A range of free-revving petrol engines and strong diesels are 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 engine comes only with an automatic gearbox that blunts acceleration, while the turbocharged 161bhp THP model is warm-hatch quick. The two 1.6 HDi diesel engines – in either 91 or 118bhp form – are flexible and suit the DS 3’s dynamic character well.
DS 3 ride comfort
The DS 3 is based on the C3 supermini, but its suspension is tuned to give a more sporty character. Better body control means that it’s not as flummoxed by big bumps or heavy braking, but the ride quality isn’t that great. It’s firm, whatever the road, and fidgets over poor surfaces. Versions with larger alloy wheels are even less forgiving.
DS 3 handling
DS has given the 3 a lively character to match its looks. The steering responds quickly, so the car turns in to corners sharply and feels impressively nimble around town. At higher speeds the tyres grip well and body movement is reasonably well controlled, but the DS 3 is nowhere near as composed or engaging as a Mini, and the steering doesn’t tell you a lot about what’s going on beneath the wheels.
DS 3 refinement
The DS 3 is civilised for a small car, but refinement is very dependent on which version you go for. The turbocharged 1.6 THP engine is smooth and quiet, whereas the lower-powered three-cylinder units and the auto-only 1.6 are lower geared, so aren’t as hushed on the motorway.
The diesel engines are among the smoothest around, but all versions with a manual gearbox have a vague clutch action and a rather woolly gearshift that are less welcome.
Road noise is an issue if you have a car with 17in wheels, although every DS 3 keeps wind noise to an acceptable level.
The three-cylinder petrol engine is eager and impressively efficient, and its characteristic thrum settles into the background at speed. You need to work it hard to extract decent performance from it, though – the extra punch of the more powerful version is worth paying more for. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard.
1.2 PureTech 110 S&S
We’d definitely recommend opting for this version of Citroen’s three-cylinder petrol engine over its lower-powered counterpart; it’s very willing and although the power band is rather small it provides good performance. It’s only a fraction less efficient than the less powerful version, too. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard.
1.6 VTi 120
This is your only choice if you want an automatic gearbox with your DS 3. The four-cylinder petrol engine is smooth and reasonably strong, but the standard four-speed auto ’box blunts performance and this is the least efficient DS 3 in the range by a long way.
1.6 THP 165
Our favourite engine in the DS 3 range consists of a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit. It provides warm-hatch pace and, in combination with a six-speed manual gearbox, it’s a wonderfully flexible performer. It sounds good, too, and although running costs are higher than for most other DS 3 models, they’re pretty good in isolation.
1.6 e-HDi 90 manual
This four-cylinder 1.6-litre diesel engine is a fine choice, providing decent pace, good refinement and incredible fuel economy. Sub-100g/km CO2 emissions are the icing on the cake, but in a sporty little car like this we can’t help thinking that the lower list price of a DS 3 with a petrol unit is a better bet. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard.
1.6 BlueHDi 120
In combination with a standard six-speed manual gearbox, this four-cylinder unit provides punchy performance and outstanding efficiency. This unit’s superior performance and minimal extra outlay just give it the nod over the less powerful 1.6 HDi engine.