coming on!
Blink, and you’d think the 208 GTI and the DS3 Performance were one and the same. Well, they are – kind of. But the DS3 really does have an awful lot of character that marks it out from its French cousin. The car I tested looked cool in black and gold, although you can get the compact DS3 in all sorts of garish, personalised colour schemes – but that’s part of the charm of the DS brand. At least the one I drove looked masculine – and the shades it came in looked great, accompanied with the model’s menacing rear spoiler and twin tailpipes.
So, what is the DS3 Performance all about? Well, under the bonnet the car houses a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, delivering a big 208PS through a six-speed manual transmission. The DS3 Performance also sits snug to the road, due to its suspension being 15mm lower than a standard DS3. What’s more, the car’s tracks are wider at the front and rear, and there are big Brembo brakes discs peeking at you through meaty 18-inch alloy wheels.
Step inside and the hot hatch theme continues with prominent hip-hugging sports seats. The dials are clear and the leather-bound steering wheel, although not as small as the Peugeot 208 GTI’s, is pleasantly chunky to grip. The DS3 Performance’s seats aren’t overly comfortable, but they grip you well, and you instantly feel you’re in a car with poke.
Turn the key, depress the clutch and engage first – and you can wheel-spin away – or drive off leisurely, accompanied by a burbling exhaust note. I’d recommend the latter. It’ll save you wearing your tyres out – and it’s safer. Go through the gears and the DS3 Performance’s ride becomes fidgety on our scarred British roads. Most of that is to do with the lowered sports suspension, but the upside is that the car stays flat through corners. There is hardly any body roll when you lace the car through twisting turns, and if there is – the sports seats keep you rigidly in place. Hit a pothole, though and you’ll know all about it. It’s not pleasant when you jar your spine or nearly bite your tongue – so it’s either best to avoid a pothole in the first place, or just accept that you’re in for a rough rally-like ride. This DS3 Performance is literally about, ahem, performance, and not comfort.
The car will do zero to 62mph in 6.5 seconds and it’ll top out at 143mph. That’s fast – and it feels faster in a car this small. ‘Keen’ is a word I’d use for the DS3 performance. The sporty, short gear changes help wind the car up to a decent pace very nicely, but they do feel overly notchy. I confess, I crunched a gear on a couple of occasions – and that can rain on the car’s performance parade.
There’s no denying the DS3 Performance is a car that has the fun factor woven into its DNA. It’s not designed to be comfortable, but it makes you feel youthful and it genuinely makes every drive an occasion. Importantly, it’s pretty good value, priced from £20,995. And with an average fuel consumption figure of over 50mpg, it’ll be relatively cheap to run – providing you don’t spin those wheels and chew through tyres too quickly. Why not contact Perrys to find out more?
Pros ‘n’ Cons
- Looks √
- Power √
- Fun Factor √
- Efficiency √
- Harsh Ride X
Fast Facts (THP 210 6-speed manual Performance)
- Max speed: 143 mph
- 0-62 mph: 6.5 secs
- Combined mpg: 52.3
- Engine layout: 1598cc 4-cylinder turbo petrol
- Max. power (PS): 208
- CO2: 125 g/km
- Price: £20,995