If you want a premium small SUV that's a little different, this improved DS 3 model might fit the bill, thinks Jonathan Crouch.
Ten Second Review
The DS 3 is hardly inexpensive but in compensation it's a satisfyingly desirable take on small SUV motoring, especially in this revised form. The design is individual, the cabin feels special and it's well equipped. Plus the combustion engines are willing and economical - and there's the option of full-electric technology if you want it. This is the car tasked with really moving the DS brand forward.
Here's an interesting stat. It won't be long before SUVs account for a quarter of all car sales. And premium brands account for 11% of all worldwide car production but 37% of automotive segment profits. Which explains why the Stellantis Group conglomerate needs the DS brand. And why, back in 2018, the DS brand needed to launch its first bespoke-designed small SUV, the DS 3 Crossback, now known simply as 'DS 3'.
There's more to the updates here than merely a change of name of course: a smarter look, a bit more interior luxury and a useful upgrade for the E-TENSE EV version. As before, the DS 3 in all its forms shares most of its engineering with new-generation versions of familiar Stellantis Group small SUVs like Peugeot's 2008 and Vauxhall's Mokka, but packages it all up with a stylised expression of Gallic savoir faire. Buyers are promised distinctive looks, jewel-like detailing and cutting-edge technology. Let's take a look.
You'll want to know about the engineering changes made here. Well the recipe isn't much different. The combustion range has been slimmed down (no diesels anymore and DS isn't now offering the top 155hp petrol variant). And the all-electric DS 3 E-TENSE model gets a completely new 155hp electric motor (assembled in Tremery-Metz), a revised reduction gear set-up (produced in Valenciennes) and a new 54kWh battery (assembled in Poissy) for increases in power and range (now rated at 250 miles). As before, the DS 3 E-TENSE offers three main selectable driving modes - 'Eco', 'Normal' and 'Sport', the last of which delivers the powertrain's maximum 260Nm torque figure to the tarmac the instant the wheels begin to turn. Also as before, you can maximise range via two driver-activated energy recovery settings - 'Normal' and 'Brake'.
If you've chosen a petrol model, you'll find that the six-speed manual gearbox is quite slick too, though as before you can only have it with the entry-level 100hp engine, the usual Stellantis Group three cylinder 1.2-litre offering. The majority of DS 3 sales though, are going to be focused around the PureTech 130 petrol version, which is available only with an 8-speed automatic gearbox that Stellantis sources from specialist maker Aisin. As part of that transmission package, you get steering wheel paddle shifters and a set of selectable driving modes - 'eco', 'normal' and 'sport' - the latter being the one you'll need if you want to replicate the claimed 9.2s 0-62mph sprint time, achieved en route to 124mph.
Design and Build
Styling's an emotive subject but most will probably agree that this car still offers quite an interesting take on 'B'-segment supermini-based SUV design. It's 4.18-metres long, 1.79-metres wide and 1.53-metres high, which means that it sits amongst the bigger contenders in this segment - cars like the Honda HR-V and the Audi Q2. The DS 3 sits on the Stellantis Group's CMP platform, the same as that used for the Peugeot 2008 and the Vauxhall Mokka.
The visual changes to this updated model are quickly covered: revised headlamps, now of the LED variety across the range, flanking a re-styled grille, wider and enhanced with gloss black or chromed diamond tips, depending on the model. The identifying DS WINGS have been tweaked to subtly join the grille and headlamps. The bonnet gains a Clous de Paris embossed insert, the 17 and 18-inch wheels have been re-designed and the rear has been refined, lights and boot emphasised with a lacquered black strip. This features polished stainless steel 'DS Automobiles' badging.
Nothing's very different inside, though all variants do now get a large 10.3-inch high definition central screen with a redesigned gloss black surround. 3D Connected navigation and intelligent voice recognition are offered by DS IRIS SYSTEM that's standard above base trim. Users can personalise the central screen and the 7-inch instrument panel, complete with head up display that projects essential information in the driver's eye line. As before, the cabin features an over-riding diamond-shaped theme - the digital instrument pack, the dashboard switches, the air vents and many other interior fitments all bear this shape.
Also as before, you can trim the cabin out to a very high standard indeed, with special leathers, alcantara and pearl stitching. More practically, you get a reasonable array of storage compartments including cup holders and a broad, functional sliding armrest. The seats are particularly comfortable thanks to a special bi-density foam the brand has developed. But over-the-shoulder vision is somewhat compromised by the rear 'D'-pillar. In the rear, the window line in the rear is rather high, so if you've got kids, you might want to make sure they're OK with that. And the boot capacity, though reasonable at 350-litres, is a little down (55-litres) on what you'd get in a rival Audi Q2.
Market and Model
Expect DS 3 pricing, as before, to start from just under £26,000 and range up to just over £42,000. There's (thankfully) a simplified trim range, starting with 'PERFORMANCE Line' and 'PERFORMANCE Line +' levels, where the seats, the dashboard strips and the door panels are embellished with Alcantara. The PERFORMANCE Line + level gets extra equipment such as a central armrest, mats and lighting for the sun visors and footwells. Next up is the 'RIVOLI' level, which offers the brand's new Basalt Black grained leather seats (which are optional lower down the range) with scale-effect Basalt Black trim. A Pebble Grey upholstery with combined Nappa Leather/cloth is also available. At the top of the range, 'OPERA' trim features a Basalt Black Nappa Leather interior with the brand's signature 'watchstrap' seat finishing.
Safety-wise, all variants get a 'Safety Park', which includes an Emergency Braking System, Lane Keeping Assist, Speed recognition and Intelligent Speed Adaptation. Other standard features include an alarm system, a space saver spare wheel, air conditioning and a 10.3-inch touchscreen, with 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring, Bluetooth and a DAB digital radio with eight speakers.
Cost of Ownership
Let's get to the exact figures that the DS 3's various engines can produce, all of which are helped by the light weight of this car's underlying CMP Stellantis Group platform. We'll quote WLTP fuel figures and WLTP emissions readings. The base PureTech 100 petrol manual derivative manages up to 49.6mpg and up to 128g/km of CO2. For the auto PureTech 130, the figures are up to 47.1mpg and up to 135g/km. Few direct rivals can better these figures.
If you want to do better in a DS 3, you need to be looking at the all-electric 'E-TENSE' version, which uses a new 54kWh lithium-ion battery (50.8kWh usable) that can be re-charged to 80% of its capacity in just 30 minutes from the right plug point. The 11kW wallbox that owners will want to fit in their garages will re-charge the car in five hours. When out and about, a 100kW public fast-charging point will perform a full charge in 90 minutes. With a fully replenished battery, up to 250 miles of WLTP-rated driving range is possible. That's partly due to the efficiency of this updated model's improved electric motor, plus the powertrain's ability to recover energy. Adding to efficiency is thermal pre-conditioning and a bit of extra aerodynamic efficiency - the brand has lowered ground clearance by 10mm as part of this update. Plus the heat pump you'd have to pay extra for on some rival models is fitted as standard here, a feature that maximises driving range from the battery in really cold conditions.
It takes a lot to create a premium brand. More than currently separates a DS product from the Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall models whose engineering it will share? You be the judge. We'll simply say that this is a genuinely different option in a crowded class. It's individualistic, charismatic and, in its own way, quite unique. As this DS 3 has to be to justify the prices being asked.
And in summary? Well as we said when reviewing the larger DS 7, we like this car most because it feels special - or at least it will for the right kind of buyer. That customer will love the painstaking attention that's been paid to almost every detail of this design. Again, it's certainly true that in some respects, the execution here isn't perfect - but then there's something rather soul-less and clinical about perfection. Ultimately, this car, like its brand, is aspirational. If you are too and you're shopping in this segment looking for something a bit different, we think there's just a chance you might like it very much indeed.