Larger boot than its rivals
The DS3 has been something of a success story for Citroen. Beginning life back in 2010 as the Citroen DS3, the car sold so well that the French manufacturer set up its own in-house luxury brand, DS, centred around the DS3. With its upmarket image, the DS3 is taking on the likes of the Mini Cooper and Audi A1.
The DS3 is a competent and incredibly likeable little supermini. Its smart looks, comfortable ride and decent driving experience all make for an attractive option in a competitive market segment. While the basic look of the DS3 has been around since 2010, it hasn't really dated, and thanks to a couple of facelifts still looks fresh and contemporary in 2016.
Inside, buyers will be treated to a smart-looking interior, with comfortable and supportive seats up front. Adult passengers may not find the back seats the best place to sit on long journeys, as headroom is incredibly tight. If a tall driver and passenger are in the front seats, leg room also becomes fairly thin on the ground.
The DS3 offers a bigger boot than both the Audi A1 and the Mini Cooper, with a capacity of 285 litres with the rear seats up and 980 litres with the rear seats folded down. Comparatively, the Mini and the Audi can only manage 211 litres and 270 litres respectively with their seats up.
Behind the wheel, the DS3 makes for quite a fun little car. If you opt for the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, it is also fairly brisk. The DS3 is an interesting proposition to drive, as it manages to combine comfort with direct steering, good amounts of grip and a dash of excitement when the road gets twisty.
The DS3 makes for a very appealing car indeed. While it may not be as good to drive as a Mini, it isn't too far off. It's also better looking - to some eyes at least - and, if you opt for one of the BlueHDi diesel engines, incredibly economical to run as well. The interior is a nice place to sit, feels well put together and is relatively quiet at motorway speeds.
The DS3 is not a terribly expensive car to run. The 1.2-litre PureTech petrols can all average more than 60mpg - regardless of the power level you opt for. The BlueHDi diesels are even more impressive, with the 98bhp version claiming a combined fuel consumption figure of 83.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 87g/km. Even the more powerful 118bhp engine is capable of a combined economy figure of 78.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 94g/km. Because of their low emissions, the majority of the DS3 range are tax-exempt or incredibly cheap to tax.
The DS3 offers one of the largest boots in its class - with 285 litres of space available with the rear seats in place. Unfortunately though, it also has quite a high boot lip, which might make loading heavier, larger items difficult. Fold the rear seats down to reveal 980 litres of space, although the rear seats do not fold flat and there is a sill in between the boot floor and the base of the back seats. Cubby holes are also limited, and there are no cup holders.
This is one area where the DS3 falls a bit short. While the satellite navigation display is bright and clear, there was no obvious dimmer button to be found, which made a night-time drive down the A3 a bit uncomfortable. Stereo volume controls were also mounted quite low on the dash, which made finding them difficult. Steering-wheel-mounted buttons would not go amiss in the DS3.
Whether you're trundling around town, or travelling some serious distances on the motorway, the DS3 is a comfortable place to be. The front seats are soft and supportive, and road noise intrusion isn't too bad - even with the 17-inch alloys available on the higher-spec cars. If you choose to opt for the slightly smaller 16-inch wheels, you will likely find a further improvement in comfort.
The DS3 features all the usual security features to give you that added peace of mind when leaving your valuables stored in the car and the car parked on the street. Any valuables left in the boot will not be visible from the outside because of the car's load cover. All models come equipped with remote central locking, an alarm and an immobiliser to help keep any car thieves out. That said, this is a more upmarket supermini - which could potentially make it a target for car thieves.
The DS3 was crash-tested by Euro NCAP back in 2009, when it still wore the Citroen badge. At the time, the car was awarded the coveted five-star safety rating, scoring particularly well in the adult occupant safety and safety assist categories, with marks of 87 and 83 per cent respectively. It also scored fairly well for child occupant safety, with a score of 71 per cent. All DS3s come with driver, front passenger, front lateral and curtain airbags.
This is where the DS3 really comes into its element. While the car has been designed with driver comfort in mind as opposed to out-and-out excitement, the DS3 still comes across as an eager car when shown some twistier roads. Its well-weighted steering helps the driver direct the car where they want it, however, the 17-inch alloys specified on our test car did cause it to crash around over bumps a fair amount.
If you were only going to have one car to shuttle you and your family from A to B, the DS3 may not be the best choice. While it is a good car to drive, and it does have a relatively large boot, room in the back is minimal. While this might not be a problem if you have small children, taller children will likely find the back of the DS3 an uncomfortable place to sit on long journeys.
With its trendy image, range of economical engines and fun driving experience, the DS3 makes for an appealing first car - for those who can afford the price tag of GBP13,995 for the most basic model. That said, the generous levels of equipment that are offered as standard will carry some sway, as will the attractive styling and upmarket image. As a number of the engines emit less than 101g/km of CO2, the DS3 will also be mainly free to tax.
The whole point of Citroen establishing the DS brand as a separate entity was to convey that cars bearing the DS badge were more upmarket and luxurious than those without. It is therefore not surprising that the DS3 oozes Gallic charm. On the whole, the interior of the car is a nice place to sit, with plenty of leather and soft-touch materials scattered throughout. While there are some plastic surfaces, they are largely out of sight and out of mind. Build-quality wise, the DS3 feels solidly put together.
Getting in and out of the DS3 is never going to be a problem, but only if you're getting into the front of the car. Passengers looking to get into the back of the car may find the experience a little undignified, but then again, this is a three-door car. While the front two seats are a comfortable place to find yourself, taller passengers will want to avoid the back seats at all costs if faced with a long journey, thanks to incredibly limited head and legroom.
Regardless of the trim level you select on your DS3, you will find plenty of kit as standard. Even the entry-level Chic models come equipped with a seven-inch colour touchscreen, DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Cars in Prestige trim and above also feature satellite navigation, as well as a stereo system upgrade. The satellite navigation system is easy to use, and makes travelling in unfamiliar locations that much easier thanks to its clear instructions and sharp display.
The range of colours and sheer scope for customisation is one of the DS3's main selling points. Colours include everything from bright yellows and reds to smart and subtle silvers and greys. The DS3 can also be specced with a contrasting roof, as well as a selection of graphics to add even greater levels of personalisation. It is available in five trim levels: Chic, Elegance, Prestige, Givenchy Le Makeup and Ultra Prestige.
Thanks to the DS3's supermini size, parking is a doddle. In Elegance trim and above, it features a rear parking sensor as standard, meaning you will know you're about to hit something well before it happens. It would also be a worthwhile investment to go for the optional rear parking camera - a GBP450 option that includes front parking sensors on Elegance models, and a GBP200 option on Prestige models. The rear-view parking camera comes as standard on the top-of-the-line Ultra Prestige spec.
Space-saver wheel supplied as standard on Prestige models and above.
Petrol engine options - 1.2-litre PureTech (81bhp, 109bhp, 129bhp); 1.6-litre THP (161bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.6-litre BlueHDi (98bhp, 118bhp). Transmission options: five-speed manual gearbox depending on model, six-speed manual gearbox depending on model, plus six-speed automatic gearbox depending on model. Trim levels: Chic, Elegance, Prestige, Givenchy Le Makeup, Ultra Prestige.