The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.6
The Citroen DS3 has the sort of looks that'll get image-conscious buyers flocking to showrooms. It has a high quality cabin and it's also pretty good to drive. However, some rivals are even better.
Reasons to buy
- Great styling
- Funky, high quality interior
- Looks good on reliability
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
According to Citroen, the DS3 is ‘anti-retro’, which is a bit of a dig at retro-inspired cars like the
Fiat 500. The DS3 is certainly a striking-looking car, especially when finished in the most daring of the numerous colour combinations on offer. Its most original feature is a ‘floating roof’, a trick of the eye by its designers made possible by discreet black window pillars. A vertical array of LED lights mounted either side of the front bumper and bold alloy wheels (both standard on all but the entry-level car), boomerang front and rear lights and DS badging give the DS3 a unique style of its own.
What's the interior like?
If you expect Citroens to have plasticky, cheap-feeling interiors, think again. The DS3’s cabin features soft-touch materials and glossy panels that give it an impressive feeling of class, while the intricately designed dials and funky interior design touches add a fair dose of style. That’s before you’ve even begun to start customising your car’s interior with the vast array of colour options available for the fascia panels, air-vent surrounds and upholstery. These can be selected to match – or clash – with the car’s paint colour, depending on preference. This isn’t a car for the shy-and-retiring. The fiddly stereo system is the only real black mark on the ergonomic front – all the other dials and switches work well. And, because all models have a height-adjustable driver’s seat and two-way steering wheel adjustment, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. It’s not so easy to see out of the back, though, due to the small rear window.
How practical is it?
The DS3 has a much bigger boot than the Mini and Fiat 500, with 285 litres that can be can expanded to 980 litres with the rear seats folded down. That’s similar to what you get from a ‘regular’ supermini like the Ford Fiesta. However, the amount of interior space you get isn’t as generous. There’s plenty of room up front, but the back seats are very short on both headroom and legroom, making them a no-go area for tall adults. The three-door-only bodystyle also means that accessing the back seats takes a little contortionism.
What's it like to drive?
Driven in isolation, the DS3 is good fun. Grip is strong and the body control is tight, so it feels alert and agile in the bends. However, it doesn’t have the same balance or responsiveness as the Mini, and the steering doesn’t give as much feedback. As a result, it’s not as enjoyable to fling down your favourite county road. What’s more, the DS3’s hard suspension saddles it with a punishing ride, so it’s not as comfortable as a Mini, either. To top things off, the amount of road noise you hear at motorway speeds spoils the car’s refinement.
How powerful is it?
We haven’t yet driven the entry-level engine, a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol with 81bhp. We have tried the second rung on the ladder, though, the 118bhp 1.6 petrol. It needs a few revs to get going, and the pace it delivers is steady rather than snorting. The range-topping 1.6 turbo, however, with its 154bhp, has all the snort you need. It’s fast and flexible, and feels every inch the junior hot hatch that the DS3’s looks suggest. There are two diesel engines available, 1.6s with either 91bhp or 113bhp. So far, we’ve only tried the higher-powered unit, which gives strong, smooth acceleration.
How much will it cost me?
The DS3 costs you more to buy than the equivalent Fiat 500, but less than the equivalent Mini. However, while residual values are very good for a Citroen, they still can’t live with the impressively strong values achieved by the DS3’s rivals. Fuel economy is pretty fair – the three-cylinder petrol gives you an average of more than 60mpg, while the 1.6 petrol achieves almost 50mpg (though your return with be much lower if you specify the automatic gearbox option). Even the turbocharged petrol engine gets close to 50mpg, which is impressive given its power. Both the diesels, meanwhile, can better 74mpg, and the correspondingly low CO2 emissions make them the choice for company car drivers.
How reliable is it?
Citroen has suffered some stick for the reliability of its cars in the past, but that’s not supported by what the various studies say. The brand currently sits in the top half of Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings, and the DS3 ranks impressively highly in the JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey.
How safe is it?
The DS3 has been awarded the full five-stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, scoring 87% for adult occupant protection. All trim levels come with anti-lock brakes and stability control as standard, as well as six airbags and ISOFIX rear child seat anchor points.
How much equipment do I get?
The entry-level DSign trim has some very nice features indeed, including cruise control, front foglamps and a leather steering wheel with audio controls to add to the remote locking and electric front windows you’s expect. However, it does miss out on a few things you’ll want – you need to upgrade to DStyle trim to get air-conditioning, Bluetooth and alloy wheels, plus the LED running lights and exterior styling enhancements that give the DS3 much of its visual impact. DSport trim adds even more styling goodies, along with climate control, a USB socket and an eight-speaker hi-fi.
The DS3 has a lot going for it, like its distinctive, attractive looks, its high-quality interior and its entertaining driving manners. However, the driving experience can’t match the best rivals on either fun or comfort, and the limited practicality and hit-and-miss engine range means it’s not our favourite car of this type.