Citroen DS3 Sport review
Funky doesn't always work in cars, but when it's wearing a Citroen badge there's a chance it will strike a chord. Some things the French brand have done can go over the buying public's collective head, but the DS3 is unlikely to miss its mark. The head-turning, smile-inducing appeal of the DS3 DSport suggests the Citroen crew are on a winner.
The DS3 Dsport six-speed manual demands $35,990, but the features list is decent. The manual sports model gets an alarm (an option on the auto), remote central locking with deadlock and automatic drive-away locking, a reach and rake adjustable sports leather steering wheel, cruise control and speed limiter, power windows, a sound-insulated front windscreen, aluminium drilled pedals (standard on the manual sports model only).
The DS3 DSport also gets carpet mats throughout, filtered climate control, an MP3 compatible six-speaker sound system with Bluetooth iPod integration, suede/cloth sports seats, a trip computer and a "gear efficiency indicator" that's only on the manual but a little incongruous given the sporty nature of the hatch.
Anyone looking for an automatic transmission will have to opt for the less-powerful DS3 DStyle, which is $3000 cheaper but doesn't get the turbocharger on the 1.6; neither car has rain-sensing wipers.
Among the optional extras for both models are rear parking sensors (at $500), an upgrade to the sound system for $800, Bluetooth phone hands free and USB port costs $700, the climate pack for $1000 and gray leather or amarente red leather trim adds $2000.
The powerplant is the 1.6-litre turbocharged four shared with sibling Peugeot and development partner BMW Mini. The engine uses direct fuel injection, a twin-scroll turbocharger (for better response), variable valve timing on intake and exhaust valves, as well as variablie lift on the intake valves.
The little French hottie boasts a Bluetooth link for compatible mobile phones and audio players - an iPhone can be linked for both but was not always retained by the car's system, sometimes dropping out and then returning to the system.
The most striking thing about the DS3 is its exterior design, which boasts head-turning good looks, but it's not always apparent why it looks so good. Citroen says it uses "carefully considered design elements" on its new sports-hatch, boasting about the "shark fin" B-pillar, the "floating" roof and the signature LED lights on the snout. It all adds up to a stylish package that passed the schoolkid-headturn test at the bus stop.
Citroen has a reputation for producing safe packages and the DS3 is no exception - a five star Euro NCAP crash test, stability control is standard, as well as anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, six airbags - dual front, side and full-length curtain airbag - all standard.
The DS3 also features automatic activation of the hazard lights on under heavy braking, automatic door unlocking following an accident and a fuel cut-off device.
French hot hatches can be a conundrum - so good in some ways and so annoying in others, but some, like the DS3 are becoming less painful to endure day-to-day. On the right piece of road, some of the Gallic hatches that have gone before were laugh-out-loud brilliant - but curse-laden things to drive in mundane metropolitan duties.
Not so the DS3. Around town the flexible little turbo engine easily shoots the DS3 through traffic without requiring numerous gearchanges, but the six-speeder does encourage the driver to use it - the shift feel is good.
Steering is light and direct, without any real torque steer issues, and the driving position is reasonable - an improvement if not ideal for someone over the old six foot mark. It could still do with a little more in terms of range adjustment for the wheel and the seats.
Cruising through the hills or on the freeway, the DS3 sits solidly on the road but is not uncomfortable, coping well with broken bitumen. When the road begins to curl, the little Citroen laps it up, zipping through bends with good grip, no tyre squeal and well-controlled body roll.
The DS3 is not the smallest in class, nor is it the biggest, but the cabin has enough space to get settled, although no one would be wanting to sit behind me in my best driving position. The back seat is pretty much kids only unless its a quadrella of jockeys on board, but its a comfortable cabin.
The DS3 will lead Citroen's charge into 2011, giving the French marque a halo car for its resurrected small car range. The asking price is on the money for the segment and it's chic and cheeky-quick.
Range and Specs
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data