Citroen DS3 hatchback

£13,995 - £25,495

It’s now sold under the ‘DS’ brand, but the DS 3 is pretty much identical to the upmarket runabout that went on sale in 2010 as the Citroen DS3. However, that shouldn’t be construed as a bad thing – on the contrary, it’s remarkable how competitive the DS 3 remains.

Practicality, for example, is still quite strong when compared with rivals – although shy of the class-leading Renault Clio’s 300-litre capacity, the DS 3’s 285-litre boot is on par with those of the Peugeot 208 and Ford Fiesta and miles ahead of what the MINI hatchback can manage. Space for rear-seat passengers is also decent, but access isn’t helped by the DS 3’s three-door bodystyle.

Equipment is also pretty good across the entire DS 3 range. Even entry-level Chic models come with cruise control, six airbags, air-con, a touchscreen display on the centre console and a tyre-pressure monitoring system as standard, while models further up the range come with extras like parking sensors, leather seats and larger alloy wheels.

Overall, the DS 3’s engine range is well rounded, with each offering a different balance between power and fuel economy. Our pick would be the 110bhp, 62mpg PureTech petrol with a manual gearbox, as it suits the car’s character well, offers enough grunt for the needs of most buyers and is just as frugal as the 82bhp version of the same engine.

If you want a faster petrol, the DS 3 Performance will do 143mph and 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds, but should still return around 50mpg. It can now compete with the MINI Cooper S for the first time, but it's expensive compared to the Ford Fiesta ST.

The DS 3’s diesel engines also impress and will be far more appealing to buyers with high annual mileage thanks to their lower running costs compared to the petrols. Both versions of the 1.6-litre diesel are tax-exempt, for instance, and all can return well over 70mpg. As appealing as the 80mpg+ 100bhp model is, though, we’d recommend the punchier 120bhp engine, as it’s almost as efficient and the extra gear (six versus the 100bhp’s five) makes it more suitable for motorway cruising.

No matter which engine you go for, the DS 3 is a sporty and relatively engaging car to drive. It’s not as much fun as a MINI or Ford Fiesta, but it gives the Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa a run for their money and strikes a better compromise between ride and handling than the Audi A1. That said, the firmer suspension setup does make the DS 3 a bit bouncy over rougher surfaces and expansion joints in motorways, while tyre roar on models fitted with the optional larger wheels is quite noticeable.

It’s been a while since the DS 3 was crash-tested, but the five-star safety rating it was awarded by Euro NCAP when first released means it’s still a safe car (especially as most DS 3s can now be specified with an activing braking assistance). The DS 3 has a patchier record when it comes to reliability (12 recalls were issued in its first two years on sale), but strong performances in our Driver Power owner satisfaction survey suggests those issues are behind the DS 3 now. It also has strong residual values compared to many of its rivals.