DS 3 2016 - First

Drive

DS 3, 2016, front
DS 3, 2016, rear
DS 3 Cabrio, front
DS 3, interior
DS 3 Cabrio, rear
DS 3 Cabrio, side
DS 3, seats

WHETHER we like to admit it or not, we Brits are badge snobs.

We love classy cars, but the brands that we are tempted most by are the ubiquitous trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

Sure Jaguar and Land Rover nibble around the edges and Lexus is a growing force but few others get a look in.

DS, the recently launched sub-brand of Citroen is starting to influence the running order, though. With its mission statement of ‘Spirit of Avantgarde', the marque combines prestige, style and innovation within its three ranges.

The latest model to emerge is the restyled DS 3, an established runaway success in Britain, where more examples have been bought than even in its native France.

The latest improvements bring it in line with the larger DS 4 and DS 5.

One of MINI's few real rivals, the new version has a redesigned nose which combines LED and xenon headlights, better connectivity and a wider choice of engines including the 208bhp Performance model.

The slick Cabrio DS 3 also benefits from the facelift. Price start from £13,995 for the hatchback and £16,295 for the Cabrio.

Five trim levels of trim are available from Chic to Ultra Prestige. Altogether the DS 3 has a choice of seven engines including the new PureTech three cylinder which won Engine of the Year in 2015.

Inside, the trim has been smartened and includes the option of ‘watch-strap' leather seating similar to that used in the DS 4 and DS 5.

Additional dashboard colour combinations boost the image and there's now a seven-inch touchscreen. This features Apple CarPlay and Mirror Link smartphone connectivity bringing the range bang up to date.

The facia now looks much cleaner and less cluttered even though operationally it's a tad more complex via the screen.

Air con, touch screen and alloy wheels are standard across the range. Altogether there are no fewer than 78 roof and body colour combinations and four fabric roof choices for the Cabrio.

The DS 3 is available just as a three-door, unlike the MINI or Fiesta, but with a decent sized 285litre boot it remains more versatile than either the BMW product or the Fiat 500.

Like the MINI, the DS 3 majors on its deft handling and manoeuvrability. I was particularly impressed with the 1.6litre BlueHDI which is ultra-refined and responsive with sharp acceleration - 0 to 62mph in 9.4sec - yet impressively economical, managing an official 78 mpg combined with tax-free CO2 emissions of 94g/km. With barely a hint of diesel ‘clatter', it's well suited to motorway trips as well as city commuting.

The six speed gearbox is slick and fast, making driving fun as well as frugal.

The Cabrio's roof can be opened or closed at up to 70mph and the insulation is such that it feels no noisier than the hatchback. There's little sign of wind buffeting up to the legal limit.

If you are after a spot more oomph without going the whole hog and paying £20,495 for the Performance, the 1.6 THP 165 is a useful alternative £19,295. It hits 62mph in seven seconds and has emissions of just 129g/km.

The design of the DS 3 maybe six years old now, but the subtle update has wiped away any wrinkles and the styling remains as fresh as tomorrow's milk.

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