Gareth Butterfield enjoys a week in the sporty and stylish DS3 Performance
IF you ask me, a hot hatch needs to tick several boxes. It’s no mean feat making one successful.
It must be “hot”, of course. So it needs to be quick off the line and have enough power to mark it out from its lowlier stablemates.
A hot hatch should also be reasonably practical. After all, the hot hatch sector became a success because it used a shopping car platform on which to build a sporty car.
It needs to be stylish, cool, attractive and, above all, fun. On the face of it, the new DS3 Performance certainly ticks all the right boxes.
Just look at it. In the matt black of my test car, it looks mean, aggressive, stylish and it’s certainly fast. It has a 205bhp turbocharged engine, so it doesn’t just look fast, it is fast.
And it’s practical too. In the non-cabrio guise it has a decent boot, reasonable space in the back and plenty of space for front-seat passengers.
But just bolting a large turbo onto an engine does not always make for a fun car. But is the DS3, a fiery evolution from the Citroen DS3 we’ve grown to love, pushing the boundary too far? Or is it now at the top of its game?
Well let’s start with the engine, because it’s just brilliant. There are many incarnations of this 1.6 litre THP lump to be found in the Citroen/Peugeot line-up, but it seems to lap up the extra power. It has a beautifully linear torque curve and sounds wonderfully sporty – although, importantly, it’s not as boomy as it is in its 180bhp guise in its cousin the Peugeot 208GTi.
The DS3 Performance also has superb brakes, a slick gearchange and a firm, but communicative ride. Big bucket seats, a sporty steering wheel and plenty of racy touches in the interior lend the added thrills to the driving experience. It is, in every sense of the word, fun.
If I have one complaint it’s the steering. It’s by no means vague and numb, but it just doesn’t match up to the lithe, connected feel of every other control in the car – particularly the strong brakes and keen throttle response.
Drive it back-to-back with a Fiesta ST and you’ll see what I mean but, and it’s important to add, even keen drivers won’t find this much of a problem in isolation. The whole package is good enough to make up for a negligible short-coming.
In fact, as a driver’s car, the DS3 is brilliant. The power is not lost on what we already know is a brilliant chassis. The suspension tweaks that come with this £21,000 performance flagship are only add to the effect on a twisty B road and, because it’s now a “DS” and not a “Citroen”, there’s a premium feel to the interior and plenty of goodies thrown in.
It is, in every sense of the word, a “hot hatch”. All the boxes are ticked.
Oh, but bit of bad news. The matt black with its gold roof and a few extra trimmings costs the best part of £2,000 more. But you just would, wouldn’t you?