Well it comes as little surprise that it’s extremely fast. The breathy, excitable 1.6-litre litre turbocharged engine responds like it’s in an awful hurry when you prod the accelerator even a fraction. Press even harder and you’ll find yourself welded to the back of the seat with a view of the passing countryside extremely fleeting. Maximum power of 204bhp is delivered at 6,000rpm but, more importantly, it’s the low-down torque that does erm… all the talking.
Peak torque of 275Nm arrives at 2,000rpm and it’ll still keep pulling at that level right up to 4,500rpm. The turbocharger is clearly putting in a decent shift, and because of that the Racing’s power delivery feels almost diesel-like. The stats tell a decent story: 0-62mph takes 6.5 seconds, which is on par with a MINI John Cooper Works and 0.2 seconds quicker than the Renaultsport Clio.
What the stats don’t tell is that you do get a monumental amount of grunt pretty much as soon as you have changed gear and it’s like that all the time until you choose to back off. It’s not an ugly power delivery: you do get a big dollop of pull early on but it soon smoothes out because the maximum torque is working through a wide rev range. It’s satisfying, that’s for sure, but you do have to have your wits about you when driving this car.
The reason you have to have your wits about you is that the DS3 Racing has massive amounts of torquesteer. Essentially, it means that the steering wheel will tug you off-line when you apply the power. Other high-performance hatchbacks have suffered the same problem – the Ford Focus RS for example – but the levels of steering tug generated by the power delivery on the DS3 is in a different league and it does become tiresome after a while.
You have to grip hard on the wheel and keep concentrating if you are accelerating rapidly because if you don’t you’ll find yourself heading for the scenery. This might be okay for those who really like a bit of excitement from their hot hatch, but you can’t relax for a second if you are driving with any kind of verve. Apart from that the DS3 is still pretty entertaining to drive: it delivers huge amounts of grip – in the dry – but it can be pretty hairy in the wet.
Like pretty much every front-wheel-drive car on the market, the nose does have a tendency to push straight ahead, or understeer, if you enter a tight corner or roundabout very quickly, but it will tuck in nicely if you lift off the throttle a little. The steering feels direct but it is quite light which has served to over-emphasise the torquesteer mentioned earlier.
Elsewhere, it’s all good: the brakes have fantastic stopping power and the six-speed manual gearshift is slick and satisfying to use.