The latest crossover from DS is certainly stylish. The only question is have you got what it takes to carry it off?
DS 3 Crossback
0-62mph 10.9 seconds
Top speed 112mph
Eco score ★★★☆☆
A friend asks what car I’m reviewing this week. I tell him it’s a DS 3 Crossback. Greg looks nonplussed. He says: “I don’t understand any of those words. Well, I know what ‘3’ means, but not the rest.” Trying my best not to be patronising (which my wife always tells me I’m not good at, and in itself is quite patronising), I blunder on. I tell Greg that “DS” is a stand-alone premium brand that used to be part of the company that makes Citroëns, and that a “crossback” is a trendy subcategory of cars that are a hybrid of hatchbacks and SUVs that are often called crossovers… The light in Greg’s eyes flickers out. But then there’s a spark: “What are its dust caps like?” Eh? Of all the questions he could pose, he is actually asking me about the little screw-on covers that fit on a tyre’s air valve to keep the dust out. He starts to wax lyrical. “When I was at school we used to collect them, or rather steal them. We called them ‘dusties’ and used to gather in break to compare what we had. The best were the old chrome ones from Rollers. They had tiny RRs in the centre…”
As it happens the DS 3’s dust caps are unexpectedly nice: shiny black plastic with the letters DS embedded into each one. You can buy a set of four for £3. Greg is delighted when I tell him, but totally uninterested in the rest of the car, which is a shame as there is plenty to catch your eye. Some might almost say there’s too much – no one is a fan of excess design and miserly substance. The question is not whether this car has panache and flair, more is that what you really want in a compact urban crossover?
The exterior is a joy ride of extravagant panelling, chrome insets and swirling LEDs all served up on a background choice of statement colours. The car is petite but punches way above its weight in the style department. Step inside and you’ll find the exuberance continues. It’s as if a couture handbag has been deboned and butterflied. Nothing has been left to simply be, say, a button. These cascade down either side of the gear-shift in a series of stepped, sparkling, diamond-shaped levers like a collapsed metal pyramid. It’s hard to work out which one does what. And this diamond motif pops up everywhere, from air vents to speakers – diamonds are definitely the DS 3’s best friend. The ignition button is hidden in an “evil eye” design at the centre of the console and took me minutes to find. If you like plush you’ll find this all very lush.
Standing out from the crowd is a sensible strategy for a wannabe brand bringing a new car to an over-populated market. The problem is that with Audi’s Q2 and VW’s T-Roc in the same sector, there are some serious contenders for the DS 3 to do battle with.
The most popular engine is expected to be the 128bhp 1.2 petrol. This can be had only with an automatic gearbox. You’ll find it efficient and biddable. The ride isn’t as smooth as some, but smallish cars do tend to bounce around the obstacle courses modern cities throw at them. But that won’t matter as you’ll be slowing down to let everyone have a good look at you.