Review

Citroën DS3 hatchback

£13,295 - £20,995

Although it started out in life as the Citroen DS 3, the car you see before you no longer carries a Citroen badge. Today, it's simply called DS 3, and is one of the first models to be sold under the DS brand. DS has been conceived as a stylish and more upmarket brand than Citroen, with the same sort of prestige usually reserved for cars more Alfa Romeo.

But buyers needn't worry too much. For now, DS models such as the DS 3 will be sold in Citroen dealerships – although in time, you may need to go to a separate dealer. In short, the changes shouldn't affect things too much.

As we've come to expect in this class, there's plenty of scope to personalise your DS 3 with options or by buying special editions. The original Citroen DS 3 has been a strong seller since it was launched in 2010 thanks to its striking design, high-quality cabin and engaging driving dynamics.

As well as competing on the fashion front, the DS 3 is also pleasingly efficient, with the 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel model emitting only 94g/km of CO2 and managing 78.5mpg economy. Even the PureTech 82 petrol manages 62mpg, although the cutting-edge three-cylinder turbocharged engines in some rivals help them match this figure.

The DS 3 is available in five specifications: entry-level DSign, mid-range DStyle, higher-spec DSire and DSport and the range-topping Ultra Prestige. There are also various special editions that add unique trim and styling upgrades, as well as Plus packs that add certain accessories to each trim.

Even entry-level models are well equipped, with a leather steering wheel, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, plus air-conditioning. DStyle and DSport cars come in Plus versions, which include upgrades such as Bluetooth phone connectivity, bigger alloy wheels, digital climate control, parking sensors and automatic headlamps and wipers.

There's also a DS 3 Cabriolet model which has a folding canvas roof, much like the smaller Fiat 500C city car.

The DS 3 is a fun car – both to look at and to drive. Its unusual design may not be to everyone's taste, but it certainly stands out in the upmarket supermini class, even now. An economical and punchy engine range helps keep it on the radar of many buyers and only improved build quality and practicality could seriously enhance the overall package.

If you can afford it, we'd recommend stretching to the well-equipped DSire trim level, as it allows you to choose the BlueHDi 120 diesel engine that combines plenty of power with very impressive fuel economy. You also get the six-speed manual gearbox with this engine – we think it's better than the five-speed that comes with the entry-level models.