Price: £15,900
Top speed: 133mph 0-60mph 7.3 seconds
Consumption: 42.2mpg
CO2 emissions:
Best for: Mini owners who have tired of retro
Also worth considering? Alfa Romeo Mito, BMW Mini, Fiat 500

The new DS3 is an impressive effort but it's more than just a good car. It's also the first of a whole new parallel range of DS models designed to be funkier than mainstream Citroëns – the C cars – and a bit pricier, too. Think of the DS3 as a rival for BMW's Mini and the C3 as a counterpart to the more orthodox VW Polo, and you'll have a rough idea how it's supposed to work.

That comparison with the Mini is unavoidable but tells us quite a bit about what Citroë*is trying to achieve with the DS3. The two cars share the same smooth and eager petrol engine, the product of a joint development effort, while Citroë*also borrows from the Mini the principle of allowing customers a very high degree of choice over colour combinations and trim finishes. This apparently frivolous aspect of the DS3 is probably the most important from a business point of view; individually specified cars have to be built to order, which is the way the premium car manufacturers keep supply tight and discounts and depreciation low. That's a big change for Citroë*but it should also be a profitable one.

How does the DS3 differ from the Mini? Mainly in thoroughly rejecting the retro route to creating a chic urban runabout. Citroë*has a more interesting back catalogue than just about any other manufacturer, but still decided to go for a fresh look rather than reinvent one of its old cars. The DS tag is borrowed from one of the company's most distinguished past models but the company is trying to regenerate the spirit of innovation that car embodied, rather than recycle any specific detail of its design. I think this was the right decision. Given the freedom to do something new rather than copy something old, the DS3's designers have come up with a car that's modern and appealing both inside and out; the cabin, in particular, where Citroën's steadily improving quality levels combine with a new attention to detail, is very impressive, and also offers a lot more space for luggage and rear-seat occupants than the Mini does. That consideration for passengers extends to the driving experience; the DS3 is fluid enough but lacks the Mini's eager dartiness, while compensating strongly with much better ride comfort and suppression of road noise.

The DS3 is a great start. My hope is that with the the larger DS4 and DS5, due to appear by 2011, Citroën will have the courage to be bolder still.

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