Citroen DS3 DSport

Nice face, shame about the price

STEPHEN CORBY

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

CITROEN customers are clearly an odd bunch – “individualists” as the company likes to call them – but if any car in its quintessentially quirky its quintessentially quirky line-up makes sense to the rest of us, it would be the DS3.

Citroen Australia has just launched this “new look” version – with redesigned LED and xenon headlights and not much else that looks new, suggesting it’s more of an eyelift than a facelift – and has decided not to offer an entry-level variant because, apparently, its customers simply prefer to spend more and have all the extras.

While the new DS3 DSport “warm-hatch” appears pricey – $33,990 ($36,590 for the Cabrio, pictured), which is a hefty $4250 more than the old car – Citroen claims there’s $5500 more spec.

This includes an AEB function, ‘City Brake’, which works at up to 30km/h. Citroen describes the system, with straight face, as “potentially life-saving”.

There’s certainly not much that’s hot about the 1.6-litre turbo four-pot with its 121kW/240Nm outputs and 5.6L/100km fuel economy, but the re-engineered powerplant, sourced from the giant PSA group and formerly seen in the Mini, still offers plenty of revvy fun and japes, plus improved bottom-end power delivery and 6kW extra up top.

While the not greatly changed design still allows Citroen to declare the DS3 a style leader (it really is a cool-looking car), it doesn’t match the cars it’s going after – Audi’s A1 Sportback and the Mini Cooper S (which own 75 percent of the segment between them) – in terms of interior style or materials quality.

Making the challenge of selling this unique proposition a little more difficult is the fact that the new DS3 is, for now at least, six-speed manual only because Citroen didn’t want to offer it with an outdated automatic. The fashion-oriented DStyle will be revived at a later date, when PSA’s 82kW/205Nm 1.2-litre turbo triple and six-speed auto combo become available, but in the meantime, the lack of an auto will limit the DS3’s sales potential (auto sales of the previous DS3 were 49 percent).

This is a shame because in manual guise, the DS3 is a fun little car. It’s good enough around corners, without being overly involving, and its ride quality is very pleasant until you hit really big bumps, which alarm the chassis greatly.

Fortunately, it seems there are enough out-there, manual-loving Citroen buyers in Australia to make a business case for the DS3, so it can continue to brighten our roads with its looks, without the rest of us having to buy one. t

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Citroen DS3 DSport 1598cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 121kW @ 6000rpm 240Nm @ 1400rpm 6-speed manual 1140kg 7.5sec (claimed) 5.6L/100km $33,990 Now

PLUS & MINUS

Pricing; no auto option; big-bump ride; centre display not a touchscreen Styling; AEB tech; six-year warranty; torquier engine; manual gearbox

Brand strategy

SOME statistics just seem too wildly unlikely to be true, like Citroen Australia’s claim that there are now more than 40,000 Citroens on our roads. A lot of them must be in garages, a lot of the time. A strangely optimistic company, Citroen Oz says its sales are up and it can foresee stable and sustained growth.

Confidence is so high, in fact, that the company plans to split its brand and establish DS as a separate “sporty” subbrand, like AMG.