2016 DS 3 Puretech 130 review

The DS brand has distanced itself from Citroën and aims to make an impact with its revised stylish small car, the DS 3\. Do these changes make it better than a Mini?...

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What Car? team
23 February 2016

2016 DS 3 Puretech 130 review

Once part of the Citroën range, and essentially a more premium, three-door version of the Citroën C3 hatchback, the DS 3 is now part of the standalone DS brand.

To coincide with this change, the car has been refreshed with the help of revised exterior styling, a new line-up of trims with improved basic equipment, and two new engines in the form of a high-performance 207bhp 1.6-litre petrol turbo and the 128bhp turbocharged petrol 1.2 tested here.

Aiming to combine peppy performance with low fuel consumption, the new 1.2 is pitched directly against the Mini Cooper.

What's the 2016 DS 3 like to drive?

Offering strong, consistent pull between 2000rpm and 5000rpm, the new engine adds a great deal to the DS 3’s performance and feels much livelier than its 0-62mph time of 8.9sec suggests. There’s some turbo lag but acceleration comes smoothly, and despite the engine’s modest size you don’t always need to downshift when overtaking.

It’s well mannered, too - the engine drones a bit, but not badly, and with rising revs there’s a restrained roar that’s fun and not overly loud. At idle and when cruising on the motorway, it’s near silent.

All DS 3s now come with a six-speed manual gearbox (the less powerful 110 version of this engine can also be had as an auto), and the shift has a slick, obliging action. The steering - usefully light in town yet reassuringly weighty on fast corners - doesn’t offer much feel and could be more settled when cruising, but is sufficiently accurate and responsive.

Road noise remains a problem, however, with significant tyre roar on coarser surfaces and thumping from the suspension over lumps and bumps. It sounds worse than it feels, though; while the ride can jostle a bit, especially in town, it’s not harsh, and the car is disposed more towards comfort than pin-sharp handling.

What's the 2016 DS 3 like inside?

The DS 3’s cabin has always looked smart, but added sophistication now comes from the new 7.0in colour touchscreen at the heart of the car’s infotainment system. It has replaced 20 buttons, which tidies up the centre console nicely, and for £100 you can add integration for Apple and Android smartphones. The sat-nav system included on our mid-range Prestige trim car isn’t the most advanced on the market, but like all of the touchscreen’s functions, it reacts swiftly to inputs.

While a good use of contrasting materials and our car’s optional leather pack give a premium image, the tactile experience is less convincing. Apart from the panel atop the dashboard, plastics are hard to the touch, and some have disappointingly obvious moulding seams.

The soft seats lend plenty of comfort to the relatively high driving position, and visibility is good, but while the absence of buttons on the steering wheel keeps its design clean, their functions are instead found on stalks that are inconveniently hidden from the driver’s view, and there are still no cupholders.

Two six-foot rear passengers will find their heads and legs impeded, although shoulder room is fine unless you add a fifth occupant. The rear seats split and fold 60/40, allowing the uniformly shaped boot to extend from 285 to 980 litres, easily beating the Mini’s in either configuration.

Should I buy one?

This PureTech 130 engine is available only in Prestige and £1900-cheaper Elegance trim. Spec a three-door Mini to match Prestige-level equipment and the two cars cost about the same. However, the cheaper DS 3 Elegance is actually about £1000 pricier than a similarly kitted-out Cooper.

The two cars have identical fuel economy figures and CO2 outputs, but the Mini is cheaper to insure, more fun to drive and has more consistent interior finishes, so remains the superior choice in this class.

Richard Webber

What Car? says...

The rivals

Audi A1

Mini Cooper

DS 3 Puretech 130Engine size 1.2-litre petrolPrice from £16,895Power 128bhpTorque 170lb ft0-62mph 8.9 secondsTop speed 127mphFuel economy 68.2mpgCO2 105g/km