Citroen DS3 hatchback

£13,295 - £20,995

The DS 3 is a stylish, compact three-door hatchback (also available in cabriolet form) that rivals the MINI, Fiat 500 and Alfa Romeo MiTo. Although it's badged as DS, it's actually a member of the Citroen family – ‘DS’ referring to a stylish and futuristic saloon the company made in the sixties. So, when considering a DS, Citroen would like you to put all thoughts of the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa out of your mind.

Depending on which trim level you go for, you can choose from three efficient petrol engines (the mid-range one comes in manual or automatic form) and two diesels. Our pick of the petrols is the PureTech 110 manual. It can do 62.8mpg and costs just £20 a year to tax (the less powerful PureTech 82 has the same figures) but takes the car from 0-62mph in a reasonably brisk 9.6 seconds.

The diesels are more frugal still, with the BlueHDi managing 83.1mpg. Both cost nothing to tax. Of all the engines, our favourite is the BueHDi 120. What's more, it has a six-speed gearbox, where the two less powerful petrols are five-speed (the exception is the sporty THP 165 petrol engine, which also has six speeds).

The DS 3 is fun to drive, as it's sporty and agile. The steering could be better weighted and have more feedback (MINI's is better) but even so, it's impressive and the ride is comfortable.

This car is also as good-looking inside as it is outside. Fit and finish is top-notch and most of the materials look and feel a cut above those in Citroens. Unlike rivals such as the MINI and Audi A1, there's no five-door DS3, so rear-seat passengers are always going to have to clamber past the front seats.

The front is roomy enough, but the rear suffers from the DS 3's sloping roofline. What's more, rear quarter visibility is compromised by thick window pillars. On the plus side, there's a large boot that's only slightly spoiled by a high rear bumper.

There are five core trim levels, running from basic DSign to top-spec Ultra Prestige. Our pick of the line-up is the second one up, called DStyle. It offers a wide choice of engines and transmissions and comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, sat nav and dark-tinted windows. That said, even the DSign has a leather-trimmed steering wheel, cruise control and electric mirrors.

Euro NCAP awarded the DS its top five-star crash safety rating and standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. DS is a relatively new brand, so we can only infer its reliability from current Citroens. The picture here is patchy, but since the DS 3 shares many parts with the tried-and-tested Citroen C3, we think it should hold up well.