First Drive

2016 DS 3 BlueHDi 120 review

Facing intense competition from newer models, the popular DS3 gets a much-needed facelift. We drive it on UK roads for the first time

Words ByNic Cackett

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The DS3 has proven a popular supermini since its launch in 2010. CitroΓ«n’s deluxe sub-brand, DS Automobiles, hasn’t always persuaded buyers that its supposedly chic twist was worthy of the premium charged, but few have needed convincing that the stylish three-door Mini rival made sense.

The car was initially facelifted in 2013, although this follow-up – intended to help see off much younger competition – is slightly further-reaching. A new chrome grille features on the nose, while behind it is an updated engine line-up. We tried the 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel in high-spec Prestige trim.

What's the 2016 DS 3 BlueHDi 120 like to drive?

The likeable way the original DS3 drove had much to do with its popularity. Using the Mini as its benchmark, CitroΓ«n provided its supermini with the liveliness of quick steering and grippy, fail-safe handling. That chipper character remains, helped along by a small diesel engine endowed with the type of amenable mid-range tug that makes overtaking a stress-free act.

It has economy on its side, too. True MPG evaluation wasn’t available during our test, but the claimed 78.5mpg combined score is very competitive, and we experienced beyond 60mpg in the real world. The CO2 emissions, at 94g/km, are also admirably low for a car endowed with a sub 10-second 0-62mph time.

Nevertheless, in comparison with its rivals, the supermini does suffer in other areas. The ride, always a little on the firm side and unchanged in this facelift, has not mellowed with age. Where Mini has introduced greater comfort levels to the latest Cooper while retaining its incisive driving style, the DS3 bristles noisily when its standard 17in alloys meet any sizeable obstacle in the road.

What's the 2016 DS 3 BlueHDi 120 like inside?

Very much like it was before, which is to say credibly good-looking but not as instantly compelling as a Mini Cooper or Audi A1. Much of that is to do with the tactile quality of its rivals’ interiors, which do a better job of nurturing a premium feel across the board. The DS3 remains easy on the eye and very natty in the occasional detail, yet investing in some higher-grade secondary plastic and a faster infotainment processor would have been money well spent.

An additional grumble left unfixed is the model’s general lack of storage space. Given its exclusively three-door format, the rear seats are practical enough, but the shortage of cupholders and cubbyholes aggravates over time. In contrast, the boot is adequate if you don’t mind the low floor – and at least here the manufacturer finds enough additional room to include a space-saver spare wheel.

Should I buy one?

If DS Automobiles’ chosen image – a hybrid of premium feel and Parisian style – is to your taste, then its supermini is worth considering, because nothing the manufacturer has built in the meantime has so successfully lived up to the ideal. The DS 3 was always daintily trim in appearance and politely impatient to get going, and it remains it now and that isn’t as common in the segment as you might think.

The diesel engine, too, is an advantage. The new Mini sports a smaller motor even more fiendishly clever than the PSA unit, but its all-round competence helps make the DS 3 seem both potent and cheap to run.

It’s a shame, then, that while the car has retained its upmarket price tag – our upper-middle trim variant started at Β£19,495 – this facelift hasn’t ensured that it still definitely deserves the description. Better finished and better thought out alternatives remain.

What Car? says...

Rivals

Audi A1

Mini 3dr

DS 3 BlueHDi 120 Engine size 1.6-litre diesel Price from Β£19,495 Power 118bhp Torque 210lb ft 0-62mph 9.3 seconds Top speed 118mph Fuel economy 78.5mpg CO2 94g/km