Urban SUV at the top

of the class

DS3 Crossback, front, dynamic
DS3 Crossback, front, static
DS3 Crossback, profile, dynamic
DS3 Crossback, rear, static
DS 3 CROSSBACK, front action
DS 3 CROSSBACK, rear action
DS 3 CROSSBACK, rear static
DS3 Crossback, interior
DS3 Crossback, boot

I RECENTLY spent a couple of weeks holiday over in Ireland and it's a cracking place to take your car if you love driving.

Many of the roads are virtually empty - as long as you stay away from the Dublin area - and even major motorways have very little traffic compared to this country.

Over in the west of the country, I drove for 25 minutes through stunning mountain scenery on one occasion before I saw another car.

When I got back, the fantastic DS 3 Crossback mini-SUV was waiting for me and I really enjoyed getting behind the wheel of the stylish and funky five door hatch that's vying for the premium end of the small SUV market.

Not only is it stylish and unusual - with things like supercar pop-out door handles - but it's also brilliant to drive in every way.

On first encounter the suspension seems too soft, so that it wallows a little on undulating surfaces, but actually, you soon find that the ride is extraordinary, taking every surface superbly and insulating occupants like a limousine.

This kind of comfort is becoming more and more important to a great many buyers and because in the Crossback, it comes with tenacious and very safe road holding, you can have your cake and eat it.

Not far from where I live is a country lane made up mainly of potholes. Now in some cars, this is a road to be avoided at all costs unless you want some fillings replaced, but not in the DS 3.

It took the mile long stretch with ease, and although there was a little more noise than usual as the tyres banged down into the rough patches and back up onto tarmac, I was left almost completely unruffled.

There is a little roll in the corners when it's pushed hard, but it holds to the road surface like a limpet and feels well balanced and safe.

I drove a Performance Line model from the middle of the range powered by the excellent Peugeot/Citroen 1.2 three cylinder turbo engine producing an excellent 130bhp.

In the Crossback, this engine is only available with the company's excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox driving the front wheels.

It's a great combination that works very well. The gearbox is in fact a manual with an automatic clutch and a few years ago, it wasn't very good.

But now, all the gremlins have been consigned to the bin and it is superb, making the changes as quickly and smoothly.

The kickdown responds almost immediately and although it does also have a manual mode, with fixed paddles behind the steering wheel to make the changes, I can't see many owners bothering.

The combination gives marvellous acceleration from any speed only adding to this cracking little car.

All models come with stop start to help reduce emissions and improve economy and the drivetrain is hugely refined and quiet.

In fact, the whole car is very refined, just as it should be for the premium end of the market.

Even at motorway speeds, there's little road or wind noise, and nothing to be heard from the engine at all.

The interior of all the DS models features diamond pattern stitching and diamond and triangle styling is a big part of the interior design language.

This extends to aluminium finished electric window and other minor switches grouped around the gear selector, the instruments, and even the switches that control the various functions of the ten inch touch screen at the top of the centre console.

This controls the standard sat nav, climate control, phone link, media and much more, and Performance Line models also come with stability control, rear parking sensors, big alloy wheels, heated electric mirrors, excellent seat adjustment and an alarm.

FAST FACTS

Price: £25,995

Mechanical: 130bhp, 1,199cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 9.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 50

Insurance Group: 19

C02 emissions: 117g/km

Bik rating:27%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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