Citroën DS3 Cabrio convertible (2013-2016)
"Stylish, good to drive and surprisingly practical, the DS 3 Cabrio has what it takes to beat the Fiat 500C"
- Decent practicality
- Good fun to drive
- Stylish looks
- Expensive options
- Pricier than hatchback
- Boot opening very narrow
Like the Fiat, the DS 3 Cabrio isn’t a full convertible; while the MINI has a fully-retractable roof, the side pillars and door frames of the DS 3 stay in place, with a wide canvas roof section rolling back along rails and bunching on top of the bootlid.
This means the Cabrio looks all but the same as the normal DS 3 Hatch from a distance, which itself is a sharp, fashionable piece of design. Fortunately, a wide choice of colours and personalisation options are offered, including different wheels and patterns for the canvas roof, to add to make the car more individual.
As with the MINI, the range is topped by a performance-oriented model, with the DS 3 Cabrio Performance Black Edition going head to head with the MINI Cabrio Cooper S. This model has the most powerful engine available in the form of a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine producing 207bhp. This is in addition to all the other efficient petrol and diesel engine choices available in the hatchback model.
The DS 3 Cabrio carries a significant price premium over the hatch, with the entry level model costing around £2,500 over the equivalent fixed-roof model. The range-topping Performance model starts at £24,795. Just as well then that standard equipment levels are generous, then, with all models being air-conditioned and featuring cruise-control and a touchscreen infotainment system, well-presented in a dashboard with piano-black trim. Top models have expensive-feeling leather seats, with a trim pattern that visually recalls a watch strap.
It’s really all about the roof, though, and the big advantage it has over the MINI is that it can be operated at speeds of up to 70mph and can be set to any position between fully open and fully closed.
If you enjoy the leftfield style of the DS 3 – arguably a more unusual choice than a MINI - the Cabrio has considerable appeal and builds on the hatchback’s charm. The only sticking point is the slightly expensive price tag.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The DS 3 Cabrio only weighs 25kg more than the standard car, which helps both its performance and efficiency – many convertibles weigh as much as 100kg more. You can choose from five petrol engines - three of which are PSA's PureTech three-cylinder turbos in 82, 110 and 130 outputs, a THP 165 and a powerful four-cylinder 1.6-litre 207bhp turbo fitted to the sporty DS 3 Performance.
The most efficient engines in the range are the BlueHDi diesels, though. DS claims the less powerful BlueHDI 100 will achieve just over 80mpg, while the BlueHDI 120 still returns an impressive 79mpg. They emit 92 and 94 grams per kilometer of CO2 respectively, so you won't pay a penny in road tax for the diesels.
The petrols are less economical, although your best bet is to go for the PureTech 110 - it should return around 66mpg, although it's not quite as fast as the PureTech 130, which itself should return just over 60mpg. Impressively, the most powerful 1.6-litre engine in the Performance model can return 52.3mpg and only emits 125g/km of CO2, putting it squarely in the £110 per year road tax bracket.
Where the DS 3 Cabrio is less impressive is its depreciation. Some models are expected to retain less than 40% of the car's original value after three years and 36,000 miles - much less than the equivalent MINI Convertible. In some specs, it's also more expensive to buy than the MINI, so it's a good idea to sit down and calculate the long-term costs before you buy.
Engines, drive & performance
The DS 3 Cabrio is a fairly sharp-handling, performance-focused supermini. Mechanically, it's nearly identical to the standard DS 3, so you still get the same responsive steering and responsive engines that you do in the hatchback.
The PureTech petrol engines are quiet and punchy, though the MINI Cooper's 1.5-litre engine is better and the action of the clutch and gearbox in the DS 3 feel a little artificial.
The 207bhp 1.6-litre Performance model is more impressive in performance terms, managing 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds. Sadly, the way the power is delivered means it doesn’t really feel quite that fast. The engine needs to be worked hard to get the car moving quickly, with peak power delivered at high revs.
The engine does sound good, though. The twin exhaust tailpipes give a deep, bassy sound and the engine has sufficient pulling power that the car has more appeal when you drive it at high cruising speeds rather than racing between corners.
When tackling bends the DS 3 doesn’t have quite the agility of the MINI, which feels like it has been set up in a way more suited to rough road surfaces. The DS 3 feels a little vague when pushed hard, and the bigger wheels and stiffer suspension of the sporty models cause potholes to crash through the body and disturb occupants. You can also easily feel the bodywork shuddering and shimmying having lost some structural stiffness with the removal of the roof. This is exaggerated at speed and through rough corners, though is more apparent on the sporty models.
While not razor sharp, the handling is still safe and predictable and there is some fun to be had. The steering is quick to respond and grip is good, so the DS 3 can still be thrown into corners with enthusiasm.
Interior & comfort
In the DS 3 Cabrio convertible, the side windows, pillars and roof rails stay in place even when the roof is down. The upshot of this is that there's less wind buffeting when the top is down. The roof has three pre-set positions: slightly retracted, half-open (like a conventional sunroof) or fully retracted.
Passengers in the back seat will find it hard to escape buffeting with the roof down, despite a small wind deflector which does its best to reduce turbulence but doesn’t really succeed. This can be easily clicked out of the way with only the front seats occupied. Visibility out of the back is pretty terrible with the roof down, too, because of the way it bunches up and sits behind the rear seats.
On the move the ride is smooth enough, though the larger optional wheels cause small bumps to be transmitted through to the passenger compartment. This is made worse by the stiffened suspension on the sportier models, and exacerbates the feeling that the Cabrio isn’t quite as structurally stiff as the hatchback. There's quite a bit of road and tyre noise on the move, too.
The DS 3 has been around since 2009 and is facing ever stronger competition from younger rivals. The interior is starting to show its age and occupants may feel that the large centre console encroaches on personal space a little too much. The driving position is a little awkward – the pedals are positioned at peculiar angles - which is a shame because the seats are comfy and offer good support, especially in the Performance version.
The dashboard has been kept up-to-date and features a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, but it can be tricky to operate quickly on the move, plus the volume controls are located right at the bottom of the centre console, nowhere near the screen. The air-con controls are easy to use, though, and it's easy to get a comfortable driving position.
All DS 3 Cabrio models come well equipped, too. Entry-level Chic models come with a touchscreen, air-con, alarm, rear parking sensors and cruise control.
Move up to Elegance models for larger alloy wheels, sports seats and climate control, while Prestige adds sat-nav, bright xenon headlights, automatic lights and wipers and Alcantara suede trim to the seats. Ultra Prestige models are the most luxurious and come with leather seats that look like a watchstrap, while the Performance model and DS Performance Line trim come with plenty of equipment and additional styling touches, such as sat nav, Apple CarPlay and unique paint options.
Practicality & boot space
You pretty much get the same interior in the DS 3 Cabrio as in the hatchback, with the same 60:40 split-folding rear seatbacks. At 245 litres of space with the rear seats in place, the boot is bigger than in the Fiat 500C or MINI Convertible, plus you only lose 40 litres from the hatchback’s capacity. It also has a cleverly designed bootlid, with special hinges that allow it to open almost vertically, which means you can use it even in tight spaces.
However, the boot opening itself is very small and (more frustratingly) when the roof is fully lowered, you can't open the boot. The opening is actually smaller than that of the Fiat 500C. With the roof up, headroom is reasonable and pretty much the same as in the hatchback, and you can squeeze three adults into the back, but only for short journeys – anything longer and your passengers won’t be very happy, there's still not a huge amount of space.
Reliability & safety
Although the DS 3 is officially no longer a Citroen, it was designed, built and sold by the brand, and because the DS brand hasn't been around long enough to properly establish itself, we have to base our opinion on Citroen's performance in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.
Citroen's showing in the 2016 survey was disappointing, finishing in 26th place overall out of 32 car makers covered. Build quality was lacklustre, with the car finishing in 28th place. Seat comfort was not ranked much higher either, at 26.
The DS 3 finished in a mid-table 72nd place out of 150 cars surveyed. High points were its performance, where it came in 35th place, and ease of driving, finishing in 41st. In contrast with Citroen as a whole, seat comfort was ranked 30th overall. Ride quality, though, came in a disappointing 108th place, with build quality in a poor 124th position overall.
In terms of safety, the standard DS 3 was initially awarded the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash testing, and the Cabrio should prove very safe, too, with the remaining roof rails providing some extra rollover protection. However, the car was retested under the latest and most stringent standards in 2017, resulting in its rating being downgraded to three stars.
There's some extra safety kit available, including autonomous braking which is a £500 option lower down the range and standard on Prestige models and above. There's also a DS Connect Box Emergency and Assistance system that allows you to contact the emergency services just by pressing one button in the event of a crash.
Price, value for money & options
The DS 3 Cabrio is available in five trim levels: basic Chic, Elegance, Prestige, Ultra Prestige and Performance Line. Prices start at around £2,300 more than the equivalent hatchback.
All models get rear parking sensors, Bluetooth phone connectivity, LED ambient lighting and body-colour-coded interior trim as standard, while useful features such as sat nav and automatic lights and wipers come as standard further up the range. As with the DS 3 hatchback, there are near-endless personalisation options, which make each car unique – but they come at a price. Mirror Link and Apple CarPlay can be added for an extra £100 if you need more connectivity.