Putting it up to the Mini
Published 26/06/2010 | 05:00
I'd have the price of a few tolls by now if I had a euro for every time I said "Before you get carried away" to all those charmed by this new arrival. Citroen's DS3 is an attempt at a small, smart motor for those who like something quite different -- without it being off the wall. It is a direct, potent competitor -- at least on paper -- for the modern MINI icon.
Yes, it is different in many ways. And yes, it made quite an impact in the course of the week.
But I felt compelled to say something that risks spoiling the party. I am, after all, an old bottom-line merchant when it comes to money and cars.
There is no easy way to say this, so here goes: no matter how gigantic Citroen's efforts have been to resurrect confidence in marque and models, there are bound to be question marks over second-hand values.
Fact: recent history has not been good in that area. The medium future is much brighter now that bitter lessons about value and values have been absorbed.
So you'll understand why I told those excited by this little gem: "Before you get carried away, this could lose a fair bit of value over the next couple of years."
Then again, it might not. Either way, fair dues to Citroen.
Desperation breeds inspiration and Citroen has certainly hit on something here. In purely motoring terms, it forces me to temporarily lift my ban on sweeping statements.
This is, quite simply, the best thing it has done in years.
It is smartly and colourfully designed, cleverly sculpted and well thought out. It is a fresh approach. That is partly why it brought back the iconic DS name -- because it reckoned this was a bit special.
Initially, I wasn't that mad about the looks, but I found myself warming to them more as the week went on. I'm still not a fan of the profile but I can handle it.
My red test car had a white roof and, head-on, was strikingly effective. The cabin had a lot more room than I had expected. Two of our big frames in the front seats still left a decent smattering of room for less bulky individuals behind. Everyone reckoned there was more space than in a MINI. I agree -- it definitely felt that way.
There was a nice, 'young' feel to it. From the cabin of smart touches to a decent boot, to those fetching looks.
The 1.6-litre diesel engine was outstanding, no doubt about that. Lots of pep, a nice spread of power and it went easy on the juice.
I was not surprised -- but you may be -- at the quality of the suspension, handling and ride.
Citroen has so often had poor cars sitting on the best of suspensions down the years. It -- and Peugeot -- knows how to do these things.
I enjoyed the drive. It was just taut enough, without being harsh or hard. It was supple enough to take most lumps and bumps in its stride.
There was a dynamism about it on the road, especially when I went scuttling around some of the narrower, quieter country lanes.
However, I think the MINI is a tad better on such twisty surfaces.
So is it as good as the MINI overall?
Tough question, but in its own way, yes -- as good in many aspects. I preferred the cabin to the MINI's. It had a more pleasant and less sparse feel to it and is not dominated by that massive Big Ben of a speedo that MINI plonked right bang in the middle of the dash. Ugh!
There are, of course, bits and pieces that leave something to be desired. I was far from happy with the driver's seat adjustment. I never got it to 100pc. And the elbow rest was useless (it got in my way) so I left it in its vertically adjusted position.
The middle pillar (they call it a 'shark fin' design) blots out a fair bit of over-the-shoulder vision and contributes to my doubts about its looks, but the rearward sight path was not bad at all for a small car.
Don't let the drawbacks put you off too much. I was surprised at how solid it felt and how well built it appeared to be. But I have to qualify that by saying I'd like to see how it feels in a year or two. Still, I have a sense that this will make a real go of things. I certainly hope so.
It deserves to because not too many cars get as good a mix as this. It is fun, different and -- within the parameters of small-car expectations -- decently practical.
And the price is not bad, considering what you're getting and the level of standard equipment.
What price you will get for it in a few years is a different matter altogether. You should factor it into your buying calculations.
If you do buy -- and I think a tidy few will judging by the 'what-the-hell?' attitude of a number of my passengers --then you should go and enjoy it.
The car is made for summers like this. But don't say I didn't try to take some of the fizz out of the party. And . . . not every summer will be like this.