Friday 30 September 2016

Cars: Letting the heart rule... going it alone with DS3

Lots of pep but watch prices

Published 24/07/2016 | 02:30

Impressive steps: Prestige DS3
Impressive steps: Prestige DS3

Going it alone - be it to, or from, a new job, school or relationship - can be tough for a while. It takes time to find your own space in a different world and changed circumstances. It also takes time for others to see you in a different light.

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Those are among the challenges facing the likes of DS as it branches out from Citroen as the upmarket, sportier stand-alone wing of the French marque.

While it has made all the right noises and taken some impressive steps thus far, it still relies on the larger family for indirect sustenance as it increasingly claims its own place in the motoring hierarchy.

In this instance, it is doing so with the heavily revised 3dr DS3 which, appropriately, has been based on the Citroen C3 hatchback.

The timing is good. There is, it would appear, a market for premium-feel small hatches like this - just look at the MINI and, the smaller, FIAT 500 as examples. But these are established and recognised. In terms of longevity, DS is just beginning. And that puts the rejuvenated 'new-generation' DS3 gets in sharp focus.

Looks/appearances are vital in this market and this DS3 looks the better of having the square-cut grille, more angular bumper and the brand's 'double wings' motif.

At the back there are 3D-effect tail-lights and a smattering of other visual tweaks.

But I think the 'floating' roof gives it more visual presence than anything else. I like the look: black roof and white body. If looks are important, then individualisation of spec and tech rank high, too.

I gave up trying to count the colour combinations (black and white remains my favourite) you can have, not to mention the personalisation options. And then there is the number of fabric and dashboard colour pairings. And alloy wheels...

So, as you can probably gather, there's that bit more to this DS than the old one which, by general agreement, was a successful initial example of the DS/Citroen transition.

This is that bit better. There's more to it and more with it: both MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay interface with the 7in touch screen and that lets you control either an Android or Apple smartphone.

The cabin is bright, smart and clean-cut (nice quality materials) with a good seating position, good seats - brown leather came as an extra - and plenty of visibility.

It is obviously a car for the young and the young-at-heart. It is one for the fairly well-off young and young-at-heart as there is a link between premium 'feel' and premium price. In fairness, the €21,345 starting tag is okay. Just watch out, though, for the climb when you move away from the more basic models and use more powerful engines (such as my 130bhp S&S test car).

Let me tell you how I got on.

It was, as I've said, a pleasant cabin; nothing too fussy anywhere.

The main-screen interface was fairly easy to use but not as user-friendly as some rivals. For a small car, I had plenty of room (the two seats behind are not of much use though). Funnily enough, there's a reasonable boot - and the rear seats fold.

The main attraction for me was the blend between engine and suspension.

Sometimes it felt as if the latter was too stiff and a bit unforgiving, harsh even, over rougher surfaces, but I'd overlook that for the sharpness of response, how it turned into corners so accurately and behaved so well over a couple of particularly poorly cambered stretches of road.

A car like this has to give you a sort of 'lift' (no pun intended); has to make you feel its energy. The 130bhp on tap took care of that in large measure. That is a fair amount of clout in a car of this size and inevitably coloured my thinking. Less expensive, less powerful versions will rely more heavily on the chassis for that bit of sport. But it is basically well set up to give you a smart drive around town or out on the road.

So, would I buy it? Probably not. I like it but would I part with €30,000 for my test version? Would one of my daughters? No, they have their eyes elsewhere. They liked the look of it but were not so sure about the DS bit. That's understandable. Also understandable is, inevitably, the likely concerns over future re-sale value. But if you are thinking like that about a car like this, then it's not for you. It is a car for those who buy with a little bit more heart than head.

It is a car for those who, like DS itself, don't mind going it alone a bit.

Facts & figures

DS3 Prestige 3dr hatch, 130bhp, 1.2-litre petrol, 105g/km, €190 tax, 4.5l/100km(62.8mpg).

Main spec includes air con, 17in alloys, chrome DS wings grille, electric heated/ folding mirrors, auto-dimming lights/wipers, LED daytime running lights/front fogs, Xenon lights. Tested version included Nappa leather (+ €2,500) and reversing camera (€250).

Prestige price: €27,295. Car tested: €30,745. The range starts from €21,345.

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