Citroën DS3

They brought you iconic designs in the Forties and Fifties, and they're at it again with the first in the new DS range

Citroën. A brand more complicated than it might first appear. Depending on your age and car knowledge, the starting point in your Citroën perception may be, like mine, a notion of strange and fantastic ways of creating popular cars unlike any others. Who else could make a car like a streamlined, hydro-pneumatically sprung DS, a wheel-at-each-corner Traction Avant, or a tin-snail CV?

But I am basking in a rosy past, before rampant safety and emissions legislation forced all car-makers into design and engineering straitjackets. Besides, there has always been the need to make money. That is why some of the heart was torn out of Citroën during the past quarter-century, as its Peugeot parent placed sales success above idiosyncratic engineering and the style that went with it.

You can't blame Peugeot for wanting to make Citroën a paying proposition, but it's a shame the past was so decisively denied when it is that past which gave Citroë*its reason to exist. Instead, Citroën became a bargain brand, sullied – particularly in the UK – by a rampant discount culture which traded long-term respect for short-term gain. Inevitably, recent attempts to break out of this – with some terrific concept cars and the splendid C6 – have still to take root.

So, meet Citroën's new DS. This time it's a range, a sub-brand, a new concept in Citroënism rather than just one car. It arrives as Citroën re-embraces its past, but this is not retro-flavoured in the mould of a Mini or a Beetle. It is instead a more luxurious, more indulgent, more heart-warming alternative to mainstream Citroëns.

There will be DS4 and DS5 models, but first, please meet the DS3. Based on the recently-launched C3 super-mini, and vying for buyers tempted also by a Mini or an Alfa Mito, it's a pert-looking, three-door hatchback whose blade-like roof apes the Mini's but whose "shark's fin" centre pillar – which seemingly leaves fresh air between the fin and the roof – is entirely its own.

As with the Mini, the roof can be had in a contrasting colour, and there's a range of patterns and stripes and bright-metal accessorisations to personalise your DS3. Same with the interior; the dashboard is based on the C3's but you can cover it with leather (even in a quilt effect, if you must) or have a large section of it painted in one of the body colours.

For my DS3 "experience" I selected a DSport model in metallic grey with roof, dashboard and interior leather in a rich, dark red. (Less lush versions are called DSign and DStyle.) Dispassionate examination revealed the bonnet, front wings and windscreen to be shared with the C3 but you would barely notice. The whole aura is different: the idea has been to make a car which is truly fun to drive, and these are not empty words. DS3 project leader Thierry Blanchard knows well how keen drivers have despaired of the Peugeot-Citroën group's loss of what once made its hot hatchbacks among the very best for driving amusement. He says the DS3 rights the recent wrongs.

Specifically, its steering is freed of the rubberiness and artificial stiffness that spoils the racier versions of the Peugeot 207, from which the DS3's underskin architecture has evolved. And its rear suspension's rubber pivots contain both soft and hard layers, to damp out road harshness without spoiling the precision. The engineers have listened and learned. "The DS3 feels like a more grown-up Saxo VTS," says Blanchard. Which sounds like good news.

He's right, too. The steering is precise, ideally weighted, and free of the glutinous action that plagues some similar electric systems. The DS3 copes well with bumps, letting you know they are there but spiriting the aftershock away. Out on the open road it points keenly into corners, just as that Saxo VTS and its fabulous forbear, the Peugeot 205 GTI, once did, but the tail always stays well tied down. You can turn the traction and stability controls off for more amusement, but even when switched on they don't cool your ardour too often.

The £15,900 DSport I'm driving has the 154bhp version of the turbocharged, direct-injection engine used in some other Peugeots, Citroëns and the Mini Cooper S – lesser petrol and diesel engines are also available – and it's as smooth and punchy as ever. Overtaking is the matter of an ankle-flex, there is no detectable response lag from the turbocharger, and in the DS3 it has an exhaust note deep and sonorous enough to set the right aural backdrop. All the fun of a Mini, with a better ride and a bigger boot, to boot.

Thumbs up all round, then. The DS brand gets off to a credible start. The DS3 looks good, feels good and is great fun to drive. Best of all, Peugeot-Citroën's engineers have got their fun-car mojo back.

The Rivals

Mini Cooper S: from £16,575

More powerful (175bhp) version of engine used in DS3 makes Cooper S very lively, but the ride can get tiresomely bumpy, and the boot is tiny.

Fiat 500 Abarth: £13,605

Smaller, cheaper, but similar feisty turbo (135bhp). Suspension changes make the Abarth the most comfortable 500, as well as the most fun.

Alfa Mito Quadrifoglio Verde: £16,000

Multiair engines feature hydraulic inlet valves; top model gets 170bhp and low CO2 from 1.4 litres. Steering improved. Looks fun, and is.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
A bartender serves beers
news
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Life and Style
The finale at Dolce and Gabbana autumn/winter 2015
fashion
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?