Citroen have had a traumatic 10 years as the beginning of the new millennium marked the dawn of a reputation the company is still trying to shake today. Cheap utilitarian transport may be the goal, but when you say Citroen in a crowded space you soon find yourself standing alone with only words like rot-box and tedious for company. The truth is that the Saxo was the last good car the company made for two reasons… The sheer lack of equipment inside the car meant nothing could fall off and with the car being as empty as the Gordon Brown fan-club; it could be chucked into most corners at any speed whilst you rev the nuts off it.
And so, being tasked with reviewing the new DS3, I wasn’t getting my hopes up. In fact on the way to the dealership I consciously remember thinking why did I pass up the opportunity to check out a special edition MX-5? Must have been that false of hope that was extinguished as I reflected upon the sea misery that was the forecourt. At this point I had very little faith in the DS3, and so you will be surprised to hear what I have to report.
I was presented with what can only be described as a little box of joy! The DS3 is one of those cars that come along every so often and just makes you smile. Aesthetically this car is on a different planet in comparison with its competitors. The designers must have been on steroids, that or genetically modified in some way as its predecessors were about as exciting a vegetarians dinner. With its shark-like B pillar and LED fins, this car is the new retro. Allow me to clarify. What we call retro today were iconic designs 40-50 years ago, and so it makes sense that what is modern now could be retro in 50-60 years’ time. However, with the majority of car on sale today all look rather dapper; nothing stands out from the crowd. Enter the new DS3 “future retro”.
Ok, down to the nitty-gritty. The DS3 has a wide range of engines starting at a nippy 1.4 VTi ranging to a monstrous 16 valve, 1.6 with 150BHP. Naturally we haggled for the 1.6 and that is what we got! Our test car, with its 150BHP, will cost you £15,900, and that’s a lot in comparison with competitors such as the Mini and Fait 500. Luckily for your chunk of change you get a lot of kit standard such as; Bluetooth, a premium sound system and bolstered seats. All that is available out of the box on any model. But our range topper also had leather, a double chromed exhaust and aluminium pedals…
The interior continues the ultra-modern atheistic with a shiny coloured dash and an intriguing floating speedo shade. The architecture within the car is tasteful but also brings forward the new standard layout for all Citroens, so whilst revolutionary now, over the next few years will age conservatively. I presumed the rear quarters would be cramped but thanks to the designers raising the rear bench by an inch, the rear feels part of the same space as opposed to being segregated from the front. Cubby holes fill every corner to maximise practicality (and to compensate for the loss of a proper glove compartment) whilst staying tastefully within the design.
The car on the road is quite and much more comfortable than its competitors but unfortunately there is a lack of feel from the steering around corners. That said the handling overall is smooth and until you hit the noisy pedal, refined. But when the time comes use those galloping horses they are all too ready to jump the fence. In the same way the Saxo was a riot around the bends, so is this! It manages to be composed yet still eligible for an ASBO.
Overall this car really has changed my attitude towards Citroen; I now see that the potential to make a cracker of a hot-hatch is still there. We can only hope that is comes through in future models and that the DS3’s fantastic attributes don’t die away.