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Citroen DS3 Racing Cabriolet review

Sharp exterior design still looks great

May 2014

picture of car from the front picture of car from the rear picture of car interior picture of car detail

Overall rating

4 out of 5 stars

Likes:

  • Sharp exterior design still looks great
  • Sparky performance from the turbocharged engine
  • Impressive specification as standard
  • Roof system performs well up or down

Gripes:

  • Undeniably high list price
  • Driving position may not suit all
  • Steering is accurate but strong self-centering action disconcerting
  • Red stripe across glovebox looks cheap

Citroen's fizzy and eye-catching DS3 has appeared in several different guises since it appeared in 2009, and the French firm has introduced another variant in the shape of the Racing Cabriolet. Mixing the high performance of the Racing model with the fresh air appeal of the Cabriolet, it is a strictly limited edition designed to appeal to the hardcore DS3 enthusiast.

The DS3 has been a vital car for the Citroen brand, particularly in the UK, as it has provided a more exciting and design-led offering in a highly-competitive market compared to the more sensible-shoes approach of the C3 supermini. By mixing eye-catching design, a high degree of personalisation and impressive driving dynamics the DS3 has proved to be very popular.

The DS3 Racing Cabriolet sits at the very top of the DS3 range, combining the key elements of two other models in the range. The Racing tag denotes that this is a high performance model, bringing with it the impressive 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine used elsewhere in the range but in its highest state of tune. Upgraded suspension and more powerful brakes complete the mechanical enhancements.

As well as the performance the DS3 Racing Cabriolet also provides the flexibility of the folding fabric roof. As with the standard Cabriolet model the electrically operated roof can be partially retracted to give a sunroof-like opening, or folded further back beyond the top of the rear window for an even more substantial opening. Usefully this also allows it to be operated at speed.

The DS3 Racing Cabriolet also gains a number of visual enhancements shared only with the fixed-roof Racing model, namely bigger alloy wheels, distinctive stripes and interior trims. It also comes in a unique dark grey matte paint colour with contrasting red stripes, and is strictly limited to 100 examples across Europe.

Our verdict on the Citroen DS3 Racing Cabriolet

On the one hand the DS3 Racing Cabriolet is the high-end supermini that has everything: performance, handling, unique looks and the appeal of the folding roof. More rationally however it is quite a stretch to accept the asking price, which is beyond some similarly specified cars from the class above. But the DS3 Racing Cabriolet is a fun and rare car and so would be enjoyable to anyone who can afford it.

Costs

Ignoring the high purchase price, the DS3 Racing Cabriolet will cost more than the average supermini to run. The petrol unit is capable of good economy but only when driven with restraint, while the insurance costs are likely to be relatively high for a car of this size.

Space and practicality

Despite the hot hatch cabriolet approach the DS3 has a respectable boot, good space inside and a proper fifth seat, although compared to the normal hatchback the boot is smaller and more difficult to get to.

Controls and display

In keeping with its stylish design inside and out, the main instrument cluster and centre console look great, with a glamorous and confident edge to the design. The large central media interface screen on this model is also smart-looking and easy to understand, with a clear readout and responsive touch recognition.

Comfort

Driven in a more relaxed manner the DS3 Racing Cabriolet is surprisingly composed and refined. The front seats are excellent, noise levels are more than acceptable even with the fabric roof and general refinement is good. A lesser model on standard suspension will offer better ride quality of course, but the DS3 Racing Cabriolet is still comfortable.

Car security

Thankfully in Racing Cabriolet guise the DS3 comes with an alarm as well as the standard immobiliser, and while the folding roof does mean the potential for an aggressive entry into the car, the contents of the boot are well hidden.

Car safety

As is normal for almost every modern car, each of the DS3 Cabrio models shares the same high safety kit specification. A full spread of active safety systems monitor each wheel's behaviour and correct any aberrations or abnormalities by braking individual wheels or simply cutting power from the engine. The rear bench seat has three proper three-point seat belts and there are airbags throughout the structure, while the roof design means it retains much more of the inherent structural strength compare to a normal convertible.

Driver appeal

With that powerful turbocharged engine up front the DS3 Racing Cabriolet is all about fun. There's lots of torque from low revs yet the engine is happy to be worked hard, so there's plenty of performance on offer. The stiffened suspension gives consistently high levels of grip without ruining the ride, and the steering is quick to respond - although the strong self-centering action takes a little getting used to.

Family car appeal

For a car of its size the DS3 could perform some family duties, as two child seats can be fitted in the back with relative ease. However some buggies would not be able to squeeze through the boot aperture, and the interior decals would no doubt succumb to inquisitive fingers.

First car appeal

In many ways the Citroen DS3 Racing Cabriolet would make a fine first car, as it is relatively easy to drive, compact and has strong visual appeal. But with 204bhp and a high price tag it seems unlikely that any new driver will have the funds to buy or insure one.

Quality and image

Citroen has seen a steady improvement in quality over the last few years, although it is fair to say it ranks in the middle of the pack rather than at the front. In respect of image the DS3 is arguably the stand-out car of the Citroen range, while the Racing tag brings it extra kudos.

Accessibility

While the fixed roof frame is a boon for maintaining chassis strength, it does mean that even with the roof slid back access is made no easier for rear passengers. Long doors mean that it's easier to hop into the back than in some rival cars, but the other side of the coin is that once seated, front seat occupants have a long reach backwards to grasp the seat belt.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The Racing Cabriolet has a unique exterior colour that sets it apart from the rest of the range and makes the most of its design. The same is true for the inside with smart greys and blacks, although the red stripe across the glovebox lets it down a little.

Colours and trim

The Racing Cabriolet has a unique exterior colour that sets it apart from the rest of the range and makes the most of its design. The same is true for the inside with smart greys and blacks, although the red stripe across the glovebox lets it down a little.

Parking

The DS3 Racing Cabriolet can be difficult to reverse with the roof all the way back where it blocks the line of sight, and it isn't much better with the roof up. The small rear windscreen effectively creates the effect of wide C-pillars, but thankfully rear parking sensors are fitted as standard to alleviate the problem.

Spare wheel

Space saver fitted as standard.

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.2-litre (81bhp); 1.6-litre (118bhp); 1.6-litre THP turbo (153bhp, 204bhp). Transmission options: five and six-speed manual gearbox depending on model. Trim levels: DSign, DStyle, DSport, Racing, Racing Cabriolet.