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Citroen DS3 DStyle 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
6
Paul Gover road tests and reviews the new 2015 Citroen DS3 at its Australian launch.

The Citroen DS3 looks good on any catwalk for cars. It's never been a great drive, or a genuinely hot hatch, but it makes a sweet fashion statement and World Rally Championship success brings some bragging rights.

Now the DS3 has been tweaked with a little extra go, a little extra fizz, and a bottom line that reflects more than $5000 of extra standard equipment including a reversing camera, satnav and automatic emergency braking. But there is no automatic gearbox and the starting price stands at $33,990.

So the sales target is likely to be around 150 cars in 2015, hardly a landmark even for a brand like Citroen, against rivals such as the Alfa MiTo, Audi A1 and Mini Cooper S. Not that Citroen will give any official answer to its showroom objective in 2015.

"We will not be the cheapest and we will not price-point vehicles," says Dimitri Andreatidis, national marketing manager for Citroen Australia. "For now, the focus is on ensuring we get the product right. We believe we have responded to the needs of customers with the DS3. It's been re-powered and freshened."

Value

A $4000 price increase looks bad, but the offset is $5500 in extra equipment. And, for the DS3 Cabrio, the increase is slightly less at $3600. "We want to build cars that our customers will buy, not get involved in a price war. That doesn't work for us, or our owners," says Andreatidis.

Warranty coverage is double what it was in 2010, with capped-price servicing for six years.

"In any case, DS3 customers were already ticking all the boxes and the average purchase price was $32,000. We decided to load it up and go for value." The loading runs to satnav with a touch screen, parking sensors, LED mood lighting in the cabin, combined LED/Xenon headlamps and even an integrated air freshener. And the warranty coverage is double what it was in 2010, with capped-price servicing for six years.

Design

Only a DS fan will pick the differences for 2015 in the lamps, wheels and trim. But the new headlamps combine LED and Xenon technology for added brightness and more flash at the front, and there is a 3D effect to the new rear lights.

Inside, the materials are still classy, with new carbon-look trim on the dash and a bit more chrome. Since the DS3 is about customisation and personalisation, buyers can choose things like chromed mirror covers and a range of roof sticker treatments with names like Perle, Plane and Zebra.

"Each person can customise their DS3. There are over 200 possible individual combinations," says Andreatidis.

Technology

The timing of the updated DS3 reflects a move to Euro6 emissions systems, with a bonus in both power and economy. The 1.6-litre petrol turbo picks up to 121 kiloWatts, with a flatter torque delivery from only 1400 revs, while fuel economy is also better by 10 per cent, helped by a stop-start system and an on-demand water pump. Citroen says the car is also 0.2 seconds quicker in the sprint to 100km/h.

The loss of the archaic four-speed auto with its dozy 88 kW base engine is no loss at all, while the new car gets fresh 17-inch alloys and Citroen trumps a weight-loss program that includes trimming seven kilograms just from the rear suspension.

Safety

The updated DS3 is the first car from the Peugeot Citroen group with Active City Brake, an automatic emergency braking system that works up to 31 km/h. It uses a forward facing radar behind the rear-vision mirror and is set for 'avoidance' up to 27km/h and 'mitigation' from 28 to its cutout at 31km/h.

There are also six airbags, a 5-star ANCAP score, a standard rear camera and parking sensors, and a system that unlocks the doors after a crash.

On the road

The updated DS3 only has six extra kiloWatts, but the new engine tuning makes a big difference. The car is not hot enough to challenge something like a Renault Megane RS but it can be hussled along quite briskly thanks to the always-on torque and six-speed manual gearbox.

It's also compliant in the ride, encouraging you to hold a high gear and flow the car along any twisty roads. There is some crashing through suburban potholes, but it's better than I remember.

Push harder and the DS3 comes up short, especially as a Cabrio with some body flex that is missing from the coupe. It's not sharp enough in the engine or steering to move the dial from warm to hot on the hatch scale.

The DS is more of a fashion statement than a pocket rocket, and it still scores on that front. 

But the DS is more of a fashion statement than a pocket rocket, and it still scores on that front. It has a quality look and feel in the cabin, and nothing else has the quirky glasshouse design. The Cabrio is a bit of fun, with three open-air choices that still retain a practical - apart from the bootlid - body.

It has the biggest boot in the class but I cannot find a truly comfortable driving position, with oddly-positioned pedals and a wheel that is too far away.

Verdict

Citroen knows it is going to lose customers by dropping the auto, especially women, but it also knows the auto was awful. It also knows the DS3 is not for everyone, but that the people who like the car are also likely to appreciate the improved package for 2015. So it's not a star, but it gets three stars.

Changes

Auto is dead
Baby 88kW engine is gone
Starting price up $4000 to $33,990
More usable torque, extra power
Loaded with safety

Pricing Guides

$17,875
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$12,980
Highest Price
$22,770

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Dsport 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $14,520 – 19,140 2015 Citroen DS3 2015 Dsport Pricing and Specs
Dstyle 1.6L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $13,750 – 18,040 2015 Citroen DS3 2015 Dstyle Pricing and Specs
Dsport 1.6L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $12,980 – 17,270 2015 Citroen DS3 2015 Dsport Pricing and Specs
Dstyle 1.6L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $12,980 – 17,380 2015 Citroen DS3 2015 Dstyle Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6