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Those are the three key qualities of the Citroen DS3 Ultra Prestige that I am testing this week. The moment I clap eyes on the sleek white hatch with blacked out rear windows and detailed alloys, I know that we’re going to get on well.
I can relate to the DS3 because Citroen has taken the hatchback and added its own unique angle, much in the same way that I try to with my writing. No matter what you do in life, if you can stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons you’ll do well and that’s what Citroen specialises in.
The French manufacturer, so my wife, an experienced graphic designer and artist tells me, has taken the DS letters and created a unique logo, splashing it liberally throughout the vehicle. This distinctive emblem can be found in black across the roof while a chrome version can be found on the boot and bonnet. It is also used on the dashboard.
Externally the DS3 is a very appealing package and this is maintained inside. It’s only available as a three-door, which is just as well as it would lose its charm if two extra ones were added. This range topping model has a choice of two engines: a 1.6-litre petrol or a diesel. There’s a stark difference in performance and economy figures for the pair. The petrol will hit 60mph from standstill in about seven seconds and has a top speed of 130mph. It will return 47mpg; so does the 1.4-litre VW Polo but that takes over four seconds longer to travel from 0-60mph. Diesel drivers are always most interested in economy so the 74mpg is sure to please them while the 9.4secs 0 to 60mph and 118mph top speed is more than adequate.
As I slide into the superb leather seat that cossets in all the right places, the first thing that catches the eye is the two-tone black and cream leather dashboard. This is mirrored on the seats. The designers have really gone to town on the DS3 and the driver certainly feels they are driving a prestigious vehicle as the name suggests.
There’s a traditional handbrake rather than any of this modern electric nonsense and a very good six-speed manual gearbox. This is a proper driver’s car with some room in the rear, large enough at any rate to fit daughter Harriett in her cumbersome baby seat; although it is a bit of a struggle to get it into the rear due to the front seat not going far enough forward.
For a car of this size more should be made of the room inside. When there are rear passengers those in the front have to have their seats so far forward that it is uncomfortable. The boot is only as large as my Fiesta’s while there is less room in the back for rear passengers.
An annoying rattle develops during the course of the test, which my wife reckons comes from the stereo.
But it’s loaded with goodies including cruise control. This is operated by a fixed stalk on the left of the steering wheel, which is a good idea so that it can be easily operated no matter how much the wheel is turned. This function is useful on a long motorway jaunt and it is reasonably reliable when travelling uphill maintaining speed within a few mph. But when travelling downhill it does not hold the set speed; a hindrance in a residential area with speed cameras. Other luxuries include air conditioning, electric windows and a good quality stereo. The black wing mirrors, which contrast beautifully against the white bodywork, automatically fold when the car’s locked as you can see in the video at testdrives.biz. Its boot is large enough to fit the shopping or a briefcase and laptop bag. Twice I hit my head twice on the black parcel shelf, which merges into the black of the cold winter’s night. It seems to be just at the right spot to catch me as I bend down to grab my bags from the boot.
Parkers, the car experts, write: “The Citroen DS3 is the first in a range of very different Citroen models that put the emphasis on style and personality, along with strong performance and driver appeal. Indeed, it has a lot going for it in the looks department: the sharkfin-shaped mid-pillar isn’t traditional – you might even call it quirky – and the overall shape is much slicker than the more sedate C3 on which it is based. The ‘DS’ badge reflects Citroen’s glory days when it built armadillo-shaped super saloons with hydro-pneumatic suspension that wafted and wallowed with a sense of occasion that no other manufacturer could match. With its stylish looks and compact size, it’s easy to see why so many comparisons have been drawn with the popular Mini and Fiat 500.”
Verdict: An excellent driver’s car and those with short friends will have no complaints, especially if they have no need to get anything from the boot!