Citroen cult supermini so DS-irable

Citroen's sporty new DS3 hatchback looks set to become the French car-maker's latest cult car, says ANDY RUSSELL.With Citroen celebrating its 90th anniversary it's fitting it should pull something special out of the bag.

Citroen's sporty new DS3 hatchback looks set to become the French car-maker's latest cult car, says ANDY RUSSELL.

With Citroen celebrating its 90th anniversary it's fitting it should pull something special out of the bag.

Enter the new DS line of distinctively-styled, attention-grabbing models which aim to highlight the best of Citroen's 'Creative Technologie', kicking off with the DS3 - a three-door supermini. DS4 arrives next year, DS5 in 2012.

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Citroen's original DS was an executive car produced from 1955-75. Known for its aerodynamic, futuristic body design and innovative technology, including hydropneumatic self-levelling suspension, nearly 1.5 million were sold.

The DS3 shares the tag but there the similarity ends for this sporty, three-door hatchback is targeting 'premium' superminis like the MINI, Fiat 500 and Alfa Romeo MiTo where style plays an important part in wooing buyers.

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The DS3 oozes style with its squat, purposeful stance with wrapround windows creating giving the impression of a 'floating' roof heightened by a choice of different colours to contrast and complement the body colour, an eye-catching shark fin-inspired B-pillar and vertical LED driving lights slashed up each side of the sculpted front bumper on all but entry model.

The DS3 offers three petrol engines co-developed with BMW - 95hp 1.4, 120hp 1.6 and 155hp 1.6 turbo - and 90hp and 110hp 1.6 turbo diesels including a vehicle excise duty-avoiding version putting out 99g/km of CO2.

If you want the ultimate in sportiness range-topping 1.6 THP is the one.

It's a cracker, making the flagship DSport a pocket rocket, pulling strongly and smoothly from low revs with good mid-range punch even in sixth gear and spinning freely to the red line. Given the brisk performance, I was impressed by its 42mpg overall and I saw a best of 51mpg on a run.

Based on the C3 supermini, Citroen has fined-tuned the suspension to make the DS3 more dynamic to drive.

Well-planted on the road with minimal body roll through corners, it feels taut and nimble with good feedback from the responsive steering and plenty of grip so inspires confidence on twisty roads.

The trade-off is a firm ride, especially with the DSport's 17in wheels, and while supple on smooth, main roads it's unsettled on undulating country roads and lumps over small potholes at city speeds.

If ride comfort is a priority you may be better looking at the smaller-wheeled mid-range DStyle model and using the money saved to add some options.

The DS3 will seat four adults, five at a squeeze, with legroom in the back acceptable if those upfront sacrifice some of theirs.

Chunky, wrapround front seats hinder access to the back, but anyone buying a three-door car is not going to be looking for ultimate practicality.

The 285-litre boot is well shaped and flat-sided so it's also useable space.

Rear seat backs split 60/40 to increase capacity but do not lay flat on the cushions and leave a step up from the boot floor.

Modern Citroen interiors have come on leaps and bounds in looks and quality and the DS3's is a pleasant place to be.

The dashboard, with flat-bottomed, steering wheel feels sporty with big, clear dials and sensible controls but steering column-mounted stalks for the cruise control and audio system are obscured by the wheel.

Various fascia finishes, including an optional �100 piano black trim on my test car, really set the fascia off.

So it's a shame I found the driving position something of a compromise. The windscreen is set well forward, adding to the sense of spaciousness, but the steering column did not extend far enough from the dashboard so I could not have the seat as far back as I would have liked, but no complaints about the snug front sports seats.

Three trim levels are offered - DSign, DStyle and DSport.

All come with front fog lights, cruise control, stability control, electric windows and door mirrors, six airbags and remote locking.

DStyle adds LED lights in the front bumper, air-conditioning, contrasting body and roof colours and 16in alloy wheels while DSport has chrome side rubbing strips, rear spoiler, double exhaust pipe, drilled aluminium pedals, 17in alloys, climate control and Connect Signature pack of Bluetooth phone connection, USB socket and eight-speaker Hi-Fi.

And with a wealth of choice for personalising your DS3 - there are 38 body and roof colour combinations before you start considering 'Touch' packages of optional equipment, wheel colours, interior and exterior trim enhancements, lighting and even graphics and carpet mats - the possibilities are virtually endless.

Citroen has created a few cult cars over the decades - the original DS was one, its namesake looks set to be another.


Price: �15,900 (range starts from �11,700)

Engine: 1,598cc, 155hp, four-cylinder turbo petrol

Performance: 0-62mph 7.3 seconds; top speed 133mph

MPG: Urban 30.1; extra urban 55.4; combined 42.2

CO2 emissions: 155g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 19pc

Insurance group: 22E (out of 50)

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 3,948mm; width (excluding door mirrors) 1,715mm; height 1,483mm

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