What Car? says...
The most critical rival is the Mini Convertible, which is similarly priced despite it being a full convertible, and having a more premium interior. Other rivals include the Fiat 500C, which doesn’t offer the same performance as the DS 3 Cabrio but is drastically cheaper, and the bigger VW Beetle Cabriolet, which also offers similarly cheerful soft-top motoring within a similar price range to the DS.
Like the 500, the DS 3 Cabrio isn't a full-blown convertible due to the fact that its roof pillars remain in place when the hood is folded down, an approach that has two obvious advantages: it helps to keep the body rigid without resorting to expensive re-engineering and it allows the driver to operate the roof at speeds of up to 75mph.
As well as the roof, a number of small styling tweaks help to differentiate the DS 3 Cabrio from its hard-top sibling.
DS also offers a huge selection of trims and colour options so that buyers can create their own personalised look. Contrasting panels, door mirrors, wheels and interior panels, along with a range of decals, can be colour coordinated to help your DS 3 stand out.
Read on over the next few pages to get our in depth impressions of the DS 3, along with our recommendations for which trim levels and engines to choose.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
A range of free-revving petrol engines and strong diesels is available, all of which provide the DS 3 with a good turn of pace. Even the smallest units – three-cylinder petrols with either 80 or 109bhp – make the DS 3 usefully nippy around town, although the lesser engine runs out of oomph at higher speed.
A four-cylinder, 118bhp 1.6 petrol provides impressive acceleration and decent all-round flexibility, while the turbocharged 161bhp THP model is warm-hatch quick. The two 1.6 HDi diesel engines – in either 91 or 118bhp form – also feel strong and suit the DS 3’s dynamic character well.
However, if you’re after a more engaging experience, the Performance is the most focused variant of DS 3. The Performance Cabrio receives a 205bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder THP engine, a six-speed manual gearbox and a revised chassis.
In fact, the DS 3 Cabrio in all its guises has never been as dynamically polished as the competition. The steering is decidedly vague, the ride is crashy over poor road surfaces and a surprising amount of body flex detracts from everyday comfort.
That said, when you'd rather just cruise around sedately and soak up some sun, the DS 3 is a good companion. It protects you (and your passengers) well from wind buffeting - thanks largely to a wind deflector on top of the windscreen – and is small and easily manoeuvrable in the city.
The interior layout, fit and finish
DS is Citroen’s premium brand, and the DS 3 Cabrio does enough to justify that status. An imaginatively styled dashboard with chrome-rimmed dials and colour-coded panels gives the DS 3's cabin real panache, and the interior quality is a cut above the C3 it’s based on, with plusher materials and more appealing finishes. However, some of the switchgear and more functional parts are shared with Citroen’s mainstream models, preventing the DS 3 from having the same bespoke feel that you get in a Mini or Audi.
Unfortunately, an awkward driving position also impacts on your experience behind the wheel. You sit a long way back from the windscreen and the pedals are noticeably offset. Granted, the steering wheel adjusts for reach and height on all models, but you never feel truly comfortable.
Ergonomically, the dashboard layout is pretty user-friendly, but the central digital readout can be hard to decipher at a glance and the stereo is unhelpfully low on the centre console. All models come with steering column-mounted audio controls, which is a blessing, since the stereo has small, fiddly buttons that can be difficult to locate on the move.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The DS 3 Cabrio has a rakish roofline, but there’s plenty of head room in the front and only the very tall are likely to feel hemmed in. A height-adjustable driver’s seat is standard for all models; cheaper versions miss out on a height-adjustable passenger’s seat.
Storage space for clutter is adequate, but nothing more. The door bins are a useful size and have a special section to hold a bottle of water, but the glovebox is tiny and the cubbies built into the centre console are small. The centre armrest on pricier versions adds a small, lidded cubby, while a cupholder insert for the centre console is an accessory.
As with most three-door convertibles, reaching the rear seats of the DS 3 requires a bit of dexterity, and space isn’t that generous when you’re there. Head room is tight for six-footers, particularly towards the outer edges of the car, and leg room is restrictive. However the DS 3 features three seats in the rear (the 500C and Mini have only two).
Unsurprisingly, you don't get as much boot space as you do in the DS 3 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, once open it blocks your view into the boot, so you have to stoop down to see where you're putting things.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The DS 3 isn’t cheap to buy, but like for like, it undercuts key rivals such as the Audi A3 Convertible and Mini Convertible. Decent dealer discounts make it even more affordable and, unlike many of Citroen’s mainstream models, it holds its value well, if not quite as well as a Mini or Audi.
With the exception of the automatic model, all of the DS 3’s engines are impressively efficient and two of the diesel versions emit less than 100g/km of CO2. The DS 3 range doesn’t contain any sub-100g/km petrol models, however, unlike some rivals.
Most DS 3 models have a decent standard of kit, with entry-level Chic models coming with air conditioning, remote central locking, cruise control and Bluetooth. Upgrade to Elegance and you also get LED front fog lights and sports seats.
Top-spec Prestige models are lavishly appointed, featuring front and rear parking sensors, automatic wipers and satellite navigation. Twin exhaust tailpipes, 17in alloy wheels and a nappa-trimmed steering wheel complete the comprehensive, albeit pricey, package.
Stability control and six airbags come as standard on all models, and the DS 3 was awarded the maximum five stars when tested by Euro NCAP in 2009. Top-spec Prestige models also get a city braking system that applies the brakes at low speeds if it thinks you’re about to hit the vehicle in front.
Security experts Thatcham awarded the DS 3 Cabrio four out of five for its resistance to being stolen and three out of five for its resistance to being broken into. All models come equipped with deadlocks and alarms.
All DS 3 models have a very broad range of colour and style options that make it easy to personalise your car.
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