The DS3 compact convertible is a great affordable soft top for our fickle climate. Jonathan Crouch reports on the revised version.
Ten Second Review
The improved DS3 Cabrio gets a smarter look and fresh generation technology. As before, it's anything but a conventional convertible - but then, that's exactly why you might buy one. You don't get a full-blown folding roof, but then neither do you get the usual compromises in rear seat and luggage space - and there are no speed restrictions on soft top use. If you thought you could neither justify or afford a cabriolet, then this car aims to make you think again.
The small affordable cabriolet. It's a lovely idea in principle, inexpensive open-roofed motoring for those rare occasions when the sun makes an appearance. In practice though, there are often frustrating compromises to be made in a car of this kind. Here's one though, that doesn't require you to make too many: the sleeker, smarter DS3 Cabrio.
Let me explain. Wouldn't it be nice if a model of this sort didn't buffet you roof-down and shimmy over bumps? Wouldn't it be neat if you could react instantly to the weather and retract its top at almost any speed? And wouldn't it be good if you could actually fit three people in the back if need be - and more than a token amount of luggage? None of the cars which most readily come to mind as affordable open-tops - say the MINI Convertible, the Fiat 500C or even the Mazda MX-5 - can satisfy on all these counts.
This one can. No, it's not a full-blown convertible - but then the DS brand argues that to be a good thing, the resultant design better suited to enjoyment of our testing roads and changeable climate. Is it? We're going to find out.
On paper, you might be tempted to view this car's kind of folding soft top as little more than a giant sunroof, but in practice, it's much more than that. True, you never get the full 'wind in the hair' feeling that you would in a classic conventional cabriolet lacking this DS model's fixed side panels but there's quite enough exposure to the elements in the fully open position to give you that real cabrio feeling, though buffeting is reduced because you're better hidden from the blustery conditions. I should also point out that, as with any proper convertible, rearward vision with the roof down is pretty awful, hence the standard fitment of rear parking sensors.
My favourite feature though relates to the way - almost unique in my experience with convertible cars - that this roof allows you to instantly react to the conditions you're driving in. Press a little button on the overhead console and you can open or close the roof in just 16s at any speed up to 75mph. With the roof closed, refinement is near-on as good as it is in the fixed top DS3.
Under the bonnet, the key changes with this revised model centre on the introduction of a more efficient EAT6 automatic gearbox and a pokier 130bhp three cylinder 1.2-litre PureTech petrol powerplant. In all, seven engines are on offer, including an entry-level 110bhp PureTech petrol unit. There are also two THP four-cylinder petrol units, with the top 'Performance' model putting out 208bhp. Plus, as before, there are two 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesels.
Design and Build
You'd be forgiven for not realising this to be a Cabrio at first glance. After all, the profile of this model is identical to that of its fixed-top counterpart, which means you get the same cool 'shark fin' B-pillar, the same 'floating' two-tone roof and the same sculpted front end with its distinctive LED light signature.
The key change with this facelifted DS3 Cabrio is the introduction of the DS brand's corporate front end, with the so-called 'DS Wings' sculpted around a vertically-orientated chromed front grille that wears the DS emblem and is flanked by smarter LED headlamps. There are now more personalisation possibilities too, including options for the roof, the bodywork and the mirror housings.
Inside, the cabin is much as before, but benefits from the addition of a freshly-added 7-inch colour infotainment screen that incorporates the latest smartphone-compatible technology. There are smarter trim choices too and the option of classic DS 'watchstrap leather' seating and laser engraving on the dashboard trim and the door mirrors. The DS designers claim there's room for five adults, with legroom in the rear enhanced by the slender backs of the driver and front passenger seats. This is the only model its class - and one of the very few convertibles you can buy - that can actually take three people across the back seat. In the tail, the boot of this Cabrio version is 245-litres which is large for the soft top of this class.
Market and Model
Expect to pay somewhere in the £15,000 to £20,000 bracket for your DS3 Cabrio, so you're looking at a premium of around £2,500 over the fixed-top version that many will assume this car is at first glance. Still, at least all DS3 models are better equipped than they used to be. All variants now get front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera with visual indicator guide lines on the 7-inch centre dash infotainment screen. That display is a fresh addition to the car and gives owners access to the latest smartphone-compatible 'MirrorLink' and 'Apple CarPlay' connectivity systems.
The options list includes LED headlight technology and items such as cruise control with a speed limiter, a classy MP3-compatible stereo system with a sub woofer in the boot and the MyWay satellite navigation system. Safety equipment includes an 'Active City Brake' system that can autonomously brake the car if an accident hazard is detected at urban speeds. ESP stability control is of course standard along with an advanced ABS braking system and six airbags.
Personalisation is a term that is cropping up with increasing regularity when we talk about trendy small cars and this revised DS3 further embraces it with things like a laser-etched dashboard strip and a screen-printed rear window. There are wider colour and wheel options too. As before, the roof, the mirrors, the dashboard, the rubbing strips and the wheels all come in various colours and whichever bodywork colour you choose, you get a matching key fob.
Cost of Ownership
There's very little running cost premium in choosing the Cabrio DS3 variant over its fixed-top stablemate. As you'd expect, the revised DS3 models feature efficient Euro 6 compliant diesel and petrol engines. Diesel drivers get the choice of 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 and BlueHDi 120 units, both powerplants offering a good balance of power and efficiency. The BlueHDi 100 variant is class-leading in terms of emissions, producing just 87g/km of CO2. Fuel consumption's good too. Theoretically, the BlueHDi variant could be capable of over 90mpg and even the pokier BlueHDi 120 version can approach 80mpg.
The French brand has also developed a Euro 6-compliant entry-level petrol unit, the 'PureTech 110 EAT6 auto'. Delivering 61.4mpg over a combined cycle and producing just 105g/km of CO2, this engine comes only with the brand's latest automated manual EAT6 transmission. The 5-speed 'box features a creep function and optimised software mapping, which adjusts power delivery for smoother starts and a better driving experience. Go for the PureTech 130 manual petrol model and you can expect 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and 105g/km of CO2.
We live in a country where it can rain for 200 days in a year. Even if you can make a rational argument for owning a convertible in such a climate, it might be difficult to justify carting around the heavy, bulky cabrio roof that such a car will need, a top that when folded will minimise both bootspace and rear passenger room. With this DS3 Cabrio though, the downsides have been minimised. Here's a convertible that makes real sense for the part of the world we live in and it's been usefully revised in this upgraded form with smarter looks and extra technology.
Of course, it's not designed to suit someone really intent on getting the full al fresco experience. The looks don't shout 'convertible' and there are still door pillars to look past. But if you're okay with that and just want to feel the sun once in a while without the wobbling bodywork, practical compromises and awkward styling of most small cabriolets, then this car could be exactly what you've been looking for.