The DS 3 CROSSBACK is fun to drive, it looks characterful on the outside and on the inside, with an interesting dashboard layout…
DS aims to be a premium brand compared to Citroen, so is this new DS 3 CROSSBACK sufficiently premium to make you choose it?
The DS 3 CROSSBACK sits on a new platform that will underpin a number of cars in the PSA family, including the new Peugeot 208. It’s also engineered to accommodate different powertrains – petrol, diesel and electric.
Our test car featured a 3-cylinder, 1.2-litre turbocharged engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, with front-wheel drive.
Design is a subjective thing, but whether or not you like the styling of the DS 3 CROSSBACK, at least it’s interesting. This applies to the exterior, and the interior, which we’ll come back to in a moment…
The DS 3 CROSSBACK has a good driving position thanks to decent adjustability of the seat and the steering column. The steering wheel is small – it will be a familiar feel for anyone who has driven a Peugeot 208. This translates to the steering being fun, which, when combined with the car being relatively small and light (it weighs 1,205 kg), this translates to the overall driving experience being agile and fun.
The DS 3 CROSSBACK actually feels like a high-riding Peugeot 208 to drive. It has a comfortable ride, but an outcome of a higher than normal centre of gravity is that the handling that isn’t particularly precise, and there’s not a huge amount of grip in the dry or the wet.
Performance from the 130hp 3-cylinder, 1.2-litre turbocharged engine is good, but there is some engine noise. The 8-speed automatic transmission mostly works; if you want the quickest responses you’ll need to choose Sport mode. When moving the gear selector between Drive and Reverse it sometimes seems to go straight into the gear that you want and sometimes stays in neutral.
In terms of the interior, the satnav is mostly effective and has good mapping graphics, and the head-up display is useful. Then we come to the dashboard. Some people might describe it as interesting, others might describe it as crazy. There’s a diamond design theme throughout, which includes six black panels in the centre of the dashboard, which are for the different elements of the infomedia system. They’re very difficult to press because there’s no ‘clickable’ button – it’s very unclear how much pressure you need to exert to get the switch to work. But the main issue is that there isn’t a home button or a home screen – something that is desperately needed. This means that there is a lot of button pressing – for example the controls for the cabin temperature – which are only accessible via the screen – are a real pain to access and adjust when driving.
The buttons that are under the infomedia controls are not very well organised, as they include some heating and ventilation functions as well as stereo volume.
Another issue is that there’s a collection of buttons – including controls for the lane departure warning system, the head-up display and mirrors – hidden way under the bottom of the dashboard on the right-hand side of the steering wheel. You can’t see these controls, and even if they were in your line of sight, they’re all located in a dark recess.
Viewing and resetting average fuel economy is also a very unintuitive process involving dials on the steering wheel and buttons on stalks.
And when accelerating away from the booths on the M6 toll road the driver’s electric window switch was reached for and the handbrake was activated in error, as, in the dark, they are both similar buttons very close to each other.
The dashboard design is definitely a case of style over substance; it’s the opposite to a clear, functional interior. It’s as though the dashboard layout was designed by someone who has never actually driven a car.
Oh, and the car unlocks and locks itself automatically when you approach the car and then when get out of it. Not great if you’ve got kids inside, who are then locked in.
The official WLTP combined fuel economy for the DS 3 CROSSBACK PERFORMANCE Line PT130 AUTO is 45.6 mpg, with CO2 emissions of 111 g/km. It managed 54.0mpg at 70mph and we achieved 68.8mpg at a constant 50mph on the motorway, so it can be economical if you drive carefully. However around town the economy struggled to improve on 30mpg. Overall after a week we averaged 42.1mpg – which is slightly down on the WLTP figure. There was a useful driving range of 422 miles.
The DS 3 CROSSBACK PERFORMANCE Line PT130 AUTO costs £25,955. Our test car had the options of metallic paint (£550), Advanced technology pack (£850), City park (£550), Bi-Tone roof (£200), Premium safety pack (£950) and Performance Line plus pack (£1,050), taking the total price of our test car to £29,555 – quite a lot for a high-rise supermini. There are three petrol powertrains: PureTech 100 Manual, PureTech 130 Automatic and PureTech 155 Automatic, and one diesel: BlueHDi 100 Manual. There are four trim levels: Elegance, Performance line, Prestige and Ultra Prestige.
The DS 3 CROSSBACK PERFORMANCE Line PT130 AUTO has decent performance and, helped by its small steering wheel, is fun to drive, especially around town, but under such driving conditions it’s not particularly economical. However if you do drive it carefully, it can return decent miles per gallon. It also has a comfortable ride.
It has interesting exterior and interior styling but the biggest issue with the car is the crazy dashboard controls, a perfect demonstration of style over substance.
There’s also the price; £25,955 before options. A Citroen C3 costs from £12,350 – ie. less than half of the price. Is the DS 3 sufficiently premium to justify a doubling in the price? Not really.
The DS 3 CROSSBACK PERFORMANCE Line PT130 AUTO gains a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.
What will be interesting to drive is the forthcoming ‘e-tense’ electric version – will it be able to retain the fun driving experience and the comfortable ride with a heavier electric powertrain?