Until we drove the Citroen DS3, we struggled to understand what the hype was all about.
Why did it appeal to footballers like Siboniso Gaxa and disc jockeys like Lady Lea?
Well, because they had a sponsorship by Citroen South Africa probably – but still, there had to be some allure, some reason the many young dames and dudes you see driving it, were inveigled in the first place.
It’s certainly refreshing how Citroen has given a one-finger farewell to the trend of modern day throwbacks; which is funky and has huge novelty as the Fiat 500 and Volkswagen New Beetle have proven, but is really over-done these days.
The hallowed DS name (an abbreviation for the French word, déesse, meaning “goddess”) has been revived and re-interpreted for the modern era. Citroen has dedicated the moniker to a whole line of striking, unique cars: the DS3, DS4 and DS5.
The DS3 is the baby of the bunch, squared against the likes of the Audi A1 and fashionably retro Mini Cooper.
While the Audi A1 is brilliant, if you want all the fancy aesthetic embellishments and technological goodies, you’re going to burn a hole in your wallet. Same goes for the Mini Cooper – they are built by BMW, remember, known for their expensive optional goodies.
Those are they typical choices, the status quo superminis. It seems that part of the DS3’s allure is its exclusivity and individuality.
We tested the HDI diesel derivative – something we only found out at the local Caltex, about to re-fuel – it’s really that quiet.
This 1.6-litre turbocharged diesel powerplant is a miracle indeed; especially once you’ve felt the swift punch it serves up. Driving on the highway, shifting down to overtake is unnecessary: it pulls forward strongly in 5th gear.
Performance enthusiasts will be quick to point out that if it’s a spirited experience you’re after, diesel isn’t what you need. But the Citroen still induces a smile and offers an enthralling time thanks to its nimble, agile handling abilities. With the HDI model, there’s just the added bonus of scoring a 6.3l/100km fuel consumption figure.
The DS3 definitely has one of the most interesting interiors out there; and the level of quality was surprisingly un-French too. The fascia has a neat, straight shape with elegant and quirky features, like the glossy piano black trim, slim air-ventilation slots and a canister with a fragrance inside that diffuses through the air-conditioner.
A certain female passenger found this very cool, although she described the Citroen’s lack of cup-holders as “absolutely unsexy.”
One can really only describe the DS3’s exterior as sexy. And it has big shoes to fill – the original DS was graceful, stylish and different – arguably one of the most bold, beautiful cars of the last 50 years.
Its countenance is stern and serious, like a posing Derek Zoolander. Slivers of LED lighting on either side of the front bumper give it a wicked presence during the day. From the side, it has a squat, low-to-the-ground stance and subtle bulges in the bodywork add to its muscularity.
The A-pillar is black, so is the top-section of the B-pillar; this creates the “floating roof” effect. It used to be that when buying a car, you chose a model grade and that was what you got – all you could choose was the colour and maybe the wheels and upholstery if you were lucky.
Nowadays, you can configure a car that’s totally unique to you. Just like rivals Mini and Audi, Citroen offer you the chance to mix, match and go mad with the various colour, alloy-wheel, trim and roof pattern combinations.
The Citroen DS3 is quirky, cool and laden with charisma and personality. It’s a competent car, one that gets our thumbs up.
We’ll be testing the DS5 in weeks to come, stay tuned.
The Technical Stuff:
Model: 2012 Citroen DS3 e-HDI 90
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged-diesel
Power and Torque: 66kW and 230Nm
Fuel consumption: 6.3l/100km
Price: R244 400