The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.6
The DS 3 Cabrio has the looks and image to keep buyers flocking to showrooms. It also has a stylish cabin, a decent range of engines and a plethora of customising options. Sadly, the whole package is undermined by a harsh ride, a disconnected driving experience and a not-quite-authentic open-air experience.
Reasons to buy
- Fantastic range of options
- High desirability equals solid resale values
- Funky interior design
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?
The DS 3 Cabrio is certainly a striking-looking car, especially when finished in the most daring of the numerous colour combinations. Its defining design features are a 'shark’s fin' B-pillar and a vertical array of LED lights mounted either side of the front bumper. Along with the bold alloy wheels, boomerang front and rear lights and DS badging, the DS 3 Cabrio has a unique style of its own.
What's the interior like?
The DS 3’s cabin features soft-touch materials and glossy panels that give it an impressive feeling of class, while the thoughtfully designed dials and funky touches add a fair dose of sophistication. 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 exterior colour, depending on your preference. In terms of ergonomics, the dials and switches work well enough, although some functions are tucked away in the touch-screen sub-menus. All models have a height-adjustable driver’s seat and two-way adjustment on the steering wheel, so most folk will find it easy to adopt a comfortable driving position. It’s not so easy to see out of the back with the roof up due to the small rear window; and, because the roof doesn’t fold down as far as it does in other convertibles, visibility is even worse in open-air mode.
How practical is it?
The DS 3 Cabrio has the same size boot as the hatchback, at 285 litres, making it much bigger than you get in either the Mini Convertible or Fiat 500C. However, size isn’t everything. The Cabrio’s loadspace is accessed through a shallow, letterbox-like opening that makes loading bulky items pretty much impossible, and there’s no way of extending the loadbay by folding the rear seats down. Passenger space also is the same as you get in the DS 3 hatchback, but again that’s not necessarily a good thing. There’s plenty of room up front, but the amount of interior space you get isn’t as generous in the back; the seats are very short on both headroom and legroom, making them a no-go area for tall adults. Accessing the back seats takes a little contortionism, too.
What's it like to drive?
Grip is strong and the body control is tight, so the DS 3 feels alert and agile in faster bends. However, it doesn’t have the same balance or responsiveness as the Mini Convertible, 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 DS 3’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. The powerful Performance models are more hardcore still, so the ride is even harsher. At least the body is stiff enough to resist scuttle shake pretty effectively, although it’s not completely immune from the odd case of the wobbles.
How powerful is it?
The latest advances in 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engines means they are likely to take star billing from the previously dominant diesel engines in the DS 3 line-up, especially the turbocharged 128bhp version. Although a little flat below 2000rpm, it’s encouragingly strong and flexible above this point, and happy to rev long and hard. If it has a weakness, it’s the high levels of boom it generates when lugging higher gears and cruising at motorway speeds. It’s easy to see why the 1.6-litre THP 210 engine option will hit the spot with hot-hatch fans. Muscular and flexible when driven in a relaxed manner, it transforms into a fizzy and rev-hungry monster when you stamp on it. There are two diesel engines available, 1.6s with either 98- or 118bhp, but we’ve only tried the higher-powered unit. It gives strong, smooth acceleration, but its flexibility is hampered somewhat by tall gearing.
How much will it cost me?
The DS 3’s resale values are very good, although they still can’t match the exceptionally strong values achieved by an equivalent Mini. Fuel economy is pretty fair, with the three-cylinder petrol engines coming close to diesel levels of economy. Even the potent THP 210 turbocharged petrol engine is claimed to better 50mpg, which is impressive given its power and performance. Both the diesels, meanwhile, can better 75mpg, and the correspondingly low CO2 emissions – and tax liabilities – make them the obvious choice for company car drivers.
How reliable is it?
The DS 3 is a Citroen in all but name, and the French company 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 DS 3 ranks impressively highly in the JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey.
How safe is it?
The DS 3 hatchback has been awarded the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, scoring 87% for adult occupant protection. It’s not certain that the Cabrio would offer an identical performance, but we can’t seeing it being all that much different. 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 Chic trim has some very nice features, including a 7.0-inch colour touch-screen, cruise control, a leather-bound steering wheel with audio controls, air-conditioning, Bluetooth and alloy wheels to add to the remote locking and electric front windows you’d expect. Elegance trim adds even more styling goodies, including darkened rear windows and LED front foglamps, while moving up to Prestige trim adds 17-inch alloys, sat-nav and Alcantara seat trim. In amongst its additional design fripperies, top of the range Ultra Prestige adds a reversing camera and full leather upholstery. The Performance models come in a choice of bespoke trims that echo the higher-end trims available on the rest of the range.
While the DS 3 Hatchback is a rather disappointing car to drive compared with its rivals, the standards are rather lower in the small-convertible class than they are in the small hatchback class. This should shoot the Cabrio further towards the front of the line for your consideration, but it won’t get all the way there because it’s still nowhere near as good to drive as a Mini Convertible. Still, for many prospective buyers, the distinctive looks, high-quality interior and myriad customising options will no doubt compensate for any shortcomings in the way it behaves on the road.