Citroen’s DS 3 waves two fingers at the retro look – instead opting for modern, urban chic

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It’s hard not to like the DS 3. While other manufacturers follow the retro route for their urban runabouts, Citroen has instead opted for chic, modern appeal.

The latest Mini has been ruined by the designer’s pen, recently morphed into an overweight city car. The Fiat 500 has sporned numerous bastard offspring that should never have seen the light of day. But the DS 3, well, it looks the prettiest of the three.

I’m not sure the five-speed gearbox in our diesel DS is the best choice and both rear seat legroom and boot space is only average. However, it’s spacious up front, trim materials are mostly good and the equipment list is exceptional.

Enthusiastic drivers will find the 1.6 model lacking but there are plenty of ‘hot’ DS models to tempt you. Overall, a smart little car that lives up to the visual promise.

Tomorrow we take to the road is the Subaru BRZ. Think Mazda MX-5 fun but in a coupe package…

Damon Hill on the hill… What you can’t do in a McLaren

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I spent yesterday storming up the famous hill-climbing course at Goodwood with former F1 champion, Damon Hill. And yes, the headline will no doubt read ‘Hill On The Hill’ when the article appears in the FT.

We had been provided with a McLaren 650S – a £220,000 supercar of quite epic proportions. However, what bemused both Damon and myself was the fact the McLaren was too good to wheelspin!

The photographers wanted tyre smoke but despite out best efforts, the 650S just refused to oblige.

No such worries with the DS 3. It may only sport a humble diesel engine but it does have a proper handbrake and no traction control. So, you can do so much more in a Citroen!

 

The Citroen DS 3 is a car for fashionistas to drool over. It just doesn’t drive that good…

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I think I’ve sussed the DS 3 already. While it bows to the trend for fashionista’s to personalise their car with a zillion different options and styles, it doesn’t have the drivability of the best superminis.

Shame really because I’ve already developed something of a soft spot for the bling white thing park outside. It looks great both inside and out.

But while alloy wheels and purposeful looks scream performance, the Citroen’s handling and steering just don’t live up to that promise.

I know there are faster, more ‘sport orientated’ DS 3s out there but the basic underpinnings of the range are all the same.

Our diesel makes a lot of noise when you push it hard. That combined with general road noise in the cabin make the interior uncomfortable at times.

Still, compared to a Mini or BMW 1 Series, it does represent great value for money…

Monday – Weightwatcher

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Jeremy I think I’ve found out why the DS3 is such a nifty little mover – it’s all down to weight. Turning any car into a convertible means beefing up the structural integrity of the body, usually compromised by chopping off the roof. Then you have the extra weight of the roof folding mechanism itself to add to the equation.

So, far from being lighter, cabrios often tip the scales in the wrong direction. The DS3 is different. Like its Fiat 500C rival, the cars B and C-pillars (the metalwork around the windows) remains in place, keeping the structural rigidity intact. According to the Fiat press blurb, this means the Cabrio is only 25kg heavier than the hatch!

On the road, this translates into a convertible that feels exceptionally sharp turning into a corner, with none of the rattle and body shake associated with soft-tops in the past. Great fun for a car that is essentially a hatchback with the roof peeled off.

I have also finally managed the get the DAB radio working today! It’s obviously an aftermarket fit for UK customers, which makes operation less integrated than a lot of other cars. That said, it works, although as far as I can work out it does not flash the chosen station onto the screen, making station selection harder.

 

Saturday – Classy Cabin

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Jeremy – The choice for buyers looking for an affordable cabriolet with a soft-top rather than a folding metal roof probably comes down to the Fiat 500C, Mini Convertible or our new Ds3 Cabrio. All very different cars, each with styling that is going to split the buying public down the middle.

I’m warming to the DS3 because the cabin area is so much larger and it just feels like a bigger car when you are inside. This is especially true in the back, where there are three seats, instead of the two found in the Fiat and Mini.

The boot is still crazy small like its rivals – except the Citroen boot lid is hinged so that it slides vertically upwards on opening, a rather unique twist on conventional thinking which might be a nightmare for tall people loading bags because they have to bend down to see inside.

What has truly surprised me about the Ds3 is the interior. The leather seats in our car are deep and comfortable and there’s a touch of class about the dashboard that is a cut above the Mini. Over the shoulder vision is, however, non existent with the roof folded down.

And then there’s the quality of the fittings. Citroens never used to be this good! The DS3 is solid, with buttons and dials that could have come off a Mercedes. Even the big doors shut with a reassuring thud.

I’m off to watch the international cricket final in Birmingham tomorrow, so more words after that…