2015 Citroen DS3 Racing drive

Citroen DS3R

This proper Citroen hot-hatch, tuned by its Racing division and brimming with World Rally DNA, has a chance of making it to Oz

The ultimate version of Citroen’s likeable DS3, in much the same vein as a GTi 30 is to a Peugeot 208. It shares the Pug’s drivetrain, but thanks to Citroen’s own styling and tuning, has a character of its own.

An opportunity to drive it alongside the re-engineered 1.2-litre turbo-triple DS3 proved just how much potential this funky little French hatch has. With real personality and genuine performance, the DS3 Racing is begging for a berth in Australia, to compete with the Mini Cooper S.

Alfa Romeo Mito QV, Audi A1 1.8TFSI S-Line, Fiat 500 Abarth Competizione, Mini Cooper S, Peugeot 208 GTi 30, Renaultsport Clio 200 Cup Premium.

PLUS: Obvious rally breeding reinforces DS3’s driving appeal
MINUS: Not yet confirmed for Oz; needs sharper pricing

Another fine example of France’s ability to create an inspired driver’s hot hatch, with great styling and uniqueness to boot. But the DS3 Racing is a ballsy Clio and 208 rival, not a Golf GTI competitor, and needs to be priced accordingly. Given the quality of its driving experience, the DS3 Racing deserves half a chance.

To the long list of great road cars developed from World Rally Championship winners – Subaru Impreza WRX, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, Lancia Delta Integrale, Audi Quattro et al – please add Citroen’s DS3 Racing. Drive the regular 121kW DS3 DSport and the potential is immediately obvious, nothing that a serious power boost wouldn’t enhance.

Citroen Racing, which takes the DS3 from the assembly line to add its magic tweaks, adds the 149kW/275Nm version of the 1.6-litre direct-injection turbo engine common to the Peugeot 208 GTi. The suspension is 20mm lower than standard, stiffened and re-damped, the power-steering re-mapped, the front brakes are larger and get four-piston Brembo calipers, and gorgeous 18-inch alloys wearing 215/40R18 Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tyres, push the tracks 30mm wider. The Racing also gets a unique stability-control tune that sets out to keep intervention off for as long as possible.

Exotic looks help. To the DS3’s chunky body the Racing adds real carbonfibre wheelarch extensions, front splitter and rear diffuser, while the interior feels special with deep, supportive buckets and more carbonfibre. Only the cheap add-on red stripe on the dash (and bodysides) and some hard plastics let it down.

Two distinctive exterior colour combinations are offered: black with an orange roof, and white with a grey roof, plus plenty of Citroën Racing branding.

One hundred metres at the wheel is all you need to know that the DS3 Racing is the real thing. Firm, controlled damping that still manages to knock the edges off the worst bumps; an intense hit of torque and swift rush to the 6500rpm cut-out; sharp steering with just a hint of torque steer; and instantly positive brakes without any dead travel.

Its 6.5sec 0-100km/h claim is in Golf GTI territory though a mechanical limited-slip diff would help in wet conditions, yet it has masses of easy to access performance, especially at the top end, and the way all the controls work in unison tells you Citroen Racing understands.

The gearshift is lightweight and a little loose, yet works brilliantly the faster you shift. Turn, lift and the DS3 Racing sticks; go in too fast, hit the brakes and it still sticks. Simple and effective. A hint of understeer is there as a sign that you’re closing in on maximum grip. Try harder, really hard, in second or third and you can provoke a neat and controllable Sebastien Loeb slide.

The DS3 Racing is another marvellous and exhilarating French hot hatch. Perhaps, to help justify a price that is probably in the region of $43K, Citroen should sell a limited number (say 50) badged in honour of nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb.

Model: Citroen DS3 Racing
Engine: 1598cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 149kW @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 275Nm @ 4500rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Weight: 1165kg
0-100km/h: 6.5sec (claimed)
Economy: 6.4L/100 (EU combined)
Price: $43,000 (estimated)
On sale: Not confirmed for Oz

So, will it come to Australia?

Whenever Citroen Australia asked Paris about the DS3 Racing, it was told “No Chance”. The reasons are vague: the French blamed our poor-quality petrol and high ambient temperatures. Except essentially the same drivetrain is sold here in the Peugeot 208 GTi 30 and 308 GT, plus the previous-gen Mini Cooper S. Pushed, the Racing’s project leader told Wheels: “There is no problem for Australia to get this car.” The question now is when? The sooner the better, please!

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