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Driven: DS 3 Crossback. Image by DS Automobiles UK.

Driven: DS 3 Crossback
The DS 7 Crossback looked to herald a new dawn for its maker. Can the DS 3 CB continue the good work?

 



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DS 3 Crossback Presitge PureTech 155 Auto

3 3 3 3 3

Good points: interior for a diamond fetishist, strong engine, surprisingly spry handling, something a bit different, nice styling at the back

Not so good: way too pricey, not comfortable enough, cramped in the rear, small boot, weird front-end looks

Key Facts

Model tested: DS 3 Crossback Prestige PureTech 155 Auto
Price: DS 3 Crossback range from 22,120; Prestige PureTech 155 Auto from 29,455, car as tested 30,405
Engine: 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: eight-speed EAT8 automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door crossover
CO2 emissions: 128g/km (VED Band 111-130: 170 in year one, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 41.7-46.6mpg (WLTP figures)
Top speed: 129mph
0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
Power: 155hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 240Nm at 1,750-2,000rpm
Boot space: 350-1,050 litres

Our view:

We, as an outlet, view the output of the modern DS Automobiles branch of the massive PSA group in one of two ways. If you're talking about the 'first wave' cars, which started life as Citroens and then had their double-chevrons levered off sometime in 2014, then we're less than impressed - see either the DS 3 or DS 5 for full details, and don't even mention the DS 4 Crossback, thankyouplease.

But if you're talking about the 'second wave', things start to look a lot brighter, especially if you've sampled the elegant DS 7 Crossback, which is by a country mile the most convincing vehicle that the young French firm has cooked up yet. So here's its little brother, the DS 3 Crossback, tested for the first time in the UK following on from Dave's first drive of it at the international launch.

The model in question is a very high-trim Prestige Auto, with the newest 155hp derivation of the tried-and-tested 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine which the PSA Group calls PureTech. This specification largesse immediately brings us to our first major hurdle: the price. In the interests of journalistic fairness, it behoves us to say that the DS 3 range begins at a very reasonable 22,000 or thereabouts, for an Elegance-grade car. This isn't some loss-leading nonsense on steel wheels and with a flat-grey-cloth-weave interior that will only take one per cent of sales or anything, either, as it has 17-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, the Montmartre-themed cabin ambience and those funky, flush-fitting door handles like any other DS 3, among more. However, at the other end of the spectrum, the fully electric DS 3 E-Tense La Premiere is 510 shy of 40 grand. Which is just ludicrous.

Our car sits about bang in the middle and, really, a five-figure asking price that begins with a '3' is simply too much for what you get with this Crossback. Yes, the only cost-option extra on it was 950 pearlescent paint, and so things like automatic climate control, DS Connect 3D navigation on a ten-inch HD touchscreen, 17-inch 'Madrid' alloys and the Bastille leather upholstery are all part of an extensive standard kit list. Yet there's another grade above this called Ultra Prestige, which kicks off at 31,520, and these are just brain-muddling numbers to be talking about when you're discussing a five-year-old car company that's trying to challenge established premium players in a highly competitive marketplace. That you can get into a 300hp Audi SQ2 for significantly less than forty-large doesn't help matters in the slightest. Does the DS 3 Crossback Prestige 155 feel like a 30,000 car? Regrettably, we have to say it does not.

The next issue is the design. It's certainly not as easy on the eye as the big, graceful DS 7, although we will at least concede it's distinctive and a long way from boring to behold. We particularly like the way the DS 3 looks from the rear three-quarter view, for instance, as the styling at the back of the car is its best aspect. There are various other interesting little details, too, such as that odd B-pillar treatment (a direct nod to the once-was-a-Citroen old DS 3 that was a hatchback, not a crossover), which doesn't affect visibility too much for the driver (when looking over their shoulder for manoeuvring) but which does restrict light in the rear seats, and also the floating roof, and that big scallop dug out of the lower sections of the doors. But the Crossback's face just doesn't sit right with us. It seems too busy, there are too many conflicting details, it isn't as cohesive as the rest of the car. This is purely subjective, of course, but we think there will be plenty of other people who feel the same way as us about the DS 3's aesthetics.

Inside, diamonds. Diamonds, diamonds, everywhere. You cannot move for diamonds. The seats are diamond-stitched. The main infotainment/HVAC controls are clustered into three diamond formations, with a couple of diamond-shaped air vents beneath them for good measure. Don't be fooled by the 'square' outer air vents sequestered in the door cards clothed in a bizarre yellowy-green fabric, either, because they're just diamonds sitting on their sides. There are two smaller ancillary-button diamonds sitting below the central vents, the start/stop button has a curiously gem-like shape, the switches running either side of that crooked EAT8 gearlever have a crystalline appearance to them, the knurled dials on the steering wheel are, yes, patterned like one of the two red suits of a deck of cards (not hearts...), and all the graphics in the digital cluster take on forms that are reminiscent of what happens to pure carbon when you subject it to enough heat and pressure. Fair play to DS for picking a theme and running with it - running wild with it, perhaps - as it coerces you into thinking exactly the same thing we thought about the DS 7: diamonds are prestigious, expensive things. Therefore, this cabin must be a prestigious, expensive thing.

Shame the rear-seat space is cramped in the extreme, then. The primary cause for this is that the DS 3 is not a huge car on the outside (it's a shade more than 4.1 metres long), although some of its premium-tilting rivals in this compact crossover class aren't exactly capacious either. But when a four-year-old boy, who sits in a Recaro car seat, is struggling to get his legs comfy behind an average-height driver, you start to wonder whether adults who actually have lower limbs would ever want to sit in the second row of the Crossback. Similarly, a 350-litre boot wouldn't be anything clever on a supermini these days, never mind a supposedly-more-practical crossover, so the DS 3 is not winning any awards for packaging.

Nor is it for ride comfort. Supposedly, Citroen (and, by extension, DS too) is going for suspension to which you might apportion adjectives like 'pillowy' or 'cloud-like' or 'wafty'. The DS 7 convinced us of this shift, using its clever road-scanning camera hardware in Comfort mode. The DS 3 does not. You can option up 18-inch Monza alloys if you like, but we can tell you now that the ride comfort on the 17-inch rims is some yards off perfect. Too often the Crossback informs you of every little imperfection on the road surface when you want it to filter out the lumpiness of the tarmac, while it doesn't even settle down to a supple gait when it's steadily cruising along a motorway. Fair play to it for chucking in a 43.4mpg trip-computer showing when heading across the Pennines on the Woodhead Pass to Manchester, though, because that's not a route which is particularly conducive to stellar fuel economy. This isn't the first turbocharged three-cylinder petrol we've noticed recently that's capable of giving back decent parsimony, which is an encouraging trend, although a weekly average of 35.7mpg across 337 miles perhaps says more about what happens to the fuel-gauge needle if you start working the DS 3's 1.2-litre engine through the full rev range.

Now for some good news. While it might not be as comfortable as it should be, the suppression of wind and tyre noise is pretty damned good on the DS 3 Crossback, so it's not a chore to cover hundreds of miles at a time in it if you can live with the ride (we could; just). And the engine/gearbox are a great combination for just pottering about. Oh, and here's a surprise. This French crossover is amusingly sprightly to drive. You have to work that three-pot motor and the EAT8 fairly hard if you want to convince yourself you've actually got 155hp to play with, but when you do you'll find the DS 3 feels pretty quick. Quick, as in you might raise a quizzical brow and nod quietly in appreciation of the pace, rather than letting your eyes pop wide and various expletives to issue forth from your gob, but the Crossback is markedly lively. It sounds great too, that warbly trill of a three-cylinder always being more pleasing to listen to than a blown inline-four, yet the real pleasure is the chassis. The DS 3 can handle. Multilink rear suspension is the answer here, so you'll be impressed with the way the Crossback can hustle tidily through a few corners, feeling like a lower, lighter (it's only 1,316kg anyway) and more focused machine than it actually is. Good steering and a high level of body control are the factors which allow such sort of spirited progress, and we're pleased to discover them on a car which should, by rights, really be lolling about on its softly-softly suspension.

Therefore, we were not wholly disappointed with the DS 3 Crossback. It's certainly a better product than any of the First Wave DS models. But the overall mark here has to reflect everything about the crossover, and - as a Prestige 155 - its case is sadly scuppered by its high price, its slightly too-firm ride, its relative impracticality and the unresolved front-end styling. Go for a cheaper DS 3 and we'd be tempted to up the mark by half-a-star. Try and find one which rides a bit better, and we'd rate it even higher still. So while this 3 Crossback hasn't stalled the mini-revival of DS as a brand, it hasn't exactly propelled the Second Wave to all-new heights either. Let's see what the French company comes up with next, eh?

Alternatives:

Audi Q2: similarly tight in the rear, similarly capable of getting mighty expensive with options, similarly challenging in the looks department. But Audi is an established brand...

Fiat 500L: you could buy one of these instead. If you hate yourself, that is, or you're into self-flagellation. Otherwise, stick to the DS.

MINI Countryman: can be preposterously expensive but it's better packaged inside than the Crossback, while it's a strong, all-round-desirable sort of car.


Matt Robinson - 18 Oct 2019









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2019 DS 3 Crossback 155 PureTech Prestige UK test. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2019 DS 3 Crossback 155 PureTech Prestige UK test. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2019 DS 3 Crossback 155 PureTech Prestige UK test. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2019 DS 3 Crossback 155 PureTech Prestige UK test. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2019 DS 3 Crossback 155 PureTech Prestige UK test. Image by DS Automobiles UK.

2019 DS 3 Crossback 155 PureTech Prestige UK test. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2019 DS 3 Crossback 155 PureTech Prestige UK test. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2019 DS 3 Crossback 155 PureTech Prestige UK test. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2019 DS 3 Crossback 155 PureTech Prestige UK test. Image by DS Automobiles UK.2019 DS 3 Crossback 155 PureTech Prestige UK test. Image by DS Automobiles UK.








 

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