What is it?
It was the DS 3 that helped to signal the start of ‘DS’ as a standalone brand away from Citroen. Not to be confused with the DS 3 hatchback that came before it, the DS 3 Crossback was a cool, different, compact SUV.
It’s never been a big seller but is the firm’s most affordable and popular model, and remains important – especially the electric E-Tense model, which was introduced in 2020. The DS line-up has expanded since to include the ‘4’ hatch and ‘9’ saloon, but DS hasn’t forgotten about the 3, either, which is back with a number of updates for 2023.
The first thing to note is that the ‘Crossback’ part of the name has been dropped – as it has been on the larger DS 7, a true sign that SUVs are becoming the norm, rather than the exception.
After this, the main change is the addition of a new electric powertrain for the E-Tense model – bringing a larger battery and more power than the previous setup, which was often criticised for its efficiency. It’s the first Stellantis group product (of which DS is part) to use it, too.
What’s under the bonnet?
While you can still get a DS 3 with a petrol engine under the bonnet as well, here we’re trying the electric E-Tense model. Power has increased from 134bhp to 153bhp, though the slightly larger battery negates any performance benefit – 0-60mph comes along in 8.8 seconds, and the top speed is capped at 93mph.
While the battery is only marginally bigger on paper (46.3kWh to 50.8kWh, usable capacity), various other changes have brought a significant improvement to the real-world range. Previously, you’d struggle to get more than 160 miles out of it, but now it’s more like 220 miles, and close to the 250 that DS claims.
What’s it like to drive?
Refinement is the DS 3’s greatest strength, as it is quite hushed on the move, but generally behind the wheel, it’s a car that doesn’t shine in any real area. The ride quality isn’t as good as it could be, and certainly not up to Citroen’s levels. It never feels all that settled, and can be quite fidgety around town.
The DS 3 also doesn’t quite have the instant ‘kick’ that other EVs offer when you put your foot down– it can feel a touch leisurely in the normal driving settings, so ‘Sport’, which makes quite a difference, is preferable if you want to perform an overtake. While the DS 3 never feels sporty, the handling isn’t bad and the body roll is largely well-controlled. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is especially pleasant to use too.
How does it look?
Given the multitude of compact crossovers on the market, it can be quite hard to stand out from the crowd in this class. But the DS 3 certainly succeeds. There are some great design details on it, from the flush pop-out door handles to its large vertical LED front daytime running lights.
You’d be hard-pressed to spot the changes as part of the update, but there’s a redesigned grille, new wheel designs and a new gloss black strip at the rear. All small changes, but welcome nonetheless. DS has also been working for a decade to come up with the Diva Red paint colour you see here, so you best make sure it’s clean all the time!
What’s it like inside?
If you’ve never been in a DS product before, negotiating the cabin can be a bit of a minefield. There are buttons all over the place, and often not in the places you’d expect (electric window switches in the centre, for example). But once you get used to the layout, you realise it’s quite a smart interior, with plenty of high-quality materials used throughout, It certainly feels a cut above more mainstream cars in this class.
The ‘diamond’ buttons in the dashboard look cool but are fiddly to use, however, and can require several hard presses to work. It’s a case of style over sustance. The same applies to the bodywork kink into the side windows. They look cool, but make the back seats feel claustrophobic.
What’s the spec like?
Regardless of the DS 3 you choose, there’s a decent level of equipment, with a large 10.3-inch touchscreen, black Alcantara interior and climate control included on the Performance Line model. A ‘Plus’ trim adds keyless entry and black 18-inch alloy wheels,
Moving up the ranks, the Rivoli brings a full leather interior and additional chrome, while the flagship Opera is packed full of equipment, such as electric, heated and massaging front seats and a head-up display.
The trouble is, the DS 3 doesn’t come cheap, especially the electric E-Tense model, which starts from £37,200 – a few thousand more than what you’d pay for the Peugeot e-2008. In top-spec Opera trim, in a good colour and with optional Matrix LED lights, it will set you back an eye-watering £45,000 for something not a lot bigger than the average supermini.
On the surface, the changes to the DS 3 might not seem significant, but the improvements to this EV’s powertrain and range really are impressive. It’s given this electric crossover a far more usable and reliable electric range, while small tweaks to the styling have helped to keep it looking fresh.
The interior of the DS 3 continues to feel a cut above the rest too. But like before, this crossover is stung in the tail by what it costs and its limited practicality. The price puts it directly in the firing line of far larger electric SUVs, such as the Skoda Enyaq iV, and in that company, it starts to struggle.