DS 3 Performance -

First Drive

DS 3 Performance, front action 2
DS 3 Performance, front action
DS 3 Performance, cabrio rear
DS 3 Performance, moody night
DS 3 Performance, twin cars
DS 3 Performance, car play
DS 3 Performance, badge
DS 3 Performance, front seats
DS 3 Performance, gold dash
DS 3 Performance, alloy wheel

ONE of the best looking small hatches on the road has just become one of the fastest too in the familiar but still lovely shape of the new DS 3 Performance.

The name says it all, with a more potent engine adding punch to the top of the recently revised range of DS 3 models.

They are themselves a modest reworking of the same car but now shorn of its old Citroen badges as the new brand seeks to establish itself at the boutique end of the market.

For your extra cash - the DS 3 Performance costs from £20,495 as a three-door hatch and £22,795 for a Cabrio - you get a car given a thorough upgrade to fit it to its new role of power leader, starting with the same 205bhp petrol engine that already makes the Peugeot 208 GTi a decently peppy performer.

That translates into figures that promise an engaging drive - with a 143mph top speed and a zero to 62mph time of 6.5 seconds. Neither is chili hot compared to something like the new Honda Civic Type R, but that costs £29,995 and is clearly aimed at a very different buyer.

Closer to home in the comparison stakes is the £17,645 Ford Fiesta ST, which goes well enough (139mph/6.9 seconds) but lacks the elegant French panache of the DS 3 Performance.

And that's why people who like the looks of a car at least as much as how it goes - even when power and performance are high on the list of attributes - will surely opt for the DS over an ST.

Just how many will fall for the new car's charms we'll have to wait and see.

Obviously visible appeal it has in spades, with those with deeper pockets able to take a Performance Black version for another £2,000 that adds matt black paint with glossy gold roof, front parking sensors and reversing camera, sat nav and audio system upgrade, active city brake (which stops for you if you're not paying attention) and there's even a splash of gold on the dash and gear lever surround.

DS Automobiles hopes to sell around 500 Performance versions in the UK in a year.

That's only a small part of the 16,500 or so total DS 3 models it is aiming to move here in a full 12 months but it will, importantly, get the car more visibility (as they say) and that's a very good thing as you try to establish a brand most people still haven't heard of.

Raising the DS 3 profile still further is the ultimate hatchback model, called the Performance B.R.M Chronographes, which comes in matt gold with a gloss black roof (and more gold inside) and helps to justify its £25,495 price with the inclusion of a special edition watch from French firm B.R.M that proudly shows its complex workings through a clear glass face.

Only ten are coming to the UK and already five people have shown 'serious interest'. Should they actually complete the deal their car will come with its own individually numbered special edition plaque. So that's something to talk about every time a new passenger slips on board.

Fast versions of small cars are usually bought mostly by men but this car's maker reckons the gender balance will be an even split, with lots of female interest because of the car's looks. That has certainly been the overwhelming influence with the less powerful DS 3 to date.

Guy or gal at the wheel, they will be grinning when a smoothly surfaced corner approaches, when the car's sticky tyres, widened track, bigger brakes, limited slip differential and snick-snick gear change combine to surprising effect.

This is s car that goes as well as it looks, even making the right distant popping noises when you lift off the throttle at high revs and behaving itself well on its lowered, stiffened suspension on all but the worst of roads. Having fun means the official 52mpg average will remain a distant dream. A reasonable 125g/km tailpipe emissions figure will help keep the tax bill down.

The nice French authorities closed an eith mile stretch of demanding mountain road to let us try the car in something approaching track conditions. Only sheer drops on one side, with distant views of St Tropez, stopped a full-on attack. Even so, here is a car that does much more than look pretty parked outside the wine bar.

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