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DS 3 Crossback Performance

DS 3 Crossback review, 06

Last week I had the luxury of driving around in DS’ latest model – the DS 3 Crossback – but before going into detail, let us first familiarise ourselves with DS and rule out any confusion associated with the brand. DS first came about in 2009 as Citroen’s premium sub-brand, where we saw the Citroen DS3. Later on came the DS4 and DS5, before it became its own French boutique brand in 2014 launching with, you guessed it, the revised DS 3. This first generation of the standalone brand’s portfolio also included the DS 4, DS 4 Crossback and DS 5. Having ditched the 4 and 5, the French firm is now in its second generation with the recently launched 7 Crossback and brand-new 3 Crossback, set out to indirectly replace the car that started it all, the 3.

We tested the DS 3 Crossback Performance Line PureTech 100 with some added extras ticked, bringing it in at a little under £29,000. My first impressions of the car were overall very pleasing, as this striking, golden piece of art rolled up outside my house rearing to undergo some testing over the next week. Things continued to improve as I stepped inside, with an array of high-quality plastics, leathers, cloths and Alcantara used right throughout the cabin, with scratchy plastics limited only to the footwells.

Surely it wouldn’t all be songs and praises? Well, a 500-mile round trip from Cardiff to York would be a perfect opportunity to uncover any underlying issues. Cabin space was plentiful – ample room sat behind me with the driver’s seat set for my 5’11” frame. My size 11 shoes, on the other hand, highlighted my first cause for concern.

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The lack of a dedicated clutch foot rest was somewhat unpleasant for a premium car whose aim is to tackle the big Germans, but more upsetting was the lack of space to the left of the clutch pedal to slide your foot down to rest on longer journeys.

Unlike some cars that I’ve driven, cruise control continued to operate even when interrupted with a gear change, and the handy lane departure warning system didn’t make a fool of me either, gently tugging me back into the lane with just a flash on the dashboard – no audible bong. It’s a shame the speed limit detection system struggled to detect variable motorway speed limits, and couldn’t recognise that a 20 mph school zone was only operational under flashing lights.

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All cars get 17-inch alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, keyless start, a 7-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, automatic lights, an electric parking brake and flush fitting door handles, which I found to be temperamental on just a handful of occasions. The range kicks off with Elegance at £21,555.

Performance Line adds DS 3D LED tail lights and rear tinted windows among other things, while Prestige gains front parking sensors and an upgraded 10-inch touchscreen. Ultra Prestige sits at the top with 18-inch alloys, a fully keyless experience, a headup display and DS Matrix LED Vision headlights. For a limited time there is also a La Première first edition with DS’ top quality signature watch strap Nappa leather upholstery and the full suite of active and passive safety tech.

Steering is light, clearly set up for town driving, but maybe a little too airy to inspire confidence for any sudden moves, while the relatively tall stature inevitably causes some body roll in the corners. The suspension did an absolutely tremendous job of ironing out the Welsh lanes, but the same can’t be said for the 17-inch alloys which seemed to counteract the engineers’ great work. The narrow, letterbox-style rear window took a bit of getting used to, but the sensors around the car mostly made up for what I was lacking with my own eyes. The bizarre shark fins towards the front of the rear doors did prove to be an obstruction at junctions, though.

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It takes its styling cues from its bigger brother, the 7 Crossback, forging what seems to be a predominantly SUV/CUV route for DS. Up front we see a large hexagonal grille and thin LED daytime running light strips, while the car sits on a range of large and stylish alloy wheels. Despite the stand-out exterior, it was the interior that raked me in the most positive comments, with an avant-garde dash layout designed specifically for the latest range of DS cars.

A great step up in quality from the old DS 3 which borrowed from most of Citroen’s parts catalogue, although the touch-sensitive buttons didn’t provide any feedback and at times were distracting to use. Despite only having one reversing camera, the wide-angle lens and high-tech processing paint a simulated 360-degree camera as you reverse, making it easy to back into a tight parking space as if you’re being watched from above.

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When I realised it was the most breathless petrol engine I would be having, I must say I was a bit disheartened, particularly coming from a torquey diesel background, but nonetheless I fell in love with the PureTech 100. Torque figures of 205 Nm combined with the light weight of the car gave it a tremendous amount of in-town pull, and more than enough to hold itself in the outside lane too.

It’s still not a diesel, but it’s certainly an easy transition to make for those moving away from diesel. If I were being really picky, I would comment on the gearbox whine, and the fact that you have to manually pull out an arm to hold up the bonnet which is not something I would expect of a premium car.

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My time with the 3 Crossback saw me travel more than 600 miles at an average of 43 mpg, just slightly under DS’ claimed figures. The same 1.2-litre 3-cylinder petrol engine comes with two further outputs of 130 and 155 hp, while a 1.5-litre 100 hp diesel is also offered, but unless you’re looking for a decent amount of performance, I would stick to the cheapest petrol option.

Both 100 hp engines are mated to a 6-speed manual transmission, whereas the higher-powered petrols get an 8-speed automatic which may sway a small proportion of buyers. Whichever engine you opt for, DS claims in excess of 40 mpg, so it just comes down to the added cost of the engine and a slight difference in car taxation.

Great news for those looking to step away from ICE (internal combustion engines) is that DS has opened its reservation books for the 3 Crossback E-TENSE, a £32,350 all-electric version set to achieve a 186-mile range under more lifelike testing, with a 50 kWh battery producing 136 hp and 260 Nm, very similar stats to the PureTech 130 engine.

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DS will boast about its 5-star Euro NCAP rating, but after a quick dig I discovered the test was done with all the optional safety kit included. The standard car won just 4 stars, unlike its rivals who got 5 stars as standard, including the Lexus UX, SEAT Arona, Audi Q2 and BMW X2.

All in all, the DS 3 Crossback makes for an extremely promising model in DS’ second generation of cars. Maybe the brand can now gain traction to build credibility as a premium manufacturer to take on some of the higher end German competition, and stripped from all badges, the 3 Crossback would easily climb to the top of the tree among its rivals in my eyes, but unfortunately the demand just isn’t out there for a premium French car.

It may be £1,000 cheaper than the Audi Q2, but it’s also £1,500 more expensive than the VW T-Roc, placing it somewhat high among its competition. Financially, I’m not convinced this car is the strongest option in its class, but it’s most definitely a head and heart car. If you’re like me, you may have disregarded the DS 3

Crossback on paper, but please strongly consider the car if you’re in the market, it certainly deserves a good chance and won’t fail to impress given its current competition.

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