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Citroën DS3 Hatchback engines, drive and performance

2010 - 2015 (change model)
Performance rating: 4 out of 54.0

Written by David Ross Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

There’s a good choice of engines in the DS3 line-up, ranging from the super-economical to those with more performance. The three petrols were designed with BMW starting with the entry level 1.4 VTi with 95bhp – the same engine that powers the MINI One. It manages the 0-62mph sprint in 10.6 seconds and returns a useful 49mpg, so it’s certainly no poor relation to the rest of the range.

But more popular is the 1.6 VTi with 120bhp which is almost two seconds faster from 0-62mph yet just as economical. It is also the only engine available with an automatic, although the four-speed gearbox is hardly cutting edge. For Citroen DS3 performance got for the quickest engine: the excellent 1.6 THP which uses a turbocharger to boost power to 150bhp.

Thanks to plenty of low-down pulling power, the THP unit is very sprightly with strong performance across the rev range and 0-62mph takes just 7.3 seconds. It’s great for nipping in and out of city traffic with plenty of urgency, yet is quiet and refined at motorway speeds. Like the top diesel, it also comes with a slick six-speed manual gearbox which has a short and sporty shift.

There are two diesels available – both 1.6 HDi engines with either 90bhp or 110bhp. The 90bhp version is incredibly economical with fuel economy of 71mpg while this engine is also used in the low emissions version which emits 99g/km of CO2 (so is free to tax) and averages 74mpg. The top 110bhp HDi offers more pace with a 0-62mph time of 9.8 seconds (1.5 seconds quicker than the HDi 90) yet is still capable of 64mpg.

The DS3 is unlike any recent Citroen model in the way it handles and is a genuinely great car to drive. It has a similar feel to a MINI with minimal body roll in corners, responsive steering and plenty of grip. There’s even fairly decent feel through the steering, giving you confidence when driving more quickly on twisty roads – although it’s not especially involving.

However, it is adept in town thanks to good all round visibility and small dimensions, which help when parking in tight spots. It has firmer suspension than other Citroen cars but not at the expense of ride comfort and the DS3 does a good job of soaking up bumpy roads. Motorway speeds provide no problem either and it’s a relaxing long distance car with a refined feel.