Car reviews: Citroën DS3 DSport 1.6 HDi

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  • | by Kristian Dando

What’s this then?

This is the DS3, Citroën’s award-winning three-door hatchback. The 'DS' part of the title is, of course, a reference to this car's famous namesake from the 1950s. But this is no attempt at a recreation - the DS3 channels the spirit of the original DS, rather than attempting to do a modern ‘reboot’, like with the Mini One or Fiat 500.

The car has already made a bit of a critical splash – Top Gear magazine made the DS3 its Car of 2010 - and early sales figures have been promising. But with a relatively high price tag for a car which shares its underpinnings with the altogether more prosaic C3, does the DS3 offer substance to go with the style?

First impressions of the Citroën DS3 DSport

It’s a good job that this reviewer is, as, er, confident with themselves as they are – the ‘botchelli blue’ paint job teamed with a zebra-patterned roof isn’t going to enhance anybody’s macho credentials. That said, it’s certainly easy to spot in car parks, and it just about works. And even if the jazzy colours don’t float your boat, there’s little dispute that the DS3 is a fine looking car indeed.

How about inside?

The general ‘box office’ feel carries on inside. The interior has a positively nautical flavour, with sleek lines and chrome-look buttons and dials abound. The seats – always something of a Citroën speciality – are rather comfortable, too.

But on closer inspection, the CD player and dashboard stalks appear to be the same one last spotted on a five year old C3, and while there’s an auxiliary input and a charger for connecting your MP3 player, the lack of proper integrated system is a bit of a let-down. However, the sound system performs well – it’s crisp, clear and there’s no shortage of bass either. The interior is a bit on the dark side, lacking a touch in visibility, particularly for passengers in the rear, while the boot is well-equipped to handle a big weekly shop.

What about the driving experience?

The 1.6HDi Citroën that we tested struck a good balance between offering a reasonably sporting experience and outright comfort – the ride is stiff enough to make taking on winding B-roads jolly good fun, without being bone-shaking. It’s certainly a more engaging experience than the C3 which it’s based on.

Most of the punch comes from the engine around 2,000rpm, so the DS3 can feel a little sluggish when ambling around in traffic, but given enough room, progress is pleasingly rapid.

Economy is impressive, too – Citroën claim a consumption figure of around 60mpg. However, this particular DS3 falls into a pretty high insurance category – 18E. But with CO2 emissions of just 118g/km, road tax is cheap: free for the first year, and just £30 a year thereafter.

What do other people think?

After the initial shock of the paint job (and it’s certainly a talking point) has subsided, folk are easily won round to to the DS3’s impressive lines. It isn’t just humans who are interested –whilst out taking a few shots of it, it caught the attention of some ducks (pitctured below), who were pretty curious. Maybe they thought it was a giant egg?

What are the alternatives?

The market is pretty well-stocked for stylish ‘premium’ compact cars – the undisputed big dog of the yard is the Mini hatch, but Alfa Romeo’s Mito is also a sleek and attractive contender. But also now competing in this already-crowded marketplace is Audi’s A1, which has thus far received rave reviews.

Who’d drive one?

A style-conscious upwardly mobile type who wants something with a bit more sass than your average dowdy hatchback.

AT A GLANCE Citroën DS3 DSport 1.6 HDi Price as tested: £18,870 (Approx) Engine: 1560cc diesel Transmission: Six speed manual Max Speed: 120mph 0-62mph: 9.8 secs Economy: 60.1 mpg combined (claimed) CO2 Emissions: 118g/km Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles Our DS3 came with the following selected additional specification: zebra pattered roof, leather seats, alternative dash colours

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