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Citroen DS3

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Citroen DS3 is stylish, well-equipped and luxurious. Patterned carpets, coloured seat inlays and dashes of chrome add to the overall upmarket feel.

It has been some time since Mini could claim to have the market cornered for trendy city cars boasting both style and substance, but the fashionable high-streets currently dominated by the ever-expanding Mini range, the Alfa Romeo Mito and the smaller but all-conquering Fiat 500 are about to become even more lively with the arrival of the Citroen DS3.

When a production model resembles its concept predecessor so closely it is a sure sign that the manufacturer is about to try something new. With the C3 updated for the new decade and the recent arrival of the practical but creatively styled C3 Picasso taking care of the volume compact hatchback and compact MPV sector, the DS3 is a new attempt to break into the premium compact hatchback sector with a stylish, well-equipped and generally more luxurious model.

At first glance, Citroen appears to have cracked it. There are bold styling gestures that may or may not be immediately liked and that may or may not grow on car-buyers over time, but as a package the DS3 is every bit as attractive and arguably more forward thinking in its design than its rivals.

Unlike some of the competition the DS3 is not a modern take on past glories. Attempting to be a design classic in its own right, the model can hardly be accused of trading on its name either. Car historians and Citroen fanatics may raise an eyebrow at the rekindling of the DS moniker, but the French manufacturer is not claiming the DS3 is a modern interpretation of the fifties style icon. The DS4 and DS5 models that will follow shortly will make no such claims, either.

The intention of the DS sub (or uber) brand is visible in the lack of Citroen chevrons on the rear. A special DS badge takes their place, marking the DS line-up out as a range in its own right. That said, the visual similarities to the Citroen C3 are present inside and out, but DS3 customers can expect a far greater degree of customisation from their cars. Citroen has retooled its factory especially to deal with two-tone bodywork and roof decals of the DS3.

The basic layout of the DS3 interior is familiar from the standard new C3, but there are more than enough additions to make the luxury model feel just that. Dashboards can be specified in a range of colours and shapely interior panels are soft to touch and lined with more exuberant materials. Patterned carpets, coloured seat inlays and dashes of chrome add to the upmarket feel. Recessed dials are complimented with internally lit needles that jump into life when the engine starts.

With the range-topping 154bhp turbocharged petrol engine drivers will also be met with an appealing, sporty exhaust note. The engine, the result of a partnership between Peugeot, Citroen and BMW proves well suited to the DS3 in 150 THP form, making the car feel far keener than the Citroen C3.

The crisp gear change and responsive, well-weighted steering help, too. The suspension is firm and the DS3 can be chucked into bends with confidence, but it’s also damped to deal with rougher surfaces even on the DSport model’s 17-inch wheels. As a compromise between city driving and the open road it’s hard to fault.

The DS3 shouldn’t prove a struggle to live with, either. The boot is very accommodating and, while the three-door body naturally restricts access to the rear, it will suit for two adult over shorter journeys.

The chunky B-pillar may spoil their view somewhat, but visibility from the driver’s seat is very good and the front passenger benefits from a recessed glove compartment that allows extra legroom.

Three trim levels - DSport, DStyle, DSign - are available dependant on engine choice and there are enough customisation opportunities to give the DS3 a truly bespoke feel. A 99g/km CO2 emitting model should also attract attention from fashionable city car fans. Tax-free status could be as appealing as the floating roof and LED running lamps.

It is more than adequately equipped to tackle the competitive but lucrative premium small car segment in the styling stakes, but the DS3’s enjoyable driving experience and neat packaging give it more than just high street chic.