Gareth Butterfield tries to make sense of the classy and quirky DS3 Crossback
IN case you’ve not been formally introduced, DS Automobiles is a new brand for the PSA group that owns Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall.
And we’re now at the stage in its life where we’re seeing a line-up forming of completely stand-alone cars that have never seen a Citroen badge. It’s forging ahead with its own identity.
DS was always Citroen’s premium off-shoot, much the same as Lexus is to Toyota. And the firm is about to start making waves in the electric-car world with its “E-Tense” sub-brand. But I’ve been driving an internal combustion version of its smallest car, the DS3.
And it’s a funny-looking thing. I honestly can’t decide whether it looks elegant, handsome, or just plain silly. From some angles I quite like it, but from others I can’t get my head around the lines. That swept-up shark’s fin on the rear door might hark back to the original DS3 – but was there really any point?
I do quite like the gaping grill though, and the flush, motorised door handles are a classy touch usually only seen on far more expensive cars.
If you’re confused by the exterior, prepare to be startled by the interior. It’s awash with diamond shapes and harsh angles, yet it feels very inviting and the quality is impressive.
The seats are lovely, especially in Nappa leather, and the materials used give it a luxury theme we don’t often see in cars in this sector.
While it is impressive, its form over function approach does present a few impracticalities. Chief among these is the array of buttons, all set in the diamond shapes, that sit beneath the large, wide touch-screen.
The buttons themselves are laid out fairly well and the labels are clear enough, but barring the odd one or two they’re touch-sensitive. So there’s no feedback, no click, no positive assurance that you’ve prodded the right one.
For your passenger, this won’t matter too much but for a driver with his eyes on the road it can be a bit troublesome. Sure, it looks classy, but I think DS might have overdone it a bit with this one.
The simplest part of choosing a DS3 is the engine line-up. It’s a very customisable car with a vast array of colour, fit and finish options, but there’s less to pick from in terms of propulsion.
There’s only one diesel option, and it’s nothing special, with just 100bhp but there are three petrol engines on offer, all 1.2 litre units with a choice of 100bhp, 130bhp or 155bhp. The entry-level engine comes with a manual gearbox, but the more powerful engines are served up with automatic boxes. And they’re definitely worth the extra investment.
This being a small crossover, it adapts itself well to most journeys. It’s comfortable and easy to weave around town, but is perhaps at its best on the motorway, where you’ll enjoy a quiet and laid back drive and you’ll lap up the comfort of that lovely cabin.
On the open road, the ride is perhaps a bit fidgety, but despite a soft chassis, there’s plenty of grip and the steering is nice and sharp.
Behind all the bling in the interior, the cabin feels nice and spacious, although storage options are a little cosy. And the rear seats are big enough for adults, but legroom is a little tight and the shark fin on the doors does make it feel rather claustrophobic. Boot space is adequate, though, with 350 litres.
The DS3 Crossback’s prices reflect its premium setting in the marketplace, and an entry price of just over £22,000 might seem like a lot to ask for a small crossover, but it honestly is one of the more individual and classy options.
Do bear in mind though that a nicely-specced DS3 Crossback, with the appropriate 18″ wheels and trick LED headlights will take your budget north of £30,000. And that really is a lot of money for a small-ish car.
But if nothing else, it’s a refreshing break from the norm. To drive one of these is to make a statement, that you’ve not settled for one of the predictable German rivals and that you like your individuality.
I’ll be honest, it’s not for me, but I can think of plenty of people it’ll suit.