Citroen DS3 Cabrio 1.6 THP 155 DSport
List price when new £19,675
Price today £8500
Available from 2013-present
The funky and fun Citroen DS3 Cabrio blends eye-catching styling with a fabric roof
Fiat 500C 1.4 T-Jet Abarth
List price when new £16,000
Price today £9000
Available from 2009-present
The Fiat 500C is deeply fashionable, and in this Abarth form, it’s pretty quick, too
Price today is based on a 2013 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing
The British are one of the biggest consumers of convertibles in Europe. Seems crazy for a country reputed for rain, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, it seems we Brits can’t get enough of the sun when it does come out, which is why drop-tops are so popular over here.
But what if you want a car which allows you to take full advantage of the sunshine, but also looks and feels fashionable? And what if you need said chic convertible to be small enough to make gadding about town in search of the latest bargains a breeze?
Well, we reckon we might have the answer in this tasty twosome. First up, there’s the Citroen DS3 Cabrio (recently renamed simply ‘DS 3 Cabrio’). It’s a bit of a looker, and in this 1.6-litre turbo DSport form, has more than enough power to keep you smiling even when the sun goes in. And with a plethora of paint and fabric colours available to choose from, it’s no wonder it’s become deeply popular with the fashionistas.
Not as popular, mind you, as the Fiat 500C. Its cutesy styling has made the 500 immensely popular, and even though it’s been around for ages, it’s still one of the trendiest drop-tops money can buy. And to go toe-to-toe with the pokey little Citroen, this Abarth-badged 500C happens to have a 1.4-litre turbo that means you won’t find yourself being embarrassed at the lights.
What are they like to drive?
The DS3 is the faster car, thanks to its more powerful engine. However, the 500C weighs less and has shorter gearing, so it feels no slower and has an equally effervescent power delivery.
The real difference is in the DS3’s greater sense of maturity. Everything from its smooth-revving engine to its subdued yet rorty exhaust note and the slow yet precise steering lends it a dual character. It manages to be both easy-going everyday transport and a thrill-seeker all in one.
The Abarth, by contrast, is a bit of a yob. It scrabbles up the road with a rasping soundtrack that resonates around the interior. Unfortunately, the quick, springy steering can make it feel twitchy at higher speeds.
These disparate characters are only emphasised in the corners; the DS3 is slower to turn in, but is more stable, gripping well and retaining a neutral balance.
Don’t think this composure means less fun, either. There are thrills to be had in making the most of the easily modulated brakes before carrying lots of speed through the bends and then firing the DS3 up the road again, with a strong surge of acceleration.
The 500C is more challenging to drive. The rear of the car moves around during hard cornering, although it resists body lean better than its rival and has an effective system that brakes an inside wheel to help the car maintain a tight line. Less successful are the brakes themselves, which are overly sensitive in normal driving.
Body flex is minimal in both cars, thanks to the roof pillars, which are fixed and keep wind buffeting to a minimum with the roofs retracted (the DS3’s can be operated at up to 75mph, while the 500C’s works at up to 37mph). However, the DS3 hops about over slow-speed ruts and creases, while the 500C suffers more at higher speeds, bouncing uncomfortably over broken road surfaces.
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