The bold design is what will draw customers to the Citroen DS3 but it’s built to entertain on more than a visual level, particularly with the 1.6 THP engine installed.
Performance is brisk and the power delivery smooth with the DS3’s sporty suspension set-up producing a highly enjoyable experience at the wheel.
Space in the back is tight and the ride is firm but the young buyers Citroen is targeting should still be impressed.
Let’s not beat around the bush, this is an outstanding engine for its size and type.
The 1.6-litre capacity and multi-point fuel injection system help give rise to a 155bhp power output in the DS3 1.6 THP.
That’s enough to take it through 60mph from a standing start in 7.3s and onto a top speed of 133mph.
Like the best of the modern turbo petrols, there’s barely a hint of turbo lag with the performance surging forth from low revs.
This DS3 sounds less charismatic than the MINI Cooper S which uses a 184bhp version of the same unit and the engine note grows boomy at the top of the rev-range but the strong pulling power through the gears is great fun.
There’s the feel of a sporty hatchback about the DS3 that comes from firm suspension, which may be a touch busy for some tastes, and direct steering.
The chassis provides high grip levels with taut body control and the DS3 can be a hoot on twisty roads where the opportunity to make the most of that engine arises.
The gearbox is the slickest unit Citroen has come up with for a long time.
Even though it’s slightly notchy, there’s good weight and a positive feel to the shifting action.
Although the driving position may not suit everyone with its widely spaced and slightly offset pedals, the wide scope of adjustment offered by the steering column and seat should accommodate most body shapes.
The basic shape might appear to have MINI influences but Citroen was keen to differentiate the DS3 with a forward-looking design approach and its ‘anti-retro’ launch marketing campaign.
From that ‘shark fin’ B-pillar to the vertical strips of LED lights that flank the front grille and the distinct sill line connecting the wheelarches, the DS3 is ferociously unconventional.
It has a greater capacity to turn heads than almost any other supermini.
Citroen would dearly love to secure a slice of the success that BMW has enjoyed with its MINI and it thinks the DS3 is the car to do it.
With a basic shape that isn’t a million miles away from the MINI’s and a similar focus on lively dynamics, the DS3 looks well placed to poach sales at the trendy end of the supermini sector.
The 1.6 THP engine is a fine unit with strong performance and the DS3’s flamboyant design sets it apart from rivals.
Citroen pulled out all the stops to make the DS3 stand out and it does.
The flashy trim finishes inside and out might be a little too much for some tastes but the target market should lap it up and underneath is a very well engineered small car.
The emphasis is on sharp handling which means the ride is on the firm side but the DS3 is impressively composed on the road and handles sweetly.
The high hopes Citroen has for the car and its DS sub-brand generally would appear to be justified.