THE quirky Citroen DS3 DStyle finally gets the drivetrain it deserves in the form of PSA’s 1.2-litre turbocharged triple with six-speed auto.
WHAT IS IT?
A drivetrain refresh for Citroen’s sporty mid-level three-door, bringing it into line with Peugeot’s soon-to-be-updated 208 hatch that will also gain PSA’s new 1.2 turbo triple instead of the old 1.6-litre atmo four which, in automatic form, was blighted by an ancient and inefficient four-speed.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Despite the fact Citroen is unlikely to launch the DS3 with this new drivetrain in Australia until the car gets properly DS-ified in early 2016, we wanted to see just how improved the DS3 would be with the brilliant ‘Pure Tech’ three-cylinder turbo engine.
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THE WHEELS VERDICT
If priced right when it arrives here as the DS 3 DStyle in early 2016, this repowered and refreshed French three-door will be a genuine alternative to a base Mini or Audi A1 – especially if Citroen is brave enough to offer a manual-transmission version with an even sharper entry sticker. Likeable as the DS 3 is, especially with its charming new engine, its success hinges on being cheaper and better value than its German competition.
PLUS: Elegant drivetrain; still-funky looks; impressive ride and poised handling
MINUS: Cheap interior materials not up to Audi A1 standards; needs to be priced under $30K
THE WHEELS REVIEW
HALF of all the first-generation DS3s sold in this country were automatics. Yet, when Citroen Australia learned the recently facelifted model retained the ancient four-speeder, it decided to wait, knowing that a six-speeder was in the pipeline.
Shrewd decision. The new automatic brings essentially the same seamless PSA turbo-triple drivetrain (here with 82kW, not 96kW) that so impressed the Wheels’ COTY judges in the Peugeot 308. Consider fuel consumption: the old 88kW 1.6-litre four-speed auto delivered 6.7L/100km, while the new 1.2-litre turbo – on sale early in 2016 at $30K – slashes this to 4.7L/100, with a 28 percent reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions. And, despite the lower power output, rips a full second from the zero to 100km/h time to 9.9sec.
Now the question is: does Citroen wait for another restyle, that transforms the DS3 from a Citroen to the new DS brand, or launch it as an entry-level Citroen? We know the transformation of the DS4 happens at the Frankfurt show in September, and it’s logical for the revised DS3 to arrive at the same time. At the moment, however, nobody is saying.
Citroen Australia wants to launch the DS as a brand with as many models as possible – ideally DS 3, 4 and 5 – early next year and, given the inevitability of the switch, it makes no sense to introduce the DS3 auto as a Citroen, then a couple of months later relaunch it as a DS.
Enough of that. Want to know how it drives?
The new EAT6 tranny, made by Aisin, is a huge improvement over the old ‘box, offering 40 percent quicker (and far more fluent) shifts to really exploit the turbo-triple’s broad spread of power with maximum torque kicking in at only 1500rpm. A sports setting sharpens responses, though there are no steering wheel paddles to enhance the fun.
The handling remains agile and entertaining with tight body control, while the steering is quick and precise, with decent feedback and even a hint of old fashioned, front-wheel-drive tuck-in if you lift off through a corner. The ride, too, is impressive given the quality of the handling. Go for the smallest wheels possible, unless you enjoy tyre roar.
You sit a long way back from the windscreen and the pedals are offset, which makes the DS3’s driving position feel slightly awkward. The dashboard layout is user-friendly, though the steering-column-mounted controls for the stereo and cruise control are hidden behind the wheel.
Compared with younger rivals like Audi’s A1 and Mini Cooper, the DS3 is beginning to reveal its five-year age in the quality of its interior materials and design. However, adding a decent automatic, combined with the delights of PSA’s wondrous triple, adds a new dimension to the DS3’s appeal and easily extends the model’s lifecycle until the new-generation car arrives, as expected, in 2018.
Model: Citroen DS3 DStyle auto
Engine: 1199cc 3cyl, dohc, 12v, turbo
Max power: 82kW @ 5500rpm
Max torque: 205Nm @ 1500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 9.9sec (claimed)
Economy: 4.7L/100km (EU combined)
Price: $30,000 (estimated)
On sale: Early 2016