DS 3 - which version should you buy?

  • Plenty of options to choose, and that's before you pick a roof
  • We examine the engines and trim levels
  • Our favourite combination revealed

The DS 3 is one of the most popular cars of its size. It’s a rival to the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and MINI hatchback but offers a different slant on proceedings. Where those models lean heavily on heritage for both design and marketing purposes, the DS happily proclaims itself avant garde.

It’s this forward-facing take on the supermini that has enthralled many a fashion-conscious car buyer, with specification and styling geared towards those who value chic over just cheap.

As the premium wing of the Peugeot-Citroen Alliance (known internally as PSA), the DS brand is a fledgling marque in the UK, where its cars – the 3 along with the 4 and 5 – were until recently labelled as Citroens.

Raising the roof issue

There are two versions of the DS 3 available: the regular tin-top and the DS 3 Cabrio, which features a customisable fabric roof that retracts in 16 seconds at road speeds of up to 74mph. You can have the fabric in four finishes, but the trade-off is in both price (you’ll pay £2,300 more for the equivalent Cabrio) and boot space - you drop 40 litres from the hatchback’s 285-litre load area.

DS 3 Cabrio

It gets worse too, because the convertible’s boot opening is a very odd shape. You’ll be able to post a shoebox in there, but you’ll struggle with a decent set of golf clubs.

Since there’s no driving penalty for picking the Cabrio, ultimately which roof option you pick is up to you, but considering the style-conscious demographic this car sells to, we’d suggest the drop-top is probably the more compelling model for most as long as you can justify the price premium.

Engine and gearbox dilemma

On the DS 3 a petrol engine is definitely the way to go. Diesel power is costlier to run unless you’re doing serious mileage, in which case the 3’s ride quality would be as much of an issue as the fuel bills.

Thankfully there’s a good range of options, including one star performer. By far our favourite engine in the range is the award-winning PureTech. This turbocharged three-cylinder 1.2 is brilliant, with a rev-happy nature and an eager and characterful noise.

In this case it’s available in three power outputs – 80bhp, 108bhp and 128bhp – but we think the latter is the best version to drive. It’ll cover 0-62mph in 8.6 seconds with a top speed of 127mph, yet with fuel economy a claimed 62mpg and CO2 output at 105g/km, it’s not going to cost the earth in fuel or VED tax either. Have your cake, and indeed eat it.

While the THP 165 engine does have a little more performance on paper, it doesn’t drive as well in the DS 3. It’s heavier, which affects the handling, and doesn’t sound anywhere near as interesting, plus it’s worse on fuel and CO2 emissions.

There are two gearboxes on offer in the DS 3 range, but only one worthy of consideration. The firm’s manual six-speed is a lovely thing to use, so unless you need an automatic, that’s the one we’d pick.

Picking the trim level

There are six trims on offer here – Chic, Elegance, Prestige, Ultra Prestige, Performance and Performance Black, in that order – but even base-spec cars get a decent amount of kit.

Features such as the seven-inch touchscreen are standard, and this features MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay so if your smartphone has mapping, you’ve got sat-nav too. Another advantage our road test team advises taking up on here is the smaller alloy wheels, which have fatter tyres and go some way to softening the firm ride that the DS 3 suffers from.

DS 3 wheel

However, we’d plump for the £1,100 more expensive Elegance specification. This will net you automatic air-con, rear parking sensors, sports seats in a smart cloth trim and alloy wheels in a different design. This adds more of a premium feel to the 3, but without any unnecessary frippery such as front parking sensors and sat-nav (you’ve already got that, don’t forget) from higher-spec Prestige.

What about the DS 3 Performance?

This is a model we haven’t driven at time of publication, but are expecting to very soon. With a more powerful version of the THP petrol engine (with 208bhp) along with better brakes, lower suspension and a limited-slip differential for better traction out of corners. It’s unlikely to be our pick of the range, however, simply because it’s so much more expensive, with prices starting at £20,495.

Verdict

Looks like we’ve found ourselves a clear winner here: it’s the DS 3 Cabrio 1.2 PureTech Elegance. Obviously it’s up to you whether you want a convertible or the bigger boot with the few grand saved for a rainy day, but in our minds this model represents the best of the 3 line-up. It’ll cost you £19,195.

Read more about this particular version of the DS 3 by clicking here.