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What is it? The facelifted DS 3 is the big seller of Citroën’s upmarket sub-brand.
Key features: New nose styling, two new engines, better interior.
Our View: There’s nothing radical about the upgrades to the DS 3, but they allow an eight-year old design to present itself as fresh and appealing.
Type of review: First UK drive

The DS 3 was the first car launched when Citroën decided to create an upmarket sub-brand back in 2010, and has become by far the most important of the three DS models launched so far – particularly in the UK.

The Citroën DS3 supermini joined the Fiat 500 as the first cars to seriously challenge the domination that the MINI had previously enjoyed with particularly the young, fashion-conscious buyers.

As a result, the UK quickly became a leading market for the Citroën DS3 and its cabrio sister launched in 2013 – Britain is the third largest market for DS Automobiles as a whole after China and France, and the 16,500 DS3s sold in the UK than in 2015 outdid any other market.

DS Automobiles has spent the last nine months establishing its own identity away from its Citroën parent, and the Citroën DS3 has now become the DS 3. It is the last of the three-strong model range to receive the treatment – the next DS will be an all-new bespoke model.

According to DS, the changes are aimed at making the car “more premium, more dynamic, more desirable” – something which is perhaps most important with the DS 3 thanks to its fashion-led audience.

The updates – applied at the same time to both hatch and cabrio versions of the car – range across a new exterior look, an upgraded interior, and two new engines, together with significant increases in the number of personalisation options that form such an essential part of the DS 3’s DNA.

Styling signatures from the 2010 car that remain include the ‘floating’ roof look, the two-tone exterior colours with the roof in a different finish, and the ‘shark’s fin’ kick ups on the side panels.

Added to these is a much bolder nose, incorporating the ‘DS Wings’ motif – the most direct link with the original DS of 1955 and already familiar from the revamped DS 4 and DS 5. For the first time it is evolved into a ‘double-wing’ design that encompasses the headlamps – new units combining LEDs and xenon – and new LED fog lights. It certainly gives the front end a more distinctive appearance.

There are major changes on the inside, principally to the dash that sees a new seven-inch touchscreen added to the top of the centre console. It takes care of all the major in-car controls and in the process allows the removal of some 20 buttons, making for a much less cluttered appearance.

With both the previous revamped models having boasted much more up-to-date connectivity options it’s no surprise to find the DS 3 offering smartphone integration in the form of Apple CarPlay and the Android-based MirrorLink system, and these can be controlled either by voice recognition or through the touchscreen.

There are minor irritations – some of the touchscreen functions are not quite as user-friendly as a simple dash switch, and the surfacing varies in levels of premium feel, but overall it’s a comfortable environment.

The practical plus factors of the interior remain – the DS 3 still offers the rear-seat space that its great rival the MINI doesn’t, the cabrio claiming with some justification to be the only soft-top in its segment to accommodate five adults, while also allowing its roof to be opened at speeds up to 70mph. And the boot space – 285 litres in the hatch, 245 in the cabrio – also outstretches the opposition.

There are now seven engines in the DS 3 line-up, five petrol and two diesel. The two new arrivals are both petrol units, the three-cylinder PureTech 130 and a sports-pitched range-topper, the turbocharged 1.6-litre THP 210. This provides the power for a new trim level dubbed Performance, and which also extends to a re-engineered chassis with a Torsen limited-slip differential, bespoke suspension with tracks extended by 26mm front and 14mm rear, a 15mm lower ride height, uprated brakes with Brembo front callipers, a large bore exhaust and lightweight 18-inch alloy wheels.

Production of DS 3 Performance versions won’t begin until April, however, and most DS buyers will choose from the three-cylinder 1.2 PureTech petrol units of which the new 129bhp variant is now the most powerful alongside its established 81 and 109bhp sisters.

The new engine is not quite as quick to 62mph as the MINI Cooper at which it is clearly targeted, accomplishing the sprint in 8.9 seconds, but it certainly feels eager, without being coarse. This unit and the DS chassis may not produce quite such an impressive handling and sporty package as its German rival, but it combines competent handling and ride comfort to a degree that quickly becomes very enjoyable.

Most popular will likely remain the THP 110 petrol unit. It can be had with a six-speed manual or the EAT6 auto transmission, and in manual form offers plus 65mpg fuel economy and CO2 emissions quoted at 100g/km.

With the revamp comes changes to trim levels. The three core levels are Chic, Elegance and Prestige, and they are joined by Ultra Prestige, the already-mentioned Performance and a more exclusive version dubbed Performance Black – as its name suggests including matt black paintwork with gold highlights.

Depending on model, equipment now available for the DS 3 includes front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and on manual versions a hill-start assist function. Many buyers will also no doubt be swayed by the many personalisation options. DS claims that they now number more than three million, and include 78 body and roof colour combinations, 10 roof decals for the hatch and four fabric roofs on the cabrio.

It is simple to sum up the new DS 3 – there is nothing radical about the upgrades, but they serve to enhance a package that while basically an eight-year old design still presents itself as a fresh and appealing option in the stylish supermini market. MINI beware, your major challenger just got better…

DS 3 – key specifications

On Sale: February 2016
Range price:
Insurance groups:
Engines: Petrol 1.2 (x3), 1.6 (x2). Diesel 1.6 (x2)
Power (bhp):
81/109/129, 162/207. 99/118.
Torque (lb/ft):
87/151/170. 177/221. 187/210.
0-62mph (sec):
12.3/9.6*/8.9, 7.5/6.5. 10.8/9.3.
Top speed (mph): 108/118*/127, 135/143. 117/118.
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 61.4/65.7*/62.8, 50.4/52/3. 83.1/78.5.
CO2 emissions (g/km):
107/100*/105, 129/125. 87/94.
rivals: MINI, Fiat 500, Audi A1.
Test Date: February 2016
* = manual gearbox
All performance data with hatch version.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.