What's the used Citroën DS3 hatchback like?
Think of the Citroen DS3 as a French rival to the Mini and you’re on the right lines. This three-door-only car might be based on Citroen’s rather ordinary C3, but with a neat design, plenty of options to customise its appearance and engaging handling it is a much more satisfying car to own and drive.
The interior looks smart enough to justify the car’s upmarket aspirations, although quality isn’t as good as you’ll find in a Mini or Fiat 500. The DS3 does edge these rivals for space, however, even if it falls short of the C3 on which it is based. The front feels particularly generous because of the deep windscreen and large seats. However, those seats do impact on rear legroom so the DS3 is best suited for carrying kids, who will also be better able to deal with the rather slim opening into the back. What’s more, while there are three seatbelts in the back, Citroen’s claim that the DS3 is a full five seater is a touch ambitious.
The boot has a high lower lip that you’ll need lift heavy items over, but overall capacity is much better than you’ll find in a Mini. You can easily fit the weekly shop or a couple of cases, and most baby buggies will slot in without the need to remove a wheel. In-car storage is less impressive, with a tiny glovebox and small door bins.
Petrol engines at launch consisted of 1.4- and 1.6-litre units, the latter available with or without a turbocharger. All of these engines do a solid job, but it’s the THP turbo that’s most impressive, giving the DS3 almost hot hatch-like performance.
Those interested in a diesel DS3 can choose a 1.6 HDI engine in a range of power outputs, all of which are pretty smooth and very frugal, if a little noisy. In all cars the manual gearbox feels a little loose as you shift between gears. If you’re after an automatic gearbox meanwhile, the six-speed unit fitted to cars built from 2016 onwards is a big improvement on its four-speed predecessor, which is jerky and sluggish, and therefore best avoided.
Although it has a firmer ride than the C3, the DS3 is still compliant enough to be enjoyable to drive on all but the most rutted roads. The exception is the DSport version with 17-inch wheels, which borders on the uncomfortable side of firm and transmits more road noise to occupants as well.
The trade-off for the DS3’s sporty suspension setup is much neater handling than other Citroens of its size. A Mini still leads the way in this area, but the DS3 is still pretty good fun to drive.
Those after the ultimate DS3 should look for the Racing model – later renamed the DS3 Performance – a heavily modified version of the car developed by Citroen’s talented racing division. While not perfect (the ride is ultra firm and the front wheels sometimes struggle to cleanly deploy the 207bhp produced by the 1.6 engine), it’s a very capable little car that’s great fun to drive.
The DS3’s major facelift came in 2015 when Citroen launched DS as a brand in its own right. As a result the DS3 (or DS 3, as it now became known) lost its Citroen badges while gaining a 1.2-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine and a less cluttered interior design.