2016 DS 3 Performance review

The old Citroën DS3 enjoyed sales success but never managed to achieve iconic hot hatch status. Now named DS 3 under the newly formed DS brand, can this Performance model change that?...

Author Avatar
Nic Cackett
21 March 2016

There has been a hot hatch version of this popular supermini before, but it was a low-volume model with a limited lifespan. Five years later, DS has resurrected the idea with the DS 3 Performance, a 205bhp variant intended to serve as a rival to the Mini Cooper S and Ford Fiesta ST.

What is the 2016 DS 3 Performance like to drive?

Even the standard DS 3 has lively handling, so with lowered suspension and a limited-slip differential aiding traction, it comes as no surprise to learn that the Performance makes for an able hot hatch. The steering feel is heavier and more direct than that of the standard car and helps instill the confidence required to more fully exploit the higher output.

The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine is earnest in its delivery and potent enough to deliver a sub-seven-second 0-62mph time, although it does lack the deep-toned noise that keeps the Fiesta ST so interesting. The DS 3’s manual six-speed gearbox can be a spirit dampener too, having a tendency to feel imprecise and flimsy when worked hard.

While the firmer suspension responds well to more exuberant driving, the Performance does make you suffer the disadvantages, too. The regular DS 3, often in conjunction with bigger wheels, is well known for its firm ride comfort, and its even more determined sibling only aggravates the situation. Its inability to soak up the bumps is not fatal – keen drivers may well find it tolerable – but the shortfall in rolling refinement will be obvious to anyone who’s tried the more sophisticated Mini Cooper or Renault Sport Clio 200 Turbo.

What is the 2016 DS 3 Performance like inside?

Already the possessor of a good-looking, angular dashboard, the DS 3's cabin lends itself reasonably well to the more sporty feel expected of a hot hatch. The highly customisable interior hasn’t changed much from the original, which means it’s not fantastically spacious in the back and passengers need endure the same hampered access and egress to the rear bench that all three-door only superminis suffer from.

Nevertheless, the plump sports seats look the part (even if the body-hugging bolsters do flap about a bit) and while some of the plastics aren’t what you’d call premium, everything you touch frequently is pleasant enough. The Performance also gets the updated infotainment system, which, while very far from faultless or cutting edge, is at least more usable than its rudimentary predecessor.

Should I buy one?

The DS 3 has the urgency and muscular appearance of a fast modern supermini. It also has impressive on-paper running costs, considering the engine’s performance figures. At 125g/km and 52.3mpg combined, the model can claim to narrowly lead the field (alongside its sister car, the Peugeot 208 GTi) in the efficiency stakes.

But starting at £20,495 (the convertible version is £22,795), the Performance counts the cream of the compact hot hatch crop as direct rivals. And while it largely does what it says on the tin, it is not as compelling to drive as the Fiesta ST nor as well-rounded as the Mini or as cultured in the chassis as the Clio 200 Turbo.

That it is arguably the most stylish solution is appropriate for the DS Automobile brand and potentially appealing to buyers, but the greater substance on offer elsewhere makes the supermini more notable also-ran than dead cert.*What Car? says...**

3/5*Rivals**

Ford Fiesta ST

Mini Cooper S***

DS 3 PerformanceEngine size 1.6-litre petrolPrice £20,495Power 205bhpTorque 221lb ft0-62mph 6.5secTop speed 143mphFuel economy 52.3mpgCO2 125g/km