Citroen DS3 CabrioLaunched three years ago the DS3 hatchback range has been a huge sales success and an image changer for Citroen.

DS3 sales worldwide are over 200,000 units and 43,000 have been sold in the UK making us one of the largest markets.

The success of the funky, eye catching, DS3 has only been limited by the lack of body options, just the racy three-door version. This is unlike the MINI which has sprouted new offspring on a regular basis.   Even the third member of the small ‘must-have’ trendy trio, the Fiat 500, is available in hatch, convertible and mini MPV forms.

But now the Citroen DS3 is available in a three door Cabrio form and because of the success of the three door hatch, the UK - despite our cold and wet weather - is a priority market for the new Cabrio said John Handcock, Head of Press and PR for Citroen UK at the UK media launch this snowy week.

He said, “DS3 Cabrio sales in the UK will be around 1,200 units for the remainder of this year but over 1,500 in a full year, around 10% of total DS3 sales in this country.  Being a priority market will allow us to order more to meet the demand if required.  Our sales projections are only an estimate, this is a new niche sector for us so the potential is huge.”

The home market of France is expected to attract most customers for the chic DS3 Cabrio
with the UK and Germany not far behind.

In three years the DS3 three door hatchback range with its funky colours and wide range of personalisation options has become Citroen’s best selling model range in the UK and volumes are already up 42% this year.  Citroen’s overall new car sales are up by over 15.5% so far this year over the same period in 2012 and for the whole of last year  their registrations increased by 7.5% with a total of 73,656 new cars sold.

Citroen DS3 CabrioHandcock added the DS3 Cabrio makes top-down driving easier and more enjoyable as the three layer textured fabric roof can be raised or lowered in 16-seconds at speeds up to 75mph. Our Cabrio has the largest boot in its class, 245-litres as opposed to the MINI Convertible’s 125-litres and the Fiat 500C’s 185-litres and it seats five passengers unlike its two main rivals.”

The DS3 Cabrio is available with three petrol engine versions priced from £15,045 to £19,675.  The line up is the 1.2-litre VTi 82 DSign manual with CO2 emissions of 112g/km, the 1.6-litre  normally aspirated VTi 120 DStyle manual/auto with 136g/km and158g/km respectively, and the 1.6-litre turbocharged THP 155 DSport manual with 137g/km.   The most popular model is forecast to be the VTi 120 DStyle manual at £17,425 accounting for an expected 73% of sales. The auto version using this engine will take around 6% of sales, the top of the range THP 155 DSport 18% and the range price-leader VTi 82 just 3%. The sales split is expected to be 65% retail and 35% fleet and business user-choosers.  The DS3 Cabrio is around £2,600 more expensive than the three-door hatchback versions

Marc Raven, Communications Director for Citroen UK said at the snowy media launch that the UK cabriolet market, the second largest in Europe after Germany, sees 80% of drivers as females but because the DS3 has a strong male driver following he expects the DS3 Cabrio appealing equally to both sexes. Given the vagaries of the UK climate the fact that the full length electrically operated fabric roof, plus the additional folding rear section down to the boot top, is most suitable for our changeable weather conditions because it can be operated at speeds up to 75mph. The DS3 Cabrio appeals more than its two rivals because it has a larger boot and three passengers can be carried in the rear.   There is only a 25kg weight increase over the DS3 three door hatchback body, not the usual 100kg, so the newcomer remains agile and nimble. It has the same rigidity and strength as the hatchback as well because it retains the front, centre and rear pillars all joined to the side and front roof frame-rails

Citroen DS3 CabrioTo prove the point about rigidity and torsional stiffness, Citroen provided the top specification and most powerful THP 155 DSport versions costing £19,675 for the press launch.  With front wheel drive and 154bhp with 177lb ft of torque on tap this amount of power and response would show up any body flexing or torsional twisting during fast cornering. There really wasn’t any body-shake of note and luckily I currently have a DS3 top spec version three door THP 155 hatchback on longer test at the moment and the Cabrio seems to have the same strong handling credentials.  There is a bit more wind noise intrusion through the three layer canvas roof than the solid metal one, but not much.  Whether it’s the hatchback or Cabrio this most sporty version has a firm ride and can be ‘crashy’ over poor road surfaces.

This engine is well known; it’s strong and pulls well through the six forward gears. Top speed is 132mph, zero to 62mph takes 8.2 seconds and the official Combined Cycle fuel consumption is 47.9mpg. On test my Cabrio returned 42.2mpg driven briskly to sample the rigidity and torsional body stiffness using country A/B roads crossing Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Northamptonshire boarders. The CO2 emissions are 137g/km so VED road tax from April is £125 a year and the new rate of tax for company car drivers is 18%.  The insurance group is 23E but lower powered models start at 10E with the main selling VTi 120 DStyle manual being rated as 16E.

The folding roof is a work of art and available in three striking textured colour finishes, Infinite Blue, Moondust Monogramme and Black.  It is full length plus the ‘bustle’ section at the rear.  It operates like a glass roof sunroof but full length with the fabric section retracting in neat folds using guide rails or runners.   A push of the button takes the roof back to the glass rear window with neat folds of fabric sitting on the rear roof spoiler. Push the button again and the rear window folds inwards onto the parcel shelf and then the roof spoiler and folds of fabric lower down to the top of the boot lid. It is very neat and aerodynamic.   The roof can be operated in three steps from fully open to nearly closed depending on how much fresh air is required by front and rear passengers but the roof looks neater with its step-folds when fully open.  One drawback is, fully open with the rear section down to the boot means there is no rear visibility using the driver’s mirror.  Citroen have included rear parking sensor to overcome that issue and the door mounted rear view mirrors still give good visibility.

Citroen DS3 CabrioThe boot lid also operates in a novel way. It opens away from the car initially vertically and then moves up, still vertical, rather than the usual hinge system with an open out boot lid.  Access to the boot is then through a low-ish oblong hole which restricts easy loading and unloading.

Wind intrusion or bluster into the DS3 Cabrio is relatively low as the seats are set low in the car and the A, B, C pillars complete with the side roof rails shield passengers as does the front pop-up wind deflector.  Even though the weather was freezing with plenty of snow still on the ground, with the heater set on high temperature the driving experience was still very pleasant and the DS3’s handling remained sharp and agile.  It is certainly the cabriolet well able to handle our roof open or roof closed changeable and extreme weather conditions without fuss.

MILESTONES. Citroen DS3 Cabrio THP 155 DSport Manual. Price: £19,675. Range starts at £15,045. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, four cylinder, turbocharged petrol 154bhp, 177lb ft of torque from 1,400rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance:  132mph, 0-62mph 8.2 seconds, 47.9mpg (42.2mpg on test), CO2 137g/km, VED road tax £125 from April, BIK company car tax 18%. Insurance group: 23E, Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 3,948mm, W 1,715mm, H 1,483mm, boot 245-litres, 5-seats. For: Great style, innovative roof design that opens and closes at speeds up to 75mph, handles as well as the DS3 hatchback, bigger and better than MINI and Fiat 500C soft-top competitors. Against: Limited rear visibility with the roof fully open, low down entry to the boot.   Miles Better News Agency  

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