The eyes have it for style
You have to give Citroen credit for trying to be different at both ends of the market, writes Campbell Spray
THE very toned "silver surfer" towelling himself down after his bike ride through the forest in the Dublin Mountains last Sunday couldn't have been more complimentary. "Gosh, that's a lovely car. Really beautiful... and what a colour," he exclaimed before being even more impressed with the interior of the Citroen DS3 Faubourg.
There's no doubt that this latest version of the very successful up-branding of the original Citroen C3 into a DS brand is very tasty indeed.
I didn't quite get the DS3 idea when it was first launched. It was a bit tarty and pretentious, but it has grown on me and they are delightful to drive: exuding a nicely refined confidence. Whether the Faubourg "inspired by the Numero 9 concept and embodying Parisian luxury" is a step too far might be another thing entirely.
The press releases burbles on: "The finish makes use of processes unheard of in the automobile world... an incarnation of the skills of artisans producing luxury articles, this exterior finish presents the DS logo, by including it in the roof of the DS3... the DS motif is also used for the mirror shells where it is laser-etched, jewel-like, an innovation that gives a sensory feel." Wow! I think the writer, the designer or probably both were on the absinthe. The car I was driving was in the 'whisper purple' body colour which is described as a "deep black with subtle shades of violet".
Now all that glistens is not gold. Getting into the back of this three-door hatch is not easy - probably not even for a muscular 50-something mountain-biker - and that's after you have negotiated the temperamental lever to move the front seats.
A lot of the storage spaces are quirky without being useful, which is a description that could also be applied to the speedometer hub. Yet one must take your hat off to Citroen, they are at least trying to give a bit of character to their cars. Their C4 Cactus model (actually a stretched C3) which was shown to Irish journalists in Amsterdam last week is a family hatchback which gives the impression of a "pastiche of a pastiche".
My colleague Andrew English described it in the Daily Telegraph as at first glance being like "a 70s American station wagon with vinyl appliques of simulated wood grain on the sides. Then you get closer and see the body-protecting Airbump cladding. There are flush fitting windows, silver ski-like roof bars and contrasting Airbump panels on all four corners. One vehicle we drove had a strapped suitcase-styled glovebox (made possible because of the top-of-screen airbags), leather door straps instead of handles and a sort of raised brocade fabric that might have had a bit part in a very early edition of Coronation Street."
Andrew summed it up as handling like a "sofa, but isn't as comfy... compromises abound... nevertheless you have to credit Citroen for trying something different".
He adds: "Everyone who saw the Cactus on our Netherlands test drive gave it a thumbs up. Whether they'd give it the same after a test drive will be the proof of the pudding". So while Andrew and others were flying out to Amsterdam, work and study commitments meant that I could just manage a trip to the mountains with the DS Faubourg. While the Cactus goes for a stripped-out look, the Faubourg heads in the other way entirely. Whether it is worth more than €25,000 plus p&p is very debatable. It is lovely to look at and good to drive, but you can get a lot more in other marques where depreciation is likely to be lot less. However, you may not get the same compliments.