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New car review

DS 3 Crossback Performance Line test drive

The DS 3 Crossback Performance Line is a worthy alternative crossover, whose charm stems from not following the crowd

What do you know DS best for? That iconic ‘60s Citroën model that this brand is essentially named after, or the rebadged Citroëns that existed between 2010 and 2017? After a lukewarm start, DS Automobiles is aiming to carve out its own niche, with the brand’s bespoke models starting in 2017 with the DS 7 Crossback SUV.

Following on from that model is the new DS 3 Crossback – a compact crossover that aims to inject a bit of French luxury into the premium end of this sector. It replaces the original DS 3 supermini and aims to combine the style of what made that model so popular with the all-important crossover looks that buyers crave.

To date, the DS 3 Crossback range has received fairly average reviews from the UK motoring media. According to The Car Expert’s unique Expert Rating system, which aggregates new car reviews from 21 different UK websites, the DS 3 Crossback currently has an overall Expert Rating score of 66%, which puts it in the bottom half of the small crossover class.

Here we’re trying it in the stylish Performance Line grade. Will it be eough to lift the DS 3 Crossback to a higher level?

What’s new?

The DS 3 Crossback is only the second bespoke model to come from DS since it split from Citroën.

It’s the first model to sit on the PSA Group’s new CMP platform, which is also underpinning the new Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 208. It means that, in addition to the usual petrol and diesel engines, the DS 3 Crossback is available with an all-electric powertrain. We’ll hopefully have a drive report on the electric version for you soon.

It’s also featuring a whole host of tech that’s exclusive to this segment – including Matrix LED headlights, as well as fancy pop-out door handles.

How does it look?

Many criticise modern cars for all looking too similar, but that is most certainly not the case with this DS. Distinctive design is part of the company’s strategy for setting DS Automobiles apart from the pack – and thanks to the DS 3’s pop-out door handles, large alloy wheels and chunky design, there is little else that looks quite like it on the road.

While all DS 3 Crossbacks look the part, the Performance Line version is undoubtedly the one to go for if you prefer that sportier looks – achieved through the black styling pack, unique 17-inch alloy wheels and revised bumpers.

What’s the spec like?

All DS 3 Crossbacks come well-equipped, though admittedly you pay more in the first place, with models starting from £22,120.

In Performance Line grade you get 3D LED rear lights, along with a black styling pack and tinted windows, to name but a few features. Upgrading to the Prestige brings a 10-inch touchscreen with a 3D satellite navigation, front sensors and full leather upholstery, while Ultra Prestige features a head-up display, 18-inch alloy wheels, massaging front seats and Matrix LED headlights.

The costly La Premiere launch edition meanwhile features adaptive cruise control, fancier leather upholstery and blind-spot monitoring.

What’s it like inside?

Look inside to the DS 3 Crossback and it’s clear that the French brand has completely thrown out of the typical cabin rulebook. On first glance it looks like an ergonomic nightmare – there are buttons everywhere. But think of it like from moving from a bungalow to a two-storey house – at first it feels bizarre, but you soon adjust to its quirks and differences.

But don’t go buying the DS 3 Crossback if you’re wanting something spacious and practical as this is one of the least roomy interiors in its class – the rear seats offer little space for adults and the 350-litre boot is small next to many of its rivals.

DS 3 Crossback Performance Line - interior and dashboard | The Car Expert

What’s under the bonnet?

The DS 3 Crossback Performance Line is available with a choice of three petrol engines and one diesel unit – the petrol variants making up the bulk of sales.

All petrol engines use the turbocharged 1.2-litre ‘PureTech’ unit that is widely used in other Peugeot and Citroën models. We’ve previously tried the DS 3 Crossback with a less powerful version of this engine, but this is the first time behind the wheel of the punchier 155hp unit.

It’s certainly more powerful than the other two – delivering smooth performance that enables a 0-60mph time of eight seconds and a claimed top speed of 126mph. The engine feels equally as good around town as it does on the motorway, though it can feel a bit gruff under heavy acceleration. It uses an eight-speed automatic transmission which is responsive and pleasant to use, while paddles are also on the steering wheel if you’d prefer to change gear yourself.

What’s it like to drive?

For an urban-aimed model, the DS 3 Crossback’s low-speed ride around town is a little disappointing, and instead it seems to be on the motorway where this model seems to feel the most settled and comfortable, with the sports seats offering plenty of support.

But it’s also surprisingly good to drive on more twisty roads, with sharp steering and minimal body roll making this feel like one of the more dynamic models in its sector.

Though the Performance Line’s minimal tweaks might give it a sportier look, the changes when it comes to driving are small. Though with no hot version likely to follow, this is the trim to go for if you want that sportier feel.

Verdict

It’s easy to criticise the DS 3 Crossback for its odd interior layout, practicality misgivings and high list price, yet somehow despite these issues, this French crossover is remarkably appealing – particularly in this Performance Line trim.

Next to other models in this somewhat bland segment, the DS 3 Crossback Performance Line deserves high praise for establishing its own path against the likes of premium established players from Audi and Mini.

It’s not going to tempt buyers out of those cars just yet, but if you’re looking for a more upmarket and exclusive crossover than the run-of-the-mill offerings, this is a worthy option.

Similar cars

Audi Q2 | BMW X2 | Citroën C3 Aircross | Fiat 500X | Ford Puma | Jeep Renegade | Mazda CX-3 | Mini Countryman | Nissan Juke | Peugeot 2008 | Renault Captur | SEAT Arona | Skoda Kamiq | Vauxhall Mokka X | Volkswagen T-Cross | Volkswagen T-Roc

Key specifications

Model: DS 3 Crossback Performance Line
Price (as tested): £30,355
Engine: 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol
Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars (2019)
Thatcham security rating: Poor (2019)

Power: 155 hp
Torque: 240 Nm
Top speed: 126 mph
0-60mph: 8.0 seconds
Fuel economy (combined): 41.7 – 46.6 mpg
CO2 emissions: 121 g/km

Ted Welford
Ted Welford
Articles by Ted Welford are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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