French premium brand DS Automobiles has refreshed its 3 E-Tense crossover for 2023 to keep it competitive in an increasingly busy class. The crossover – which takes the form of a high-riding hatchback – has no direct rivals, but its £37,200 starting price (from new) makes it a few hundred pounds pricier than electric alternatives like Volkswagen’s ID.3, and more than £10k pricier than the MG4. How does the DS 3 E-Tense justify it? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Plenty will find much to like when it comes to the design of the DS 3 E-Tense. Largely identical to the petrol alternative (which we’ve also reviewed), the updated DS 3 E-Tense is sharper and more handsome than before. It gets black trim where there once was chrome, LED headlights where there were previously halogen bulbs, and even a new shade of Rouge Red paint.
Inside, the cabin has been upgraded with high-end materials like leather and suede and contrasting stitching on supportive seats. While many features are shared with other DS models, the 3 E-Tense’s relatively compact footprint gives it a unique, unmistakable look. And that’s important, especially when you consider how technically strong rivals like the MG4 and ID.3 are…
The 3 E-Tense’s relatively compact footprint gives it a unique, unmistakable look.
What's it like to drive?
Despite having passive suspension (which means you can’t soften the ride off with a Comfort mode like some rivals), it deals with uneven road surfaces very well. Despite the inevitable heft of a 56kWh battery (a sizeable unit for a relatively small electric car) in the DS’s floor, the 3 E-Tense is forgiving over speedbumps and cushioned over dips and crests. It does occasionally thud and jiggle over potholes, but the car is never uncomfortable.
The uprated electric powertrain is also worthy of praise. With 156hp and a claimed 0-62mph sprint time of nine seconds, it’s obviously never going to blow your socks off. But there’s fun to be had when you work the electric motor, which delivers its muscle smoothly and sees you zip up to motorway speeds with satisfying ease. The steering is surprisingly reactive too, so the car feels a tad sporty at times.
That feeling does fade when you really go for it, however, because the E-Tense is simply too heavy to corner like a Fiesta ST hot hatch (thanks to its higher ride height compared with the great-handling MG4). Where the DS 3 E-Tense feels most effective is carving through city streets, where its excellent turning circle makes mincemeat of manoeuvring through an urban jungle. Oh, and the electric motor is totally silent too, so it’s relaxing.
Adding to the ease factor is the car’s ‘B’ mode, which reduces your need to use the brakes. B mode (selected by pulling the gear selector back) maximises the electric powertrain’s ability to recapture energy when you’re not accelerating. This efficient way of driving creates a natural resistance when the car is rolling, thereby reducing the workload of the brakes, and extending your range while allowing you to drive using just one pedal in most scenarios. Drive sensibly, and DS claims 248 miles of range between charges.
There’s fun to be had when you work the electric motor.
The cabin of the DS 3 E-Tense is quite different from that of other crossovers. Designers have set out to create something unique, with diamond-shaped, touch-sensitive buttons on the centre console. It’s a divisive feature (that contrasts the simpler designs of most rivals), but one that does at least work fairly well – although you still need to dive into the infotainment system to adjust things like the climate control and radio.
Nevertheless, the new infotainment system, which is housed in a 10.30-inch-wide touchscreen featuring sharp graphics, is quick to respond. It’s not the most intuitive system to use, but anyone handy with a smartphone will quickly get used to it. That said, you can control some parts of the radio/Bluetooth via buttons on the steering wheel, and the same goes for the driver assistance features (like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist), which are activated by buttons on the wheel’s left side. There's also Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity if you'd prefer.
The best thing about the interior is how well put-together it feels. The materials are nice and the seats are brilliantly comfortable, with good lumbar support. There’s a good range of adjustability too, although that’s limited to the seats up front. In the back, legroom is relatively cramped, which is not helped by the high floor necessitated by the battery that’s located in it. Headroom is good, but taller passengers are unlikely to want to spend much time here.
The best thing about the interior is how well put together it feels.
Because the DS 3 E-Tense is more hatchback-on-stilts than wannabe SUV (like the Kia e-Niro, for example), bootspace is more comparable with hatchbacks. That means it’s big enough to swallow a couple of weekend bags, but not much else. There’s no hidden underfloor storage either, although this isn’t uncommon in electric cars powered by floor-mounted batteries (pretty much almost all EVs nowadays).
The front of the car is really rather lovely, but that being said, the DS 3 E-Tense does struggle to offer much in the practical sense, especially compared with SUV-aping rivals like the aforementioned e-Niro. The MG4 and ID.3 hatchbacks also provide much more rear legroom for passengers. Best to think of the E-Tense as a car for couples or, at the most, those with young children. Do that, and it feels far more capable.
Running costs and reliability
While it’s too early (at the time of writing) to comment on the refreshed DS 3 E-Tense’s long-term reliability, it does at least appear as if the car’s predecessor has set a good precedent. As far as owner forums are concerned, there are no major issues to report.
With a bigger battery, the new DS 3 E-Tense does cost a tad more to charge up, with a 10% to 100% charge costing about £17 on a domestic plug, when the cost-per-kWh is 34p. Use a public charge and you can quickly double that cost, although we’d say that still represents good value for a 200-mile-plus-capable car.
What we love
The DS 3 E-Tense can’t claim to be technically more advanced than class alternatives, but it can claim to tug at your heartstrings with those handsome looks. The latest electric powertrain is nippy and elastic, providing unexpected moments of fun when the road opens up. And with an excellent turning circle, slow-speed moments are no less enjoyable.
The latest electric powertrain is nippy and elastic, providing unexpected moments of fun when the road opens up.
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Brilliantly likeable because it’s more emotional than alternatives in this class, even if it can’t claim to win when it comes to space and practicality.
This review was