FRESH, fun and with a larger scope for personalisation to truly make it your own, the pepped up Citroen DS3 now also offers a zippier ride, more grunt and an enviable inclusions list. But it comes at a hefty price, starting from just under $34,000.
The range has also been simplified to just the Citroen DS3 DSport, with both the hard top and Cabrio versions sporting a new 1.6-litre engine paired with a competent six-speed manual gearbox.
We put the new offerings to the test around Mount Glorious and Nebo and then at the Kingsway go-kart track under the expert tutelage of the Citroen rally team and found them to be a surprisingly delightful drive.
French flair meets practicality for an interior that is markedly different from the crowd. The high-mounted dash wears an upmarket lacquered finish and allows for extra leg room, while thought has been put into the layout of controls and placement of buttons.
The latter are fun and funky too with a quirky design that makes the DS3 stand out from the mundane.
The overall feeling is one of comfort and style with supportive leather and fabric seats and a relaxed seating position. This DS3 may be touted as a five-seater but you will struggle to that end with the back seat - as in all small cars - better suited to two children.
The boot, at 285-litres, is best in class and easily increased courtesy of the 60:40 one-touch drop rear seat. The Cabrio's boot opening is a bit restrictive but not too much.
Cabin storage, though, is a tad on the light side. A single shallow cup holder in front of the gear stick is unusable for its intended purpose and I for one would struggle to hold a cup of coffee in my hand and change gears at the same time.
On the road
Citroen have certainly found the mark here with this new 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine with so much more real-world punch than its predecessor.
But it is the improved torque delivery, with a flat curve from 1400rpm to 4000rpm, which makes the greatest difference pushing the DS3 along at a lively pace and allowing it to make light work of steep climbs with only the odd change in gear.
This very warm hatch offers up a responsive, pleasurable ride, showing off the driving dynamics, excellent balance and mid-corner grip which have made Citroen so formidable on the World Rally circuit.
The DS3 can get the adrenaline going, it's not too fast but responsive enough to keep you honest.
Compact and confident, it drifts in and out of corners with ease, not a smidgen of understeer, tracking true even on uneven surfaces.
The brakes are up to the task, too, with no fade despite some hard driving. Gear changes are smooth and effective but the clutch takes quite high which can be a little annoying, especially stuck in city traffic where the DS3 will likely ply most of its trade.
What do you get?
An excellent inclusions package is the thinking behind the price of this warm hatch, with Citroen offering all the bells and whistles as standard.
You can expect sat-nav, reverse camera with parking sensors, Bluetooth streaming, 17.7cm touch-screen infotainment system, seven-speaker stereo with sub-woofer, auto headlights and wipers, cruise control and climate control. The safety suite includes six airbags, ABS with EBD, traction and stability control and of course the new Active City Brake.
Citroen cites a combined average of 5.6 litres/100km, down from 6L/100km in the last model. There is a mind-settling six-year unlimited kilometre warranty on offer, as well as fixed-price servicing and roadside assist for the same period.
The Ford Fiesta ST (from $25,990), VW Polo GTI (from $29,990), Renault Clio RS (from $29,290), and Peugeot 208 GTi (from $29,990) are natural competitors for the DS3 DSport, but Citroen is looking to more premium models like the Audi A1 1.4TFSI (from $32,250), Mini Cooper S (from $36,950) and Alfa MiTo (from $30,500).
The addition of the Active City Brake is a great plus, especially since the DS3 is likely to spend most of its time in city traffic.
The brake works automatically at speeds up to 31kmh to help prevent forward collisions. Individuality is the key to this warm hatch and the roof, exterior, interior and mirrors can be styled to your taste with up to 200 different colour combinations. The roof, too, can open and close on the fly (120kmh) which is handy when you change your mind.
The sat-nav is not as good as the systems available in premium competitors and while the DS3 delivers a fun, zippy drive it is available, for now, with a manual transmission only which may be off putting for some potential buyers.
The DS3 avoids the sameness we see in so many small cars these days with an exterior that conveys its European heritage. This edition gets trendy new headlights and wheels, which combine with a floating roof, sweeping B-pillars and a wide sporty stance for a unique but head-turning look.
The DS3 DSport mixes a fun, engaging drive with good looks and French style in a car that will surprise even stern detractors. But at $33,990, the stumbling block for Citroen will be the price.
What matters most
What we liked: Engaging, fun drive, funky styling, great inclusions, good warranty.
What we'd like to see: Auto option, lower clutch take, a proper cup-holder.
Warranty and servicing: Six-year unlimited kilometre warranty with six years capped-price servicing and roadside assist. Average service price is $515, intervals are annual or 15,000km.
Model: Citroen DS3 DSport.
Details: Three-door front-wheel drive small warm hatch.
Engines: 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 121kW @ 6000rpm and peak torque of 214Nm @ 1400-4000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual.
Consumption: 5.6 litres/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 7.5 seconds.
Bottom line plus on roads: $33,990, Cabrio $36,590.
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