There’s a problem with owning a small hatchback, when you look around, a lot of them seem to have very similar looks. Well Citroen’s DS range aims to change that. The DS3 looks like nothing else on the road, with its kicked-up B pillars, contrasting colour roof and mirrors, and bulbous nose.
I love it, I think it’s great that car manufacturers are starting to offer more customisation options, and opportunities to individualise your car from new. There are 11 colours, including reds, blues and a bright yellow, and there are 44 colour and roof combinations. A nice little touch on our test car was that the coloured insert in the key matched the roof and mirrors.
The DS3 Puretech has a good range of features. Five-star ANCAP safety rating, with driver, passenger, front side and curtain airbags. Active City Braking is also included, where the car will brake for you if it senses that you may be about to crash. There’s stability control, brake assist, reversing camera and rear parking sensors, auto headlights and wipers, engine stop/start, front and rear fog lights, auto-dimming rear view mirror, cruise control with speed limiter, electric folding mirrors, climate control, satnav – the list goes on.
Our test DS3 came in rather nice pearl white paint (a $750 option), with a metallic blue roof, mirrors and wheel centres. There are little design touches everywhere. The 17” two-tone wheels suit it well, and fill out the large exaggerated haunches moulded into the metal. The front view includes large xenon headlights with integrated LED sidelights, as well as LED running lights at the sides. The front indicators don’t just flash, they have a really cool animated sweep from inside to outside. The light design at the rear also has some nice touches – when the rear lights are on you can look into the light, seeing multiple illuminated squares disappearing into the car.
Other exterior features include a wide chrome side trim, DS logos all over the place, and that fat B-pillar which angles up from the rear. It’s a really different look and I think it works well.
The first thing I noticed on sitting in the DS3 was how comfortable the seats were. They’re excellent, clad in a mix of perforated and normal leather, they’re soft enough to be comfortable without being over-soft. There’s good side support, and they’re adjustable enough to get a good seating position. The steering wheel adjusts in all four directions too.
Unlike most manufacturers these days Citroen have chosen to keep the steering wheel button-free. The wheel itself is good to hold, with shaped grips at the sides, a slightly flat bottom, and silver highlights around the lower half. I’m not that keen on the big chrome DS log in the centre though. I could see my reflection in it and it caught the sun sometimes when driving.
The instrument cluster is clear, with a big central speedo, with the rev counter and trip computer at either side. The main dash panel is piano black, which is a bit of a magnet for dust and fingerprints but it does look great. The rest of the dash is made of soft-touch plastic, and feels good quality and solid. A quirky and unusual feature is the built-in air freshener near the glove box. It can be twisted in and out to set how much of a scent you want it to make. The glove box itself is a little disappointing. Open the door, and you find that only half of the space behind it is the box, the rest being taken up by a fuse box.
There’s a central 7” touch screen which is used for the media system and reversing camera. It’s easy to use and find the various functions, but there are a few quirks. One is that the menu and volume up/down buttons are about 20cm below the screen, underneath the aircon controls. Another is that there seems to be no easy way to mute the radio or pause the playing song. Holding the menu button for a couple of seconds does it, but pressing the button again turns the screen off, making the system disconnect from the Bluetooth. In fact every time I started the car I had to re-select the Bluetooth source. Not a big deal, but a minor annoyance.
The sound quality from the stereo is excellent, partly because a subwoofer is included as standard, you can really crank up the volume with no loss of quality.
In the centre, by the handbrake are the USB/Aux and power sockets, both covered by pop-up dust caps. There’s a little cubby at the bottom of the centre console which lights up in a soft orange at night and is a good spot to put your phone. Halfway up the console there’s another small cubby for coins and smaller things.
The rear is a comfortable place to sit. I was worried that with those fat B pillars it might be dark, but it’s not, and visibility is good too. Those pillars have a chunky grab handle to assist you in getting in and out of the back, and the doors are very long, to make the opening bigger. This does mean you have to be careful in car parks as they swing really wide.
When the engine is idling you can hardly hear it. Put your foot down and there’s a pleasing growl from the 1.2-litre 3-cylinder, and a surprisingly fun push when the turbo kicks in. It’s no sports car of course, but it does have that nippy city-car feel which a lot of other small cars seem to lack.
The steering is very light and pointy, making the DS3 a pleasure to drive. Push it through a sharp bend and there’s a little bit of understeer, then the safety systems just sort it out, pulling the car around the bend with no drama. The ride on the sports suspension is a little bit firm, but very composed, and soaks up bumps well.
I mentioned before that the car has some unusual ergonomics, and an example of these is the controls for the cruise control. It’s controlled by a stalk on the steering column in front of the wiper stalk. There are buttons on the back of the stalk, and on the top and bottom, as well as a switch on the front. The switch activates cruise/off/speed limiter, the top and bottom buttons are speed up/down and the others are set and resume. It takes a little getting used to but is fine to use after a few goes. There’s a similar stalk at the other side for the stereo and phone controls.
The cruise control works well, and shows the set speed on the information display. This can be adjusted up and down as mentioned. It’s great to see the displays used for this. Another thing I noticed is that the two screens are integrated well. In a lot of cars the infotainment screen doesn’t seem to be linked to the other display screens, but in the Citroen if it has a message to display, it pops up on the large central screen, making it easier to read.
The boot is a good size, and the back seats split 60/40 to get longer items in. Most of the time, the six speed auto transmission was hardly noticeable, but occasionally, particularly when slowing down for a junction, the auto box would get the timing of a shift wrong, resulting in a bit of a jerk.
The DS3 proved easy to get along with, both on short trips to the shops, and longer cruises on the highway. It has a good range of safety and technological features. It faces some stiff competition as there are lot of small/medium cars in this price bracket, but it stands up well and is definitely worth checking out.
|Brand / Model
|Price Highest to Lowest
|Hyundai Veloster GDi Elite
|1.6l 4 cylinder
|Audi A1 TFSI
|1.4l 4 cylinder turbo
|Hyundai i30 Elite Limited
|2.0 litre 4 cylinder
|Citroen DS3 Puretech
|1.2l 3 cylinder turbo
|Renault Clio RS Sport 200
|1.6l 4 cylinder turbo
|Alfa Romeo Guilietta Distinctive
|1.4l 4 cylinder turbo
|Toyota Corolla Levin ZR
|1.8l 4 cylinder
|1.6l 4 cylinder turbo
|Nissan Juke Turbo
|1.6l 4 cylinder turbo
|1.5l 3 cylinder turbo
|VW Polo GTI
|1.8l 4 cylinder turbo
|Kia Soul SX
|2.0l 4 cylinder
The pros and cons
What we think
The DS3 is a great little car. As is traditional for a Citroen it has some design quirks which take a little bit of getting used to. It has a distinctive look, is fun to drive, efficient, and nippy around town. It has a real solid, quality feel and some great features.
Rating – Chevron rating out 4 of 5
|$42,995 + on-road costs
|$43,745 + on-road costs
|1.2l 3 cylinder turbocharged Puretech petrol engine
|6 speed efficient automatic
|0 – 100 kph
|Length x Width x Height
|3948 x 1715 x 1458mm
|285 Litres seats up
980 litres seats folded
|ANCAP Safety Ratings
|3 years DS Roadside Assistance
3 years DS Warranty3 years /60,000km free servicing