The DS Automobiles premium brand was separated from Citroen in 2014 to standalone with its own models and own dealership network.
Since the DS3 Hatch and Cabrio ‘supermini sector’ sized models were introduced the range has expanded with the DS 4, DS 4 Crossback and DS 5. In addition there are DS 5LS and DS 6 for the Chinese market.
Over 600,000 DS models have been sold worldwide since its spin-off from Citroen and of that total 390,000 have been DS 3 models. The UK was the largest global market for DS last year even outselling it home market of France. The UK’s DS sales in 2015 were 16,429 units and this year with the revised models sales are targeted at 18,500 vehicles. When it comes to the choice between Hatch and Cabrio, in the UK 93% of customers chose the Hatch.
Although now branded DS 3, the three door Hatch models were first introduced in 2010 and the Cabrio in 2013 as Citroen’s and based on their C3 range. The latest 2016 versions are a further step upmarket with revised styling, more specification, new engine options and an average £700 price increase. Prices for the three door Hatch now start at £13,995 and rise through 19 variants to £25,495. The latest DS 3 Cabriolet with 13 variants is priced from £16,295 and goes up to £24,795. Personalisation has played a big part in the sales success of the DS 3 with 78 body/roof colour combinations and over three million personalisation options.
Depending on the model and engine chosen, there are the core spec levels of Chic, Elegance, Prestige, Ultra Prestige and soon to arrive Performance. The latter has three levels, Performance, Performance Black and Performance BRM Chronographs.
There are seven engine options; three versions of the latest 1.2-litre PureTech three-cylinder petrol units with the choice of 82hp or turbocharged versions of 110 and 130hp power outputs. There are two THP 1.6 turbo petrol units with 165 and 210hp outputs and for diesel customers there is the choice of 1.6-litre BlueHDi with either 100 or 120hp outputs. All engines have Stop & Go as standard. Transmission choices are five or six speed manual or a new six speed automatic depending on the engine chosen.
The 1.6-litre THP 210hp petrol unit will only be available for the Performance specification versions of both the Hatch and Cabrio. This unit pushes out 300Nm of torque with CO2 emissions of just 125g/km .The engine is mated with a close ratio six speed manual gearbox with drive to the front wheels through a Torsen limited slip differential. The suspension has been lowered by 15mm, the front and rear tracks widened by 26 and 14mm respectively. Larger 323mm front disc brakes with Brembo callipers are used with 249mm discs at the rear. Top speed is 143mph, zero to 62mph takes 6.5-seconds and Combined Cycle fuel economy is officially 52.3mpg. Prices for the 1.6 THP Performance versions start from £20,495 for the Hatch and £22,795 for the Cabrio.
BUT unfortunately it’s not the DS 3 Performance versions I testing here, they haven’t arrived in the UK yet but will do soon. Instead I got behind the wheel of the very latest DS 3 Prestige 1.6 THP 165hp with a six-speed manual gearbox and a price-tag of £19,295. But with some of those many options DS promote, the price was £21,540.
The latest changes for all the latest DS 3 models include the new DS corporate face which include chrome DS ‘wings’ which extend from the large and deep grille with its DS emblem to the swept-back LED headlights and fog lights. The overall look of the original DS 3 is retained with is floating roof, two tone body colours and the ‘shark fin’ panel behind the B-pillar.
Inside there is more glitz with updated and upgraded new trims, controls and more spec items. Centre of the fascia panel for all versions is a new 7.0-inch colour touchscreen providing access to many of the car’s functions but fortunately not the most used such as heating and ventilation and the radio. DS say this system does away with 20 buttons previously needed on older versions. The new screen also provides access to Mirror Screen, the DS connectivity system compatible with Apply CarPlay and MirrorLink. Android smartphones that are compatible with MirrorLink can use MyDS to listen to and send text messages. There is also a standard fit SOS and Assistance facility. The new DS models are also fitted with front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and Hill Start Assist for manual gearbox models. Standard kit on the cheapest Chic versions includes alloy wheels, electrically operated door mirrors, electric windows, air-con, cruise control, DAB radio, remote locking, split folding rear seats and Bluetooth.
The Prestige version I tried adds even more items including Active City Brake, 17-inch alloys, rear spoiler and automatic headlights and wipers. Some of the extra costs personalisation options fitted to the test car were Perla Nera black body colour with a Topaz roof colour which was sort of a metallic dark brown which really didn’t go together making the Hatch look dull rather than eye-catching. Inside was the Topaz interior trim kit and Nappa Watchstrap leather upholstery. Overall the interior is smart and modern and with less buttons so it has a ‘cleaner’ appearance although some of the plastics are hard to the touch. The front seats are comfortable but the Watchstrap leather finish might be an acquired taste. Whilst there is ample room up front, the two rear seats have limited leg and head room for adults. On the plus side the boot space goes up from 285-litres to 980-litres with the rear seat backs folded down, more than the MINI Hatch – the DS 3’s most obvious rival.
The 1.6-litre THP 160hp turbocharged direct injection petrol engine is well known in other Peugeot and Citroen models and also well-liked. With 240Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm it has a very good response from low engine speeds and a linear power delivery right through the rev range. This engine only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and is a great combination with short-throw precise gearchanges. Top speed is 135mph and zero to 62mph takes an impressively low 7.5-seconds. The great feature of this engine is that for most of the time during motoring on our traffic congested, stop-start motoring journeys it is very flexible, docile and very easy to drive. However once the road clears, nip it down a cog or two and the unit springs to life without effort and it really can be a fun car. The ride is on the firm side but not that uncomfortable however potholes do send thumps and bumps into the car as does road-roar from poorer road surfaces and those were the only things that let the car down. Otherwise it was well behaved, well balanced and nimble.
It also cruised on motorways without stress at the legal maximum speeds and yet returned the good real-life fuel economy of 42.4mpg for my week’s motoring. True that is short of the 50.4mpg Combined Cycle official figure which I think could be easily achieved by careful use. The CO2 emissions are 129g/km so VED road tax is £0 for the First Year rate and £110 for subsequent years. Company car users will now pay 22% Benefit-in-Kind tax following the recent increase in The Budget. Insurance is a reasonable band of 27E.
Overall the latest DS 3 in terms of styling and extra equipment is a move upmarket. It puts the brand a further step away from its Citroen genes but it is going to be a tough call for it to worry the premium brand MINI Hatch or the Audi A1 in its ‘supermini’ sales segment.
MILESTONES: DS 3, Prestige, 1.6 THP 165, 6-speed manual 3-door hatchback. Price £19,295 (£21,540 as tested). Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, direct injection turbocharged petrol, 165hp, 240Nm of torque from 1,750rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 135mph, 0-62mph 7.5-seconds, Combined Cycle 50.4mpg (42.4mpg on test), CO2 129g/km, VED road tax £0/£110, BIK company car tax 22%. Insurance group: 27E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000-miles. Dimensions/capacities: 3-doors/4-seats, L 3,948mm, W 1,715mm, H 1,483mm, boot/load space 285 to 980-litres. For: High specification, wide range of models and options, impressive range of engines, fresh looks. Against: Firm ride, road noise intrusion, not enough soft-feel interior trim for a premium brand car, select carefully from the options list in terms of colour combinations and what extras add value rather than detract from its future resale worth. Miles Better News Agency