Citroen were and still are in some quarters perceived as a price-led brand looking for volume sales but the re-introduction of their famous heritage DS stylish niche sub-brand has changed their image in the UK.
The funky and sporty DS3 with a wide range of colours and options was an instant sales hit and scooped up a number of media awards. This was followed by the DS4 family hatchback with coupe styling overtones and the larger DS5, a stylish alternative to a conventional executive saloon. It’s a move that must be working as Citroen’s UK new car sales for the year so far are up by 15.3% to 28,714 registrations in an overall new car market where sales, mainly from private buyers, has increased by 8.8%. The DS3 is now Citroen’s best selling model range in the UK. Over 200,000 DS3s have been sold worldwide, around 15,000 a year sold here year and the recently launched DS3 Cabrio is expected to add a further 10% to that total each year.
The DS3 is Citroen’s answer to the MINI and the Fiat 500, fashionable, fun to own, high profile models with loads of profitable personalisation extra cost options. But fashions date quickly and more new versions and special editions are needed to keep these ‘must-haves’ fresh and desirable. The MINI range has sprouted more new models than we can keep up with; the Fiat 500 is not far behind with more to come. The DS3 now has a Cabrio version in addition to the original three-door hatch and during its short life has seen a number of special editions introduced to keep the ‘must-have’ appeal strong.
At the start of this year Citroen introduced DS3 Red special edition models to the range with prices starting from £15,655. Prices of other DS3 versions range from £12,850 for the1.2 VTi 81bhp petrol up to £24,300 for the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol 197bhp Racing variant. There are other 1.6 petrol and diesel engines to choose from as well. There are also DSign, DStyle, DSport and Ultra Prestige levels of specification depending on the engine chosen in addition to the Racing and Red special versions
There are two levels of specification for the DS3 Red special edition variants. The DS3 DStyle Red is available with either a 1.6-litre VTi 120 petrol engine or a 1.6 e-HDI 90 Airdream diesel both with 5-speed gearboxes with prices of £15,655 and £15,855 respectively.
The second level is DS3 DSport Red with the choice of a 1.6-litre THP 155 turbocharged petrol engine or a 1.6 e-HDI 115 Airdream turbodiesel unit both with 6-speed manual gearboxes. These are priced at £17,780 and £18,060 respectively.
The core selling features for the DS3 Red variants are added specification as standard and distinctive body colour options of Polar White or Perla Nera Black with Red Touch interior and exterior paint finishes. The Red Touch finish includes Sport Red coloured roof, door mirrors and front grille and inside matching red dashboard and door handle surrounds.
Both versions have the DS3’s high equipment levels such as stability control, ABS braking, electric front windows, cruise control, front fog lights, sculptured front seats and air conditioning.
DStyle Red variants gain as standard fit Citroen’s Connect Signature pack which includes Bluetooth and USB connectivity plus enhanced Hi-Fi system with additional speakers. The DSport’s added equipment includes automatic headlights and wipers, rear parking sensors, electric heated and folding door mirrors, interior mood lighting and front central armrest plus Bluetooth and enhanced Hi-Fi system.
Having not driven the DS3 three door hatchback since its launch three year ago, apart from the new Cabrio, I’ve just had a reunion with the new DSport Red THP 155 6-speed to give it its full title carrying a premium price label of £17,780. That looks costly on the face of it but in fact it’s very attractive compared with its competition and best of all a bit more exclusive on our UK roads now than the common-place MINIs and retro Fiat 500s.
The DS3 DSport Red is certainly an eye-catcher and it caused lots of interest with its bright red roof contrasting against the smart black paintwork of the main body. The black alloys set it off a treat but caused me to take extra driving care avoiding potentially damaging potholes that curse our badly managed roads.
The classy interior with its mainly back trim and upholstery was certainly brightened up by the full width red fascia and the door handle surrounds. The sporty front seats were supporting and comfortable but the rear legroom is really minimal so even children will struggle to fit in. However the split rear seats do fold down to extend the boot from 285 to 980-litres so for a young single owner, a couple, or young at heart ‘oldies’, the DS3 DSport Red is an image booster not only for its owners but for Citroen.
The 1.6-litre THP 155 turbocharged petrol engine comes from the family of petrol units produced jointly by PSA Peugeot-Citroen and BMW/MINI and is well known in various models. In the DS3 this THP unit with 154bhp, and more importantly 136lb ft of torque from just 1,400rpm, is very linear and strong providing progressive and not ‘peaky’ acceleration response right through the rev range. Yet this well liked engine can remain docile and flexible at low speeds even in high gears when conditions dictate and the 6-speed close ratio transmission has a slick gearchange. Officially this unit will return 47.1mpg in the Combined Cycle and my test drive period during a very cold and snowy spell returned 42.7mpg covering all types of roads and driving speeds. Top speed is 133mph and the zero to 62mph dash takes 7.3 seconds. With CO2 emissions of 135g/km the new VED road tax rate is £125 a year. Company car drivers will pay 18% BIK tax.
The handling is agile, the steering sharp with plenty of grip from the front wheels during cornering. The ride was firm but not too uncomfortable however our pitted and potholed roads do it no favours when driven at speed and there is too much road noise intrusion. As much as I tried to miss potholes to save damaging the smart alloys, hit one and the shock unsettled the path of the car.
MILESTONES: Citroen DS3 DSport Red THP 155. Price: £17,780. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, four cylinder turbocharged petrol 154bhp, 136lb ft of torque from 1,400rpm, 6-speed manual. Performance: 133mph, 0-62mph 7.3 seconds, 47.1mpg (42.7mpg actual on test), CO2 135g/km, VED road tax £125, BIK company car tax 18%. Insurance group: 22. Dimensions/capacities: L 3,948mm, W 1,994mm, H 1,483mm, boot/load space 285 to 980-litres. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. For: More style and exclusivity than a MINI, roomier than a Fiat 500, classy interior, eye catching Red finish inside and out, impressive extra Red specification, strong engine, will appeal to young and not so young customers. Against: Very limited rear legroom, crashy ride at times, road noise intrusion. By Miles Better News Agency