Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto Trader
DS used to be the luxury arm of Citroen, in the way that Lexus is the luxury arm of Toyota, or the now-defunct Infiniti was to Nissan. But in 2014, the powers in Paris decided DS should go it alone, with no Citroen badges on its cars. While the cars under the skin remain the same, the skin itself is very much changed, with different styling inside and out, and a focus on luxury materials, colours, lighting and design.
So here’s the dinky DS3 Crossback – the lovechild of a city hatchback and a tiny SUV.
What a great looking car: ours was painted a jewel-like amber, with an intricate headlight design, large glitzy grill, swirling body work and smart small tail lights.
Inside, the diamond theme that’s at the heart of DS design is everywhere: on buttons for the phone and satnav, as well as the air vents and window switches.
Perhaps the best design is the seats, which come with leather cut and stitched to resemble links in a watch chain.
Our test car was the Opera specification: continuing the Paris theme, there are also Bastille, Rivoli and Montmatre versions. It just oozes French elan, which makes it pleasingly different from the usual German and Japanese offerings.
So strong is DS’s focus on style above, some might say, substance, that this car split opinion like no other: What Car? website gave it 2/5 while Top Gear gave it 7/10.
As DS is the premium face of French car making, you get a lot of kit for the standard price: keyless entry and door handles that pop out of the bodywork, rear parking sensors, emergency braking, lane-keep assist, hill start assist, electrically folding door mirrors and a 7in touchscreen that shows Apple CarPlay as well as Blueooth connectivity.
You can pay for wireless phone charging, a head-up display, front parking sensors and better audio.
DS might be a separate brand for marketing purposes, but underneath the skin lies a Citroen, from a brand which has “Comfort” as its primary selling point this year. The DS3 Crossback is a small but beautifully formed little package, with comfy seats, and room for four adults although not if they’re all over six foot. But there seems to be an uncanny amount of leg space for such a neat little package, and there’s a good feeling of light and space from all the glass. Our driver’s seat had a massage function and was heated, which seems a sumptuous extravagance for a city car, but much welcomed.
This is a small city car with a 1.2-litre petrol engine producing 155 horsepower, and 0-62mph in eight seconds, which isn’t a bad trade off – we’ve just tested the VW Polo with 80 horsepower which really is too little, whereas you don’t have to worry about getting stuck on the outside lane while overtaking uphill in the DS3.
Our car had an eight-speed automatic which doesn’t feel right in a cheeky, fun, small car, but on the other hand, in stop-start urban traffic jams, the lack of a clutch is a blessing.
You’ll get about 45mpg from the DS3 Crossback, which is a good return for a petrol car these days.
At £32,455 for our DS3 Crossback, it’s expensive for the body shape: if you simply want a small, comfy car for round town, we’d go for a VW T-Cross, Audi Q2 or even a Mini. But they’re all very common sights round town these days, and there is something deeply loveable, and timeless, about premium French cars, where all the care and attention has blatantly gone into the styling.
Nothing wrong with wanting to look pretty, after all.