The DS 3 is a structurally integral formative piece of the puzzle that is the DS Automobiles brand. A subsidiary of PSA Peugeot Citroen, DS Autos has enjoyed revealing itself atop the bow wave of success that DS 3 has cultivated over the past six years and 2016 sees that break out motorcar come home to the brand it spawned.
If you were being crude, you could say DS Automobiles tacks plush snouts and prettier cabins onto existing Citroen products. The further back you go the more that statement can be argued to be true, but since it separated itself from Citroen a year ago its products have become a bit more discernibly distinguished from their Citroen kin.
Within the confines of their reach, i’d say they’ve done a good job. The cars do serve to be a more desirable and interesting alternative to some low specced and blander German rivals. There’s work that needs to be done, but the brand is established and their vision is encouragingly ambitious.
A market with big handsome left field French cars is a more interesting one, I would say, and products independent of Citroen are assured to be on the way.
Back to the machine that started it all, the new DS 3. Aesthetically it immediately hits the spot. A MINI parked next to it looks fussy, over styled, bloated and try hard. The new bejewelled “LED Vision” lights and “DS Wings” give it a properly premium looking facia whilst new wheels and customisation options allow for the kind of individuality that buyers in this segment demand. Inside it’s much of a muchness over the car it replaces design wise, which is no bad thing, but builds in one key area that modern cars can start to age.
Technology. A new Apple Car Play/ Android Mirror link 7 inch touch screen dominates the centre stack, relieving 20 buttons of duty over the outgoing car and making for a cleaner and more ergonomic layout.
The gorgeous new DS watch strap leather seats are a stand out option but come at a fairly hefty cost. Worth it, in my opinion, for the comfort and continuation of that effortlessly stylish design from outside to in.
Visibility is relatively good all round for something that seems to adhere to such a form over function ethos. The high driving position surely helps, although getting any meaningful shift on may leave you feeling like you’re sitting atop the car rather than in it.
To drive the new DS 3 is much as it was. Pleasant, linear, if a little inert. It’s not a thrilling drivers car, nor is it meant to be. The powertrains are familiar from other PSA outings and continue to impress. The 130ps three cylinder petrol was punchy and characterful and wanted for little performance wise under its more powerful 165ps THP sibling.
Transmission in both cars was enjoyable to operate at average speeds but any sign of vigour, aggression or speed in your shifting and the action begins to feel somewhat ropey. It’s not a performance application, so it’s entirely excusable, but we shall be hoping for better in the coming DS Performance model. The 130ps petrol represents a sweet spot in the range, offering adequate performance, commendable C02 and MPG figures and subsequently impressive running costs, too.
Right off the bat it’s obvious that to take the cabriolet, you have to be relatively committed to the open air cause. A steep premium over its hard top sibling and a compromise on visibility make it difficult to justify, but as soft tops go it’s well refined and easy to operate.
The hatch is the fundamental sensible choice, but a bit of definitive frippery is necessary to fulfil the DS Automobiles “Avant Gard Design” mandate. The exquisite watch strap seats, new wheels, attractive new snout and infinitely customisable colour/roof/interior combinations make it formidably fashionable. Much of this comes at a price however, as the prestige and ultra prestige models we tested retail at a minimum of £19,065.
Those must have watch strap seats in the beautiful nappa leather trimming are a further £1,800 on top of that. Our perfect well equipped ‘Prestige’ 130ps manual hatch with the aforementioned upholstery would be uncomfortably north of £20,000.
We’ve loved the DS3 ever since at launched, and we’ve loved every step of its evolution. It’s aged nicely and kept arguably more up to the minute rivals at bay with good old fashioned subjective appeal. That pricing is what could well stop us short of signing on the dotted line. Especially considering that awkward looking MINI we mentioned earlier with day running lights, xenons, expensive seats and swanky wheels and in 130ps Cooper spec is under £19,000.
Spec for spec, that disparity continues across the ranges. To the right customer, there will be no substitute for DS 3, and the car surely is a sweetheart. With the right pricing we could give it an honest thumbs up, but as yet it stretches a little beyond the justifiable reach of our pockets.
Massive thanks to Paul Hadley at MotorVerso for the incredible photography.