Citroen’s DS3 is a classy French super mini with genuine style and character. It looks contemporary, is great to drive and has a huge range of options. This practical small hatchback should prove cheap to buy and own. The DS3 is available in a wide variety of customised finishes–potentially millions of different combinations are available.
The first 3-door DS3 appeared in 2010 as Citroen tried to move the brand more upmarket. That’s good news for today’s used car buyers. It makes this range of premium, quality superminis available at great used prices.
The DS3 was named to commemorate the great DS of the 1950s. There’s nothing retro about its looks. The supermini was designed to rival the Mini and buyers were given thousands of ways to customise their car.
Underneath, the DS3 was based on the more ordinary C3. The bits you see are given a fresh, modern makeover. Spot the distinctive shark-fin middle pillar, contrasting roof with edgy spoiler, and slick bodylines with touches of contrasting colours.
There was a facelift in 2015, when Citroen rebadged the car as its new premium brand ‘DS’. Apart from the badge, however, the changes weren’t very noticeable.
The supermini was designed to rival the Mini and buyers were given thousands of ways to customise their car.
What’s it like to drive?
The French have a history of small hatchbacks that are great to drive. The DS3’s sporty dynamics tapped right into that tradition. It’s nippy and fun to take round windy roads or city streets. It’s also smooth and comfortable on long journeys.
With its anti-lock brakes, precise power steering and skid prevention system, the DS3 is one of the best-handling Citroens available.
The engines are lively, too. The THP turbocharged petrol engines provide hot-hatch performance and the diesels offer excellent economy. Automatics are available, but the 6-speed box introduced in 2016 is much smoother than its 4-speed predecessor, giving you that extra room in the gears for motorway driving.
The DS3’s sporty dynamics tapped right into that tradition.
This French supermini was given an upmarket interior to prepare for the launch of the premium DS brand. That means it matches its premium rivals in quality and exceeds most of them in space terms. With the deep windscreen and big supportive seats, the front feels particularly roomy. The DS3 suffers from the same problem as most 3-door hatches – it’s a bit tight in the back seats.
They’re best suited to kids because the front seats eat up some of the legroom – and because it’s a little awkward clambering into the back. While there are 3 seatbelts in the back, it would be a major squeeze for that amount of adults. It’s a good option for families with a couple of kids, not so much if those little ones are getting a little longer.
The cabin is an elegant, well-designed space. The trim feels sturdy and long-lasting. Original new buyers were given a huge choice of ways to customise their DS3, so you’ll rarely find a pair that are identical. There will always be different coloured panels and trims. On top of that there were various special editions, like the ‘Pink’ versions with upgraded hi-fi, or the ‘Ultra Prestige’ with another unique stylish interior.
Across all these models, the equipment was usually generous – to match the upmarket aspirations of the DS brand. All come with multiple adjustments for the driver’s seat and steering column to create a perfect driving position. And premium features like traction control, remote steering wheel audio controls and cruise control are standard.
A small supermini with 3 doors is always going to be a bit tight on space. Thankfully the DS3 is like Peter Crouch - comes with a big boot.
In fact, it’s twice as big as some rivals and will swallow a week’s shopping or even a baby buggy. There’s a handy wide tailgate to make it easier to load things. It’s a real selling point for families who want luxury with practicality.
The rear seats also add to the versatility with a 60/40 split and fold system. There are several cubby holes for storage around the cabin, although the glove box and door bins are a bit small.
The French hatchback was awarded a full 5-star rating for safety from official testers at Euro NCAP, thanks to standard safety kit including an anti-skid system, anti-lock brakes and 6 airbags.
Running costs and reliability
There’s a good choice of petrol and diesel engines, some provided by BMW. The smooth diesels should offer good economy, with up to 78mpg on paper. The perkier petrol units can return up to 60mpg in official figures, which means around 45mpg in real-world driving. The DS3’s tax, insurance, parts and servicing are all generally pretty inexpensive.
Citroen’s reliability has been gradually improving. The DS3 was its attempt to make an upmarket car so it was generally very well built. Most reliability reports so far place it well above average.
What cinch loves
With a distinctive, likeable character and stylish, modern looks, the DS3 is one of the best Citroens of recent years. It’s one of the best superminis, too – thanks to great handling and lively economical engines. The cabin is upmarket and comfortable. There’s a big boot and a good array of toys, gadgets and technology.
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The Citroen DS3 is great to drive, fun to be in and easy to own. The stylish 3-door French supermini comes with built-in character. Relax in a premium interior that’s well-equipped and offers a big, versatile boot for practicality. Choose between a selection of lively engines – they’re economical too.
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