"Based on the Citroen C3, the stylish, three-door DS3 is more exciting to drive and luxurious."
The DS3 is a premium supermini from Citroen that rivals the MINI and Alfa Romeo MiTo. It's based on the C3, but has a more upmarket interior and exciting driving experience. Engines range from an efficient, road tax-exempt 89bhp diesel to a 1.6-litre petrol turbo that produces 155bhp. There's also a range-topping DS3 Racing, but only 200 were sold in the UK. All cars get a stylish and modern interior, and the DS3 is a fine all-rounder.
There's an impressive range of engines in the DS3, so you can suit the car to your needs. The 89bhp diesel is good around town and very cheap to run, while the superb 155bhp petrol engine makes for an exciting drive but could be costly to run every day. DSport models get stiffer suspension, giving the car more grip and making it sportier, but in turn reducing comfort. The steering is light and easy to use on all models, however. The limited-edition DS3 Racing offers improved handling and 0-62mph in just 6.9 seconds.
All models, apart from the DSport, are equipped with soft suspension and offer a supple ride, but wind and road noise are more intrusive than in rivals like the VW Polo. Cars equipped with the five-speed gearbox get a bit noisy on the motorway, but the six-speed manual is quieter than the equivalent MINI. Even the DSport has a fairly smooth ride, but buyers looking for comfort over performance should probably steer clear. The driving position is reasonably comfortable but some drivers will find it hard to reach the buttons on the central console. There's a wide range of adjustment on the steering wheel and seats, so it's easy for all shapes and sizes of driver to get comfortable, but the rear seats are not really suitable for adults.
The DS3's interior is solidly put together and there are plenty of luxurious soft-touch materials. A few sections of cheaper, scratchy plastics are evident, but they tend to be hidden out of the way. The car was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, all models coming with six airbags, stability control and ABS as standard. Citroens of old weren’t exactly renowned for their reliability, but there has been a definite improvement in recent years - although, don’t rule out the problems with the electrics or windscreen washers that have been experienced by some owners.
There's less space between the front and rear wheels in the DS3 than its rivals. That limits knee room in the rear, although adults will still just about fit in the back. The sloping roof means headroom is tight too, though, and the three-door layout makes squeezing into the back tricky. The car has more space than a MINI hatchback, but trails an Alfa Romeo MiTo – however, it trumps them both for boot space, with a capacity of 285 litres. The back seats fold down to increase this even further.
Value for money
The entry-level 1.4-litre DS3 DSign is very affordable, and gets cruise control, electric windows and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. But buyers might want extras like air-conditioning and alloy wheels. DSport models are expensive, but there's no need to specify any optional extras on these. The Ultra Prestige models get classy ‘watch strap’ leather seats as part of a generous equipment pack, but are even more costly. Citroen's three-year/35,000-mile service warranty offers great value for money. The DS3 Red special edition offers extra kit and a special red trim package inside and out. It's good value, but you have to like the colour red, as it is rather garish.
The DStyle 99g model is fitted with a 1.6-litre diesel and, as the name suggests, has low emissions and is exempt from road tax. It also returns 74.6mpg fuel economy. The more powerful 109bhp diesel is still cheap to run, but is quicker in a straight line. Go for the 155bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol model and you pay £155 a year in tax and get 47.1mpg economy. All DS3s are expected to hang on to their value well, though.