The Citroën DS3 (pronounced déesse trois in French) is no stranger to motoring buffs, having made its debut in 2010 in various configurations. Right off the bat, Top Gear Mag lavished praise on this new supermini, bestowing it the honor of 2010 Car of the Year. Soon after, Citroën decided to boost its image further in 2011 by offering a limited edition with a new color and new roof decal. Among the highlights of the DS3 is that the eventual owners were able to order up a bespoke version for themselves, mixing and matching body and roof colors/decals. At the time, no less than 10 variations in body color could be had, which is quite a fair bit more than what most available production cars came with.
Built on the same PSA PF1 platform under the PSA (Peugeot Société Anonyme) umbrella that underpins the group’s other notable superminis such as the Peugeot 208, the Citroën DS3 should be all too familiar to local motoring enthusiasts in terms of overall dimensions, performance and driveability. Having said that, I found that the similarities are few and far between, with each brand using its own group of designers to differentiate each variant as much as possible. Certain endowments were very obviously shared, such as the mechanicals and suspension components and setup, but to call the DS3 and 208 kissing cousins would be doing both brands a gross injustice, for they are more akin to cousins twice removed rather than two peas out of the same pod. For one thing, though both share the same platform the DS3 has a shorter 2,464mm wheelbase as opposed to the 2,538mm leg stretch of its distant cousin. Lengthwise, the DS3 is also a tad shorter at 3,948mm vs 3,962mm. The dissimilarities do not end there, for the DS3 is narrower (1,715mm vs 1,739mm) and rides on a narrower track (1,465mm vs 1,575mm) than the Peugeot.
Citroen DS3: Beauty Stakes
The Citroën DS3 is one of the more enchanting and visually appealing cars that we’ve come across this year, with its avant-garde styling cues within and without that lend it that unmistakable Citroën flair; rather similar to the DS4 and DS5 of the previous year. You wouldn’t expect anything less visually exciting in a Citroën, which the DS3 delivers in spades. Motorsportchannel.com got the electric blue variant, whose color is officially known as Belle Ile Blue or Bleu Belle Ile. What a chic color on a chic looking car. Too chic for this middle-aged reviewer perhaps? It sported a Blanc (white) roof, lending it an air of sportiness. Too bad there’s only a humble normally-aspirated powerplant within, which doesn’t really do justice to the car’s dynamics and racy looks, but more on that later. For now, let us describe to you the curves and nuances that make the DS3 what it is, a sexy b*tch.
The front-end of the DS3 wears Citroën’s latest corporate face with pride, with well thought out dimensions from the large, raked headlights to the double chevron front grille, right down to the wide open-mouthed lower air dam. The parts look great on their own, but it is in the sum of all these parts that meld cohesively together to present a frontal proposition that can make first time beholders skip a beat and do a double take. Especially the ladies. You should have seen the looks on the faces of my lady friends who first saw the DS3; just priceless! Perhaps it was due to the rarity of the DS3 on our roads, or perhaps the car can evoke the inner flair within us, but that front end really killed it out there. If one were to compare apples to oranges, a certain second national carmaker recently launched a new variant whose frontal design could be accused of bearing some semblance to this French beauty, but which glaringly doesn’t command the same kind of presence, so to this I have to throw my hat off to Citroën for they’ve again managed to conjure up another classic in the making. To those who still haven’t got a clue as to which mystery car I’m referring to, yes it’s the Perodua Axia.
As for its side profile, the Citroën DS3 evokes another emotion. This time round, the Axia is far from the mind, replaced by a sense of awe and admiration to the level of detail present. That white roof is really something, capturing your attention almost immediately. From the roof downwards the eye is led to the rear quarter of the DS3, admiring that fabulous bubble butt; I’m refering to the rear quarter glass that starts from the door pillar and which disappears towards the rear windscreen. This is crazy man, in my mind I was asking if this was indeed a production car and not something else. Defying convention, the body-colored B-pillar rises upwards in the shape of a sharkfin in reverse, only to be truncated by the rear glass, giving off the illusion of a cabriolet of sorts. What a brilliant design tour de force!
Generous bits of chrome on the door handle, wing mirror stalk and lower door molding add a dash of French flair, like how the chefs do it when they decorate your dish with colored sauce for that final touch of presentation. The two-toned “Bellone” alloys shod with Bridgestone Potenza RE050A rubber in 205/45 R17 configuration amalgamates the DS3’s side profile neatly together, sitting nicely snug within the arches with just enough fender clearance for our horrible roads. The rear end of things deserve praise too, with the signature 3D effect rearlights taking pride of place. A rectangular chrome ring underpins the design of the rearlights, giving the backend of the DS3 a classy and neat look. The seamless design of the rear quarter glass joins the windscreen in a coherent and unobtrusive manner, a design that allows the sheet metal and tail lights to take center stage. Elsewhere, a purposeful looking rear diffuser rises up to meet the bumper to complete the cheeky, go-faster look of the car.
Citroen DS3: Flair all round, outside and in
When it comes to managing expectations, Citroën never fails to impress, as can be seen with the brand’s other stablemates the DS4 and DS5. In the DS3 too, Citroën’s designers flexed all their muscles and exhausted millions of brain cells to deliver a cabin experience that really deserves mention. It is one thing to pull out all the stops for premium-spaced interiors, but with such limited interior space, Citroën’s designers must have had countless constructive debates among the design team to deliver a luxurious yet sporty user experience within the pillars of the diminutive DS3 without sacrificing too much cabin space for essentials such as head, leg and shoulder room.
The first thing that grabs you when you enter the cabin of the DS3 are the well-appointed semi-buckets that greet your rump as you slide into the cockpit. Snug is the word, for the seats hug your body in a possessive way, giving one the reassurance of being well planted as you barrel down the highways or while negotiating every tight bend you can find. The steering wheel is so Citroën in that it looks and feels very solid and luxurious to a fault. If there is one aspect of Continental motoring that is a class above its eastern rivals is the design and build quality of the steering; even for entry levels like the DS3 and Peugeot 208, the steering is where the respective companies pull no punches, and with good reason. Most if not all motorists, spend most of their time behind the wheel when out driving, so what better way to convey the quality message than via the steering wheel? This is such a simple and neat trick, one begins to wonder just when will the eastern makes start realizing the importance of a well built steering wheel even on their most basic variants? The first and most lasting impact on a layman’s driving experience is how solid the car felt. No prizes as to what the reviewer was holding on to while making that presumption.
Moving on. The rear seats aren’t the most spacious in a supermini, but they’re not the tightest either. There’s ample room for two full-sized Asian adults at the back, but the rear is definitely not a good place for claustrophobics owing to the low slung roof line. Having said that, the DS3 was never meant to be a people mover anyway, and gives you an excuse to only ferry a single passenger up front, what with the limited space and all (read: limited horsepower!). Aside from the limited interior space, there is nothing much else to fault within the confines of the cabin, save for one minor niggle, and that honor belongs to the design of the driver’s armrest and hand brake combo. The hand brake is set very low and quite far back on the floorpan of the car, and with the armrest in the down position you’ll struggle to try and lock or release the brake. The best way to do this is to raise the armrest, lock or release the hand brake, then lower the armrest again, hence the combo move. It’s a small matter really, but on days when you’re in a bit of a hurry this combo move might be a cause of irritation for some.
As far as overall cabin comfort and amenities are concerned, the DS3 ticks most of the pertinent points. There is Bluetooth and USB connectivity, audio streaming, the works. You can also set certain driving parameters for a more pleasurable drive. All this and more, in an entry level car no less. Cruise control and audio adjustments are available on various stalks behind the steering, a trend with many Continental designs, leaving the wheel clean of any buttons or dials except the horn. I’m not sure if I agree with this implementation as I am one who prefers my controls on the wheel itself for easy reference.
Having said that, I do believe that most owners would learn to use said controls intuitively after a week or so without having to sneak a peek behind the wheel every so often to see which button does what. The only positive I see in having a clutter free steering wheel is when in a frontal collision and the air bag fails to deploy for whatever reason, you won’t get volume and cruise switches stamped on your face when your head slams onto the steering.
Citroen DS3 is spelt Zippy
What a little pocketful of fun the DS3 turned out to be! This car was built to be driven hard. Naturally, you can’t leave the tyres out when describing the dynamics of the car, and in this respect the BS Potenza RE050As never skipped a beat, proving themselves over and over again under most road conditions and driving temperaments. Take it slow and the car will be poised and neutered. Slam the pedal to the metal and it will dance with you, a willing partner that knows instinctively when to grip and when to let things slide a little around the corners without getting caught with two left feet. The suspension tightens up during hard cornering, but doesn’t feel jarring on uneven tarmac, suggesting perhaps some form of progressive setup in place. Weaving in and out of traffic (not that I’d recommend to anyone on public roads) seemed second nature to this baby Citroën, owing to its short wheelbase.
An output/torque figure of 120hp/160Nm out of a 1.6-liter naturally-aspirated mill isn’t the best choice for a car of this caliber, and the performance figures show up the car’s modest intentions. The century dash is done in 10.9s while top speed is a reasonably quick 190km/h in fourth gear. Still, the DS3 isn’t marketed as a hot hatch anyway, so these figures will suit most of its potential owners quite well, who aspire more towards differentiation in a crowded marketplace, a token of one’s individuality and flair. However, even though the DS3 for our market seems to have inherited the same powerplant as the one in the Peugeot 208 Allure, but the power delivery seemed a little more potent across the rev range. It didn’t at all feel sluggish or forced in normal everyday driving, while also giving off a louder rasp when called upon to deliver the 120 ponies. It was only upon returning the car to Naza Euro Motors that I was told that the DS3 was more aggresively tuned from the factory, hence the more aggressive nature of the powerplant.
At RM117,888 on the road with insurance, the 1.6-liter Citroen DS3 isn’t exactly chump change, but you need to ask yourself, is it worth it? If you’re a go-getter type of person who doesn’t need German muscle in your garage but a lovely little French princess instead, yes it’s worth it. If you want a car that looks costlier and that exudes charm in spades wherever you go, then yes, it’s worth it. Lastly, if you want a car that is rarer than flying blue elephants wearing Armani suits, a car that will look good now and for the next five years at least, then a big YES, it’s definitely worth it.
Citroen DS3 images