The Citroen DS3 Cabrio is a drop-top rival for the Fiat 500C and Mini Convertible.
Like the 500, the new DS3 Cabrio isn't a full-blown convertible because its roof pillars remain in place when the hood is folded down. This halfway-house approach has obvious advantages: it helps to keep the body rigid without resorting to expensive re-engineering and it means the roof can be operated at high speeds (up to 75mph).
The only drawback is you don't get quite the same al fresco feeling as you do in a Mini Convertible.
This is the first time we’ve tried the DS3 Cabrio on UK roads.
What’s the 2013 Citroen DS3 Cabrio like to drive?
Initially, there will be three petrol engines to choose from: a 80bhp three-cylinder 1.2, a 118bhp 1.6 (likely to be the big seller) and a 154bhp 1.6 turbo. A 1.6 diesel with 89bhp is likely to follow later in the year.
We tried the range-topping petrol, which is our favourite engine in the DS3 hatch thanks to its flexible power delivery. It's just as impressive in the Cabrio and you can hear its sporty exhaust all the better with the hood down.
The Citroen doesn't handle quite as well as a Mini Convertible, but it's agile and fun to drive, offering loads of grip and sharp, rapid responses. The only major disappointment is the steering; it's decidedly vague and tugs left and then right in your hands as you accelerate out of slow corners.
The Cabrio rides well enough at higher speeds but, like the hatch, it becomes crashy over poor road surfaces in town and tends to hop sideways when faced with mid-corner bumps.
A surprising amount of body flex and shudder also detracts from everyday comfort, despite its fixed roof arches. That said, neither of the DS3's main rivals are particularly comfortable, either, and those shopping in this class are unlikely to be bothered by the Citroen’s occasionally rough ride.
When you'd rather just cruise around sedately and soak up some sun, the DS3 protects you (and your passengers) fairly well from wind buffeting, thanks largely to a wind deflector on top of the windscreen, similar to the Aircap system on high-end Mercedes cabriolets.
The only drawback of raising the deflector (you do this by reaching up and unclasping it) is that it generates quite a bit of wind noise at speed.
What’s the 2013 Citroen DS3 Cabrio like inside?
The fabric hood has three open positions, but on those rare occasions the sun is shining you'll want it all the way down.
In this fully open position the rear window folds flat and the fabric hood concertinas on top of it behind the rear seats. Over-the-shoulder visibility is virtually non-existent as a result, but all models get rear parking sensors by way of compensation.
The Cabrio has the same chic and classy cabin as the DS3 hatch.
Even with the hood up you'll have to be seriously lofty before front headroom becomes an issue and the driving position is excellent, with loads of adjustment and comfortable, supportive seats.
Getting to the rear isn't as easy as it is in a Mini Convertible, because you have to duck under the roof pillar in the same way you do in any three-door hatchback.
Once back there you'll find a reasonable amount of legroom and three seats (the 500C and Mini have only two). However, with the hood up, rear headroom is tight for six-footers, particularly towards the outer edges of the car.
Unsurprisingly, you don't get as much boot space as you do in the DS3 hatch, but there's more than in either a 500C or a Mini.
The whole tailgate rises vertically without a pivot point, giving good access in tight parking spaces. Irritatingly, though, it blocks your view into the boot, so you have to stoop down to see where you're putting things.
As with the hatchback, you can personalise the DS3 Cabrio to your heart's content, with a seemingly limitless number of body, interior, wheel and roof combinations.
Should I buy one?
The DS3 Cabrio is around £2300 more expensive than the equivalent DS3 hatch, which means a mid-spec 1.6 DStyle costs roughly the same as a Mini Cooper Convertible.
It's not cheap, then, but the Citroen's bigger interior and more generous standard spec mean it hits just the right balance between fun, style and usability. Overall, it’s just enough to give it the edge.
However, if you can live with two seats, don't forget about the Mini Roadster and Mazda MX-5.
What Car? says...
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