Now the chevrons are off, Massimo Pini drives the latest DS 3 in Cabrio form to see whether it still has that je ne sais quoi.
In 2010, Citroen launched a cheeky little car called the DS 3 but back then, who could have imagined that 'DS' would one day be spun off to stand alone as a separate new premium brand. So here we are, some 6 years on, taking a close-up look at the latest, newly revamped, DS 3 in open-top Cabrio form, to see what’s changed.
The DS marque now comprises three distinct model lines but it was the DS 3 that was the very first to wear the modern-era DS badge, boldly bursting onto the scene with its chic, contemporary design and an advertising campaign that pitched it squarely as an ‘anti-retro’ MINI rival.
The essence of the car’s original look and personality has been retained, including the floating roof and the two-tone colour combinations – and that’s no bad thing as the shark-finned styling has stood the test of time extremely well.
Nonetheless, it's been freshened up with headlamps that combine LED and Xenon technology, plus even more personalisation options and, most notably, a new front-end treatment.
There are no more Citroen chevrons any more, but to my mind there's still one badge too many, which leaves it looking a little over-fussy. Given that the brand is still a relative newcomer on the global automotive stage, I think a single, clear representation of the DS identity would communicate greater confidence and more effectively build brand recognition with the buying public.
One thing that is completely clear is that the brand is unashamedly fashion-inspired and that means majoring on cutting edge style and choice. Since the DS 3 first appeared, there have been no less than 21 limited editions, 78 colour combos and over three million personalisation options – but staying on trend (and setting new ones) is about continual creative reinvention so these numbers will continue to spiral as this latest Cabrio model comes with a choice of four fabric roofs while its sister hatchback offers ten – yes TEN – different roof decals.
Inside, there are new trims and design schemes including the high quality Grey & Black Leather Pack – an £800 option fitted to our test car – as well as a range of technology upgrades to enable you to connect your smartphone and interact with the new 7-inch colour touchscreen.
The latest-generation screen promises easier access to the main vehicle functions and that has allowed the designers to do away with 20 buttons on the central fascia. The Mirror Screen connectivity solution is compatible with Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink (for Android phones). CarPlay allows users to intuitively make calls, consult maps, listen to music and check their messages, using either Siri or the touchscreen.
Drivers can also download a free smartphone app (available for Android and iOS) called MyDS, which will keep them informed of their servicing schedule, fuel economy and parking location while those with MirrorLink-compatible Android phones can use MyDS to listen to and send text messages hands-free.
Storage space in the cabin is at something of a premium. The glove box is really only just about big enough to store your gloves and where are the cool cappuccino-quaffers supposed to put their coffees? Surely these people must be among the target customers for the DS 3 so it seems odd that they don’t appear to have been catered for? Yes, the door bins have room for bottles but the slots are useless for large lattes and such like.
But on the plus side, less room for cup-holders means more room for people as passenger space is actually very good for a car of this size. Three adults in the rear would be something of a squeeze but two can relax in comfort with elbow room to spare, and if you’re transporting kids, there are Isofix mounts for two child seats.
Boot capacity is good for the class at 245 litres but if practicality is your thing, then swapping the canvas roof for the hatchback’s tin-top will give you an extra 40 litres of luggage space – and greater versatility.
On the move, I'm delighted to report that the DS 3 still steers, handles, stops and goes - just as it always did - brilliantly! It really does put a smile on your face, especially if you go for the punchy turbocharged petrol-engined model we tested. The 1.6-litre, four-cylinder unit produces 165 horsepower and peak torque of 240Nm. That translates into 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds and a flat out maximum speed of 135 mph!
Yes, the Cabrio model doesn't feel quite as 'tight' as the hatchback, but that's generally the trade-off for open-air motoring. The fact that the DS 3 is not a ‘full’ convertible, retaining fixed cant rails over its side windows, means it’s more structurally rigid than most but if you cut the roof off a car - there are consequences!
High running costs are NOT a consequence, however, with CO2 emissions pegged at a useful 129 g/km and combined fuel consumption topping 50 miles per gallon. Pretty impressive figures given the petite Parisian’s performance potential.
One word of warning, though, you’ll probably struggle to achieve these highs if you open the roof while hurtling along the motorway at the legal limit. You might think this is an odd thing to do, but the DS 3 Cabrio’s roof will operate at up to 70mph!
Standard safety equipment features the usual suspects – ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and a suite of airbags, including the curtain variety. A very worthwhile option is Active City Brake, which helps to prevent low-speed shunts using a sensor in the windscreen which detect obstacles and applies the brake for you – even bringing the car to a standstill if required.
If you're looking for a small open top car with more than two seats, your options are fairly limited with the obvious rivals being the MINI Convertible, which is significantly more expensive, or the Fiat 500C which is distinctly smaller.
Should you choose the DS 3, however, I think you're unlikely to be disappointed. It ticks a lot of boxes for value, practicality and performance, but for a car of this type, there are other factors that matter just as much to buyers. The principal one is the fun factor and this car definitely has it – in abundance!