DS 3 E-Tense review

Category: Electric car

Electric small SUV is the best version of the DS 3 but there are stronger rival cars available

DS 3 E-Tense front cornering
  • DS 3 E-Tense front cornering
  • DS 3 E-Tense rear cornering
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior dashboard
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior back seats
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior infotainment
  • DS 3 E-Tense right driving
  • DS 3 E-Tense front driving
  • DS 3 E-Tense rear driving
  • DS 3 E-Tense alloy wheel detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense headlights detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense rear lights detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense rear detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense charging socket detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior front seats
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior steering wheel
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense boot open
  • DS 3 E-Tense front cornering
  • DS 3 E-Tense rear cornering
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior dashboard
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior back seats
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior infotainment
  • DS 3 E-Tense right driving
  • DS 3 E-Tense front driving
  • DS 3 E-Tense rear driving
  • DS 3 E-Tense alloy wheel detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense headlights detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense rear lights detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense rear detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense charging socket detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior front seats
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior steering wheel
  • DS 3 E-Tense interior detail
  • DS 3 E-Tense boot open
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Introduction

What Car? says...

It's a sign of the times that the DS 3 E-Tense electric SUV gets its motor and battery pack from what was once described as the world's biggest diesel engine factory, in Trémery, France.

Ironically, however hard you look today, you won't find a new DS 3 with a diesel engine at all – just this electric E-Tense version and the petrol-powered DS 3 small SUV, which we've reviewed separately.

There's only one motor and battery combination available for the DS 3 E-Tense, but, like the petrol model, it is available with a range of trim levels, so you can tailor the car to your budget and how much equipment you need (or desire). Only the really observant will notice that the E-Tense has a different badge on its bonnet to the non-electric DS 3, while the rest of the exterior is pretty much unchanged, aside from the absence of an exhaust pipe, of course.

As the French PSA group’s premium brand, DS gets first dibs on most new technology and benefits from the combined electric car knowhow of Citroën and Peugeot. That’s just as well, because the E-Tense finds itself up against some very capable rivals, and DS has big ambitions for its first all-electric model.

Other cars you might be considering include the Hyundai Kona Electric, the Kia Niro EV and the MG ZS EV – so would we recommend the DS 3 E-Tense above those? Well, that's what we'll tell you over the next few pages of this review. We'll rate it for performance and handling, practicality, running costs and more.

We can also take the hassle out of finding your next set of wheels for the lowest price if you search our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. They're a good place to find the best new electric car deals.

Overview

Going electric has fixed some of the weak points of the DS 3 – but not all of them. It’s quieter, for example, and a little less fractious along bumpy roads. Objectively, though, rivals such as the Kia Niro EV and Tesla Model 3 have a longer range, are better to drive and are much more practical.

  • Distinctive looks
  • Decent refinement
  • Plenty of standard kit
  • Cramped rear seats
  • Poor visibility
  • Not exciting to drive
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

With 154bhp, the DS 3 E-Tense can’t match the Hyundai Kona Electric or Kia Niro EV for pace, but its 0-62mph time of 9.0sec will be quick enough for many people, and getting up to motorway speeds is stress-free.

The motor is impressively quiet – you essentially drive in silence around town, and there’s no noticeable motor whirr at higher speeds. There’s more sound-deadening in the E-Tense than in a petrol-powered DS 3 so it’s quieter at a motorway cruise too. That said, the mechanical quietness draws your attention to the wind rushing around the windscreen pillars and tyre roar on coarse surfaces at motorway speeds.

DS DS 3 image
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If you're a keen driver, the E-Tense is unlikely to get you excited. Its steering isn't as precise as a Niro EV's and there's considerable body lean in tight twists and turns. Grip levels are reasonable, but driving the E-Tense in a spirited manner is not a rewarding experience.

Soft suspension does lead to a mostly comfortable ride, though. When you first set off, you’ll notice a pleasant waft with a slight feeling of floatiness along undulating B-roads. There's none of the jostling sensation that can be felt in the firmer Kona Electric, although it’s not quite as good as the Niro EV at isolating you from harsh impacts with potholes and expansion joints at higher speeds.

As with other electric cars the E-Tense has regenerative braking that returns energy to the battery as you slow down. There are two levels of aggressiveness, but even the stronger mode doesn’t allow one-pedal driving like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3 offer. Still, the brake pedal feel is pretty consistent and allows you to make smooth stops.

When it comes to range, the 50.8kWh useable battery capacity lags behind the 64kWh and 64.8kWh of the Kona Electric and Niro EV. Even the far cheaper MG ZS EV Long Range has more, at 68.3kWh. As a result, the E-Tense’s 250-mile official range can’t match the ZS EV’s 273 miles, the Niro EV’s 285 miles, or the Kona Electric's 300 miles.

On the plus side, it’s much further than the entry-level 39 kWh Kona Electric can take you, and our experience suggests that the E-Tense should manage at least 200 miles in real-world driving.

DS 3 E-Tense rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

The DS 3 E-Tense's extrovert exterior is matched by an equally eye-catching interior, which makes the inside of the Kia Niro EV look as interesting as a caretaker's cupboard. DS clearly dug out its most imaginative mood boards, and the dashboard has an unusual diamond-themed layout, with a tessellated pattern of touch-sensitive buttons and controls.

Those touch-sensitive buttons can be a pain, though: they provide no confirmation when you press them, which might lend you to make a second attempt that will sometimes frustratingly cancel your initial stab. You’ll eventually get used to this quirk, but there’s no doubt that the Niro EV’s conventional controls are far more user-friendly.

Every E-Tense gets a 10.3in touchscreen with DAB radio and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. On the whole, it responds relatively swiftly to commands, although the air-con controls are buried within a menu, making them fiddly to use on the move.

The 7.0in digital instrument display behind the steering wheel is small but crisp, with handy readouts telling you how much battery charge you have left and your approximate remaining range – along with plenty of other information. Top-of-the-line Opera trim gives you a head-up display that puts speed and sat-nav instructions in your line of sight (it’s optional on all other trims).

On most trims, the interior materials are plush, with plenty of soft-touch areas around the dashboard, but entry-level Performance Line misses out on some of that quality feel. Everything feels well screwed together.

There’s plenty of adjustment in the driving position, but only top-spec Opera trim gets driver side electric seat adjustment with adjustable lumbar support. The seats themselves are soft and fairly comfy, but – despite the model's electric SUV status – you don't sit high up.

In fact, visibility is poor for the class. The E-Tense's chunky front pillars and the kink in the side window line obstruct your view around corners and when looking left or right. The thick rear pillars have the same effect on rearward vision. At least rear parking sensors are standard, with front parking sensors and a rear-view camera optional (or standard on Opera).

DS 3 E-Tense interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

There’s a decent amount of space in the front of the DS 3 E-Tense, with enough head and leg room for even tall drivers to stretch out.

Storage space is less generous, though. The door pockets are small and their rearmost extremes are awkward to reach, while the cubby under the centre armrest isn’t that big.

In the back, passenger space is poor compared with the Kia Niro EV. There's not much leg room, especially if someone tall is sitting in the seat in front, and the downward-sloping roofline eats up head space. Children will be fine, but six-footers won't want to ride in the back for too long – especially as the tiny rear windows make the whole experience even more claustrophobic.

The rear seats split and fold in the standard 60/40 configuration, but they don't slide back and forth, or provide a handy pass-through ski hatch. Boot space is not particularly impressive for an electric SUV at 350 litres, and the E-Tense won't swallow anywhere near as much luggage as the Niro EV. There's also a considerable lip to negotiate at the boot entrance.

DS 3 E-Tense interior back seats

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

As a product of the PSA Group’s premium brand, the DS 3 E-Tense doesn’t come cheap. It’s priced slightly higher than the Kia Niro EV and MG ZS EV Long Range, and roughly in line with the 64kWh Hyundai Kona Electric. It does start off less than the Tesla Model 3 though.  

The E-Tense is, however, predicted to depreciate faster than all of those rivals, which isn’t great news if you decide to sell in three years, and can make PCP finance deals less competitive. You can check the latest prices on our New Car Deals pages.

The range kicks off with relatively well-equipped Performance Line trim, which has climate control, plenty of faux suede and a perforated, leather-wrapped steering wheel with contrasting stitching. Mid-range Performance Line+ adds sat-nav, keyless entry and start, along with 18in alloy wheels. High-spec Rivoli and Opera add more luxury and convenience, but are expensive.

The E-Tense has a competitive maximum charging rate of 100kW, which allows you to top up from 10-80% in as little as half an hour if you use a fast enough charger. If you have a 7kWh wallbox charger, you’ll be able to do a full charge in about seven and a half hours.

DS didn’t feature in the latest 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey but sister brand Citroën finished in an impressive 11th out of 32 manufacturers. The E-Tense comes with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which isn’t as generous as Hyundai’s five-year warranty or Kia’s seven-year offering.

The regular (petrol) DS 3 received an impressive five-star Euro NCAP safety score in 2019, so the E-Tense should offer good protection. All versions come with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and a speed limiter as standard. Top-spec Opera adds traffic-sign recognition and blind-spot monitoring.

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DS 3 E-Tense interior infotainment

FAQs

  • Yes – if you go for top-of-the-range Opera trim, which also includes a massaging function.

  • The DS 3 E-Tense's electric car system gives it the equivalent of 154bhp, which results in a 0-62mph time of 9.0 seconds and a top speed of 93mph.

  • If you plan to buy one, we recommend the mid-spec Performance Line + because it gives you the best balance of cost and equipment.

  • Yes, it's an electric SUV – but you can also get a petrol-powered DS 3.

  • There are several rivals to consider, including the Hyundai Kona Electric, the Kia Niro EV and the MG ZS EV.

At a glance
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Target Price from £25,001
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RRP price range £26,190 - £42,235
Number of trims (see all)3
Number of engines (see all)3
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol, electric
MPG range across all versions 48.7 - 54.3
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £75 / £1,993
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £150 / £3,985
Available colours