Citroën used to make quirky cars; quirky, but in a good way. The original DS (or déesse in French, meaning “goddess”) back in the 50’s was a much-lauded automobile thanks to the innovative technology that goes underneath a graceful body. Things like hydropneumatic independent suspension system, semi-automatic transmission, front disc brakes, and swiveling front headlamps were made available in the DS way before other manufacturers introduced them in their cars.
Fast forward some five decades later Citroën is reviving the DS nameplate but this time it’s not on a single model but as a “Different Spirit” by-product based on their mainstream “C” cars. The DS badge was re-introduced in 2009 on a three door hatch called the DS Inside Concept car which eventually entered the production line as the DS3, the car that you’re seeing on this page right now. So far Citroën has three models under their DS-line, DS3, DS4 that we reviewed before here, and the DS5.
|Segment||B-Segment 3-door hatchback|
|Engine||1,598cc 4-Cylinder, Normally-Aspirated|
|Max Power||120 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Max Torque||160 Nm @ 4,250 rpm|
Although the revival of the DS badge started with the DS3, it’s not the first DS-line car to arrive here in Malaysia. The Citroen DS3 was only introduced here after the DS4 and DS5 by Naza Euro Motors Sdn Bhd recently in February. Six months on, the amount of DS3 can be seen on the roads are so minimal, in fact I’m not surprised if you haven’t even see one on the road.
Previewed as the DS Inside Concept car, almost every design elements were carried forward to the production DS3, which is a good thing actually. The DS3 is so attractive that it manages to hide the fact that it’s nowhere near as innovative as the original DS.
Each DS3 sold here comes with a contrasting roof and side mirror colours. If you opt for the Jaune Pegase with Noir Onyx top combination like on our test car here, be prepared to get stares from the public. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
At the front there’s the chrome double chevron grille surround combined with a vertically-stacked LED daytime running lights on each side in addition to a pair of front fog lights; again surrounded by chrome. Disappointingly the headlights are still using halogen bulbs. Although the latest DS3 is now equipped with LED headlights, for the Malaysian market it’s still unsure whether they will be introduced or not.
The side of the DS3 is the most interesting with the reversed shark fin design on the B-pillar adding some pizzazz to the car. The 17-inch Bellone Black Diamond-tipped alloys complement the flashy chrome accents on the side of the DS3. On top of that the DS3 features a floating roof but on our test it looks like it doesn’t have a roof at all because the roof is black. For the full effect, go for the colour combination that comes with white roof.
The derrière is moderately simple in design but the eye candy is the pair of LED tail lights. Like GC mentioned before at the DS3 launch, the 3D lights are indeed mesmerizing. In total the DS3 contains enough wow factor to pull it off as a premium continental hatch.
It’s good to know that the inside is styled to match the exterior’s flair. Despite the fact that the interior’s colour scheme can be a tad too dark, most of the materials used feel premium especially the textured soft touch plastic covering the top section of the dashboard and the Mistral Claudia leather upholstery for the seats and door panels. Same cannot be said for the plastic used for the lower parts in the cabin especially the one just below the handbrake lever which feels cheap and very rough to the touch. Interestingly, plastic is used for the throttle pedal too.
The dashboard is dominated by a slab of glossy piano black panel. Undoubtedly it looks snazzy, but good luck keeping it fingerprint-free even for at least a few minutes. At the driver side, the hooded instrument binnacle houses a trio of retro-inspired clocks but the panel on the right hand side utilizes a monochrome screen to display the fuel gauge, mileage, and gear indicator, among other things.
In the middle of the dash sits a tiny multi-info display, and the graphics on the display can be either cool or gaudy depending on your preferences. To navigate through the display you have to fiddle with the buttons on the radio unit way down below the dash which feels somewhat awkward. Worth mentioning is the hi-fi sound system that supports USB/Aux/Bluetooth connectivity complete with eight speakers and a subwoofer in the boot that delivers terrific sound.
Another screen is used for the climate control but at least the buttons on either side of the screen are much more straightforward to use. What’s more, the dashboard comes with an integrated fragrance dispenser where you can control the strength of the fragrance by twisting the knob next to the center aircond vents.
Getting the optimum driving position in the DS3 is easy-peasy with the steering wheel that adjusts for reach and rake, as well as the manually adjusted seat with thick bolster that hugs you in place during corners. The flat bottom steering wheel itself is a nice thing to hold, but it’s free from any buttons except for the horns. There are no shift paddles but there are buttons mounted on the steering column for the cruise control and audio, so initially you have to peek over to see which control does what.
Front passenger space is fine, but the back can be cramped as expected with just enough headroom and limited amount of legroom. Getting in and out is facilitated by the thoughtfully-placed grab handle in the B-pillar. The rear seats come with ISOFIX mounts, and they do fold down (but not flat) and split 60/40.
Storage space can be an issue in the DS3, while the boot space is reasonable at 285 litres, just check out the glove compartment and you’ll see what I mean. The door pockets are wide enough to accommodate a pair of bottles on each side, but I could not find any cupholders at all. Sorry to disappoint you but there’s no place to put your grande caramel macchiato, unless you’re willing to put it in the door pocket and risk spilling it.
Elsewhere in the cabin you will find a deep uncovered cubby hole just aft the gear lever, and storage space under the center arm rest. Speaking of the center arm rest, the position of the arm rest gets in the way when you want to reach the handbrake lever, but thankfully you can fold the arm rest up.
While the DS3 WRC once piloted by a certain Frenchman called Sébastien Loeb was known as le petit bolide which means “the little racer”; this DS3 1.6 VTi is far from that. Miles away, as a matter of fact. What we get in this DS3 is the normally-aspirated 1,598cc 4-cylinder engine that produces 120 hp and 160 Nm of torque.
With the drive sent to the front wheels via the 4-speed slushbox, don’t bank on the DS3 to set your pants on fire but please bear in mind this DS3 is not a hot hatch. Pin your right foot down it will go from 0 to 100 km/h in 10.9 seconds but it feels slower than that. Top speed is claimed to be 190 km/h but if you want attention you don’t even need to go that fast when you’re driving a yellow DS3.
The DS3 is a terrible car at being discreet. Everywhere we went the DS3 attracted attention from all walks of life without even trying. Heck, it even got more attention than the CLA 200 we drove last time. From the driver’s seat you will know you’re being watched as the view out is excellent all round with the generous glass area and minimal pillar intrusion to block your sight.
The DS3 is more common than you think even though it looks futuristic it doesn’t really have any futuristic technology inside. It starts off with a twist of the key and you don’t get a start-stop function, or even any driving mode to choose from. It’s an uncomplicated car to drive in town and getting about is a cinch in this pert French hatch. The suspension absorbs road imperfections quite good too for a car that runs on 205/45 R17 tyres.
When taken to the B-roads the DS3 handles pretty well with decent feel from the electric power steering and good predictable brakes, unlike the brakes in the DS4 we drove earlier that was either on or off. Grip from those Bridgestone Potenza RE050A is great but the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) on the other hand will not let you drive the DS3 like Sébastien Loeb. Yes you are able switch it off by pressing the button on the dash, but it will turn itself back on even just after a few meters off the line.
You would be tempted to work through the gears manually by nudging the chrome gearlever to ‘M’ but pressing the ‘S’ button to hold on to a gear longer should suffice the temptation. With the 1.6-litre engine giving a pleasing soundtrack to the ears, I find it best to keep it between 3,000 rpm and 5,000 rpm even though the specs sheet says max power arrives at 6,000 rpm while max torque at 4,250 rpm. It can keep up with a 2.0-litre Japanese C-segment sedan on the twisty B-roads but just don’t try to do any overtaking maneuver.
Something is peculiar about the gearbox. Even though it’s a four speeder, at times it feels like it has more than four. In normal ‘D’ but depending on your throttle input, sometimes you may feel that the ‘box already shifted up a gear as you can feel the revs drop but the gear display shows that you’re in the same gear as before. This happens to me most of the time when I’m in second gear and I thought it has already shifted to ‘3’, but the display indicates that I’m still in ‘2’. GC and Daniel also encountered the same experience behind the wheel of this DS3 too.
But once you take it to the highway you can confirm it’s a 4-speeder as the engine is spinning more than 3,000 rpm in top gear when cruising at 110 km/h. If it were to be fitted with a six-speeder, the engine would not need to rev that high. It can get rather noisy in the cabin with the sound from the engine and those tyres. Even without a 6-speed box and start-stop function, the claimed fuel consumption is rated at 6.9 l/100 km combined, but yours truly managed to get around 10.5 l/100 km which is still not bad at all.
IS IT FOR YOU?
If you’re looking for a second car that’s easy to drive, relatively affordable, and must be a continental brand then the DS3 should be in your list of candidates. Its rarity on the road will no doubt make you stand out from the crowd, especially if you have it in Jaune Pegase as tested here. Although you have to keep an open mind and don’t expect the DS3 to offer the latest in technology and gadgets, but as a second car these shouldn’t matter that much. If you’re planning to get the DS3 as your only car, there are quite a number of compromises you have to make, chiefly the tight space and maybe the lack of toys in the DS3. If that’s the case you’re better off with a C-segment Korean sedan.
Most people who saw the DS3 couldn’t help to compare it with the MINI. Unfortunately here the MINI costs a bomb even in the 3-cylinder Cooper guise, so let’s not go there. At the time of writing there’s no other continental B-segment three door hatch on sale here apart from the DS3’s own cousin, the 208. The 208 bears the same technical underpinnings, but it is priced at more than 20 grand cheaper than the DS3.
Both measured more or less the same, but the 208 is packed with more tech inside such as the interactive HD touchscreen interface and a panoramic glass roof. Both equally offers a total of 6 airbags and a 5-year unlimited mileage warranty but Peugeot claims the ESP in the 208 is further complemented with Anti-Skid Regulator (ASR) and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). You could settle for a 208 and get the most out your money but if you want to make a statement the DS3 gives a more lasting impression to the people around you. It’s the matter of taste actually.
|Citroën DS3 1.6 VTi||Peugeot 208 1.6 Allure|
|Type||4-cylinder petrol||4-cylinder petrol|
|Type||Electrical power-assisted||Electrical power-assisted|
|Transmission||4-speed Automatic||4-speed Automatic|
|Type||MacPherson strut / Trailing Arm||MacPherson strut / Trailing Arm|
|Front||Ventilated disc||Ventilated disc|
|Rear||Solid disc||Solid disc|
|TYRE & WHEELS|
|Tyres||205/45 R17||205/45 R17|
|DIMENSIONS & WEIGHTS|
|Max Kerb weight||kg||1,164||1,150|
|Luggage Capacity (VDA)||L||285||285|
|Consumption||6.9 L/100 km||6.7 L/100 km|
|0 – 100km/h||sec||10.9||10.7|
WILL I BUY IT?
The style and panache did win me over but unfortunately the drivetrain didn’t. The DS3 is such a lovely ‘feel-good’ car to drive on a daily basis even though driving long distance can be a chore, at least it has cruise control and a banging sound system. And yet, if it were to come with a turbocharged 1.6 powerplant it’ll be more than just a chic accessory. It’s good to have style, but it’s much better to have style with substance, don’t you think so?