Compact crossover from the emerging DS brand takes on current kingpins
Some things never change and old habits die hard.
Watching a dwindling fuel gauge evoked two emotions in this week’s test car that have spanned the decades: Will I get some fuel now or wait and see how we are fixed nearer home?
I’ve had the experience of being left high and dry (but not with a test car) down the years.
So I resolved to replenish this week’s review motor as soon as we got back across the border where prices are not as high. Only, I didn’t. I kept pushing on and on.
It’s funny how you say to yourself that you’ll drive another 20/30kms. In the end I replenished but not until a few days after I’d first resolved to do so.
Which is all by way of introducing the latest DS3, a small ‘luxury’ SUV, and its 1.2-litre 3cyl petrol engine which, in these days of high fuel costs is capable of around 6 litres/100km or 45mpg or so. That’s a decent figure.
It’s uncomplicated and had a lovely little burble from the exhaust. I’m dwelling a little more than usual on the engine, for a change, because it did a great job for me over a series of long drives.
It is unusual to have such a small engine paired with an 8spd automatic transmission but the combination, mostly, worked quite well.
The only quibble I’d have on that front would be a bit of an uneven stop/start sensation.
But it was good, for once, not to be worrying about plugging in or re-charging. It’s not politically correct to say so, maybe, but that’s the way I felt about it. There was a sense of freedom. I couldn’t, for example, put off charging in the same way I deferred pumping some petrol at a later stage.
Anyway, the DS3 is a compact luxury crossover from the huge Stellantis stable (Citroën, Fiat, Jeep, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot to name a few of its companions). You might be a bit confused because it was originally badged as a Citroen. To cut a long story short: it’s not any more.
This is focused at people who would normally be thinking of buying a MINI Countryman, say, or an Audi Q2.
It’s fair to say that DS as a brand is still establishing itself – since it was established as an independent entity in 2015 – and most people wouldn’t have seen or heard of it.
The likes of the DS3 (I reviewed the DS7 last week, you might remember) is designed to begin putting that to rights. And it does so in several areas, maybe less so in others.
I think it has fetching looks – I like the way the hip ‘kick’ lifts the profile. A simple enough dash and good seats whose fabric might be a bit too easy to get dirty (so I’m told) give an appearance of affluence, if not outright luxury inside. They were, however, nicely supportive and provided a good driving position. But my dislike of the series of central console buttons which control windows, driving modes and door locks deepened. I think they are a bit of a mess in terms of everyday application and complicate what should be straightforward operations. It is very much a case of form before function.
There was reasonable room in the cabin and a decent enough boot.
And the chassis set-up was pleasing rather than sporty: I think it has to yield to the dynamics of the MINI and Q2 on that front.
But what it lacked in a bit of driving edge it made up for as a pleasant drive and an ability to take most of what the road could offer.
Sometimes it is easy to overlook what it takes for a car to be unfussy and straightforward to get around in. The DS3 never put a foot wrong and provided us with a comfortable drive over a variety of roads north and south.
As I say, the single biggest problem the DS3 has is the recognition factor.
It is a fairly major hurdle and one that realistically is going to take a lot of time to get to reasonable levels.
The test car certainly didn’t blaze a trail in terms of colour, being a subdued beige. If I were buying I would go for something stronger and brighter.
The design and stance (it is quite a pert little motor that sits up tall) would benefit a lot, I think.
Would I buy it? I’d give it serious consideration but would have to admit that the two rivals I mentioned would appeal more on driving dynamics.
In fairness it conveyed us sweetly through the counties and parking was a joy thanks to its size, visibility and technical assists.
At the end of the day, however, I’d have to be honest and say that if it came down to one factor making the decision I would be put off by those central console buttons.
Maybe I’m being unfair, focusing on something largely a matter of taste but that’s how I see it.
DS3 Crossback, PureTech 130, Elegance, 3cyl, 1.2 PureTech petrol 8spd automatic, from 6.1-litres/ 00km. Road Tax: €210. On The Road price (including €995 delivery and €700 metallic paint): €35,265. Starting price of DS3 range is €29,945.
Good spread of equipment includes an array of driver/safety assists and seats adorned in quilted leather, 17ins alloys, reversing camera, front/rear assistance, 7ins digital instrument cluster, 7ins capacitive touchscreen, automatic air con, automatic headlights.