Citroën DS3 hatchback
Price £12,495 - £21,650
- Fun to drive
- Good engine line-up
- Stylish design
- Not as fun to drive as MINI
- Legroom is tight
- Costly options
At a glance
"The Citroen DS3 is a more premium and sporty version of the C3 supermini. It's stylish and great fun to drive."
Premium superminis have been all the rage for years now, thanks to the success of the MINI Cooper, and the Citroen DS3 is the French company's offering in this highly competitive market.
It's a sportier and more premium version of the standard C3, and as well as the MINI it competes with the Alfa Romeo MiTo and the Audi A1. It can’t quite match the latter for cabin quality, but the interior is classier than the one you'll find in the MINI. And while it's not quite a match for the MINI in terms of pure driving fun, it does have the Alfa and the Audi beat in this important category.
It comes with a great engine line-up that ranges from an ultra-efficient diesel to a sportier 153bhp turbocharged petrol engine. There was also a top-of-the-range Citroen DS3 Racing, but Citroen limited it to just 200 models, and they have all been sold. It's available in four specification levels: entry-level DSign, mid-range DStyle, DSport and top-spec Ultra Prestige.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Ultra-economical diesel offers tax-free motoring
The most efficient engine in the range is the 1.6-litre DStyle e-HDi Airdream diesel, which offers impressively low running costs. It will do 78.5mpg and 91g/km CO2 – making it exempt from road tax. But even the sportier engines offer decent economy. Top-spec Ultra Prestige models with the 153bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol will still do 47.1mpg and 135g/km CO2 – putting it in tax band E with an annual cost of £125. That's very reasonable for the level of performance on offer. Avoid the automatic gearbox unless you consider it an absolute necessity as it pushes up emissions by a fair whack – the 1.6-litre VTi's releases 150g/km CO2, putting it in tax band F with an annual cost of £140.
Interior & comfort
DS3 sacrifices some comfort in the pursuit of sporty performance
The Citroen DS3 is a fun car to drive, but that inevitably comes with a compromise when it comes to comfort. However, while it isn’t as comfortable as, say, the Skoda Fabia, it isn’t uncomfortable. Citroen has done a good job of ensuring that the suspension isn’t too stiff, and it has enough give in it to smooth out most bumps and potholes.
Critically, that means it's more comfortable than one of its key rivals: the MINI Cooper. The exception to this is the DSport model which comes with firmer suspension for even sharper handling. The DS3 also has a good driving position and the seat and steering wheel are fully adjustable, allowing you to get the perfect set up. There are some issues, though. One is the rear seats – they’re a little cramped and adults are unlikely to be able to get comfortable back there, which makes them really only useable for children on longer journeys. Second is the noise in the cabin. It's not very well insulated and lets in quite a bit of wind and road noise.
Practicality & boot space
Impressive boot, but knee room in rear is tight
A car of the DS3's dimensions is never going to offer much practicality, but it still manages to offer a few worthy surprises. You get more space than in a MINI hatchback and it offers 285 litres of boot space, which expands to 980 litres when the standard-fit split-fold rear seats are folded down flat. That's more than in the Alfa Romeo MiTo, although the MiTo does beat it for overall space. For instance, while adults can fit in the back, it's simply not advisable because of the lack of knee and headroom – both thanks to the short wheelbase and sloping roof. And the three-door body style also makes access to the back a little too difficult.
Reliability & safety
Well-built and very safe
A 36th place finish in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's list of the top 100 cars was one of Citroen's best ever results in the survey. Citroen itself also showed an improvement, climbing six places to rank 21st out of 32 in the manufacturers table – making it one of the best improvers in the poll. Citroen now needs to keep this reputation rehabilitation going, with even the DS3 still showing some problems with build quality, and we wouldn’t rule the kind of reliability problems that have dogged Citroen in the past, such as electrical faults or faulty windscreen washer – which have been experienced by some owners.
Inside the DS3 you’ll find plenty of soft-touch materials and a higher build standard than in the C3, but you’ll still find some cheap, scratchy plastics hidden away in the nooks and crannies. Fortunately, the DS3 did secure the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with all cars coming fitted with six airbags, electronic stability control (ESP) and anti-lock brakes (ABS) as standard.
Engines, drive & performance
Great fun to drive thanks to accurate steering and decent grip
The Citroen DS3 is one of the most entertaining superminis around. In terms of driving fun, it's not quite up to the standards of the MINI Cooper or the Ford Fiesta, but it's a lot less common than both those models, so buyers looking for something a little different would do well to consider it. The steering is light but accurate, there is plenty of grip and the engine range is good, too.
Those looking for the best performance should go for the 155bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol and consider a DSport spec model, which gets a firmer suspension setup for improved handling and grip. Just be aware that DSport models are also quite a bit less comfortable than the other models in the range.
The limited edition DS3 Racing offers the best handling and performance – it will go from 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds – but all 200 examples of them sold out, so you’ll only be able to get one second hand.
Price, value for money & options
DS3 is the most affordable premium supermini
The Citroen DS3 has a lower starting price than any of its premium supermini rivals – you’ll pay quite a bit more for an entry-level MINI, Alfa Romeo MiTo or Audi A1. However, equipment levels are a little sparse on the base model – it gets cruise control, electric windows and steering-wheel mounted audio controls but no alloy wheels or air-conditioning.
DSport comes with just about all the equipment and accessories you could ask for, and Ultra Prestige comes with a number of trim upgrades on top of that, including things like “watch strap” leather seats – but it doesn’t come cheap. All models get a comprehensive three-year/60,000 mile warranty, and resale values should prove to be pretty strong on the DS3, since it's relatively exclusive and premium.
What the others say
"Decent build quality and classy detailing mark out the DS3's cabin. The dashboard is carried over from the firm's C3 supermini, which means you get eye-catching dials and a logical layout. Buyers can colour co-ordinate the dash, gearlever and key fob with the exterior paint finish. The newcomer steals a march on the MINI thanks to its five-seat layout – theBritish car can only accommodate four occupants. Opening the tailgate reveals a useful 285-litre load bay."
"The engine combines strong low-rev performance – 110bhp at 3600rpm and 199lb ft at 2000rpm, enough for a sub-10.0sec 0-60mph time – with a claimed 62.8mpg (combined cycle) and 118g/km of CO2 emissions, which sees annual road tax costing just £20."
"The DS3 is Citroen's answer to the Mini and Fiat 500, and it gives you a lot of style for your money. The engines are strong, it has a classy cabin and every version comes well equipped."