Citroen DS3 Racing first drive
* 197bhp version of Citroen's 'Mini' * On sale end of 2010 * Price to be 'under £25,000'...
Citroen might have been cleaning up in the World Rally Championship over the past few years, but you'd be hard-pushed to notice it in showrooms. That'll change later this year with the arrival of the DS3 Racing timed to coincide with the DS3 taking on Citroen's World Rally Championship duties.
We first saw the DS3 Racing at this year's Geneva motor show. In fact, you'd have struggled to miss it with its bright orange roof, alloys and mirrors. That colour scheme made its way onto the early cars we drove on Citroen's test track, although you'll also be able to have one in a (slightly) less striking white and grey combination.
Sporty, but civilised
Citroen's racing department has lowered the car, widened the track, fitted beefier brakes and wider tyres on 18-inch alloys. The feisty 197bhp 1.6 turbo engine also found in the Peugeot RC-Z slots neatly under the DS3 R's bonnet.
These might have been early cars we tested, but they felt surprisingly well sorted. The DS3 R is not a stripped-out racer, feeling decidedly more grown up than Renaultsport's Clio. The ride is comfier (although firmer than standard the 156bhp DS3), the steering feels slightly slacker than the Renault's, and the power delivery is steadier.
We'd like to see meatier steering on the DS3 Racing by the time it goes on sale especially around the straight-ahead. There's also a slight tendency for the car's front tyres to run a little wide through tight or fast corners.
On the road
Our initial view is that it isn't as sharp to drive (or as firm to ride in) as a Renaultsport Clio, but for many that won't be a bad thing. The DS3 is certainly fast, though, and will cover the ground rapidly. It's a smart hatch, too: good-looking, well made and with okay space. Just beware of the garish orange that not only features on the outside, but across the dashboard, too!
Only two sticking points remain: just 2000 will go on sale across Europe and we're not yet sure how many will come to the UK. Then there's the price Citroen is talking of a sub-£30,000 (£25,000) pricetag. We reckon that's a few grand too much even a Mini Cooper John Cooper Works costs less.