The DS of the 1950s may have been divinely inspired, but will Citroën’s new DS3 win a cult following?
Top speed 114mph
For some fearful souls, danger lurks round every corner. But when I told my young daughter’s friend that there was a shark riding in the back of Citroën’s new supermini, the DS3, I didn’t expect her to burst into tears and refuse to get in. It seems being a “fun dad” is itself pretty hazardous. What I was (hilariously) pointing at was the car’s jagged B-pillar. An angular fin which breaks the surface of the window line with a plausible Jaws impression. It’s swimming towards the back of the car, so at least it’s moving away from you.
The dynamically stylish DS3 is named after the legendary Citroën DS of 1955, one of the most technically advanced and radically chic cars of all time. The divine Déesse was always going to be a tough act to follow, and a name can be both a blessing and a burden, but these days DS probably means Nintendo to most people, so maybe customers will just imagine that Super Mario is at the wheel.
The car is the first in Citroën’s new DS line, a range which will eventually consist of three distinctively styled and attention-grabbing vehicles. The DS4 and DS5 are set to launch in 2011 and 2012 respectively, though there seems to be no real reason to begin at 3. Maybe it’s like public school, where they start in the third form.
The little DS3 finds itself swimming in shark-infested waters. The market segment it has dived into already boasts some of the finest “premium” small cars around – there’s the Mini, Fiat’s 500 and Alfa Romeo’s MiTo. These three are a bunch of show-offs, so any mere breaststroker will quickly find themselves sinking. The DS3, therefore, comes with a raft of stand-out, head-turning design features that aim to give it a fighting chance. Simply having an efficient engine, comfortable seats, comprehensive active and passive safety features, a decent stereo and a bunch of doors is, like… whatevvvvvvur. So the DS3 has twinkling daylight running lights, a handsome double chevron chrome grille, those killer shark fins and a “floating roof”. The rear pillars have been wrapped in glass to create the impression that the roof is levitating above the car’s low-slung rear end. It’s a brilliantly eye-catching device, but it comes at a cost – you can’t open the rear windows.
If the fins and floating roof have done their job and hooked you as a buyer, you’ll be faced with a blizzard of options. Citroën will encourage you to click on its bespoke “DS configurator” and give vent to your creative urges. There are 38 body and roof colour combinations to choose from – the wing mirrors, wheel caps, dashboard, gearstick, upholstery and even carpets can all be specified. And, the icing on the cake, you can even have your key fob matched to the colour of your car.
Given all the efforts to create an effervescent and strikingly different personality for this car, it will break the hearts of Citroën’s designers to hear that in the week I test-drove the DS3, three separate people asked me how I liked the “new Mini”. In a way they weren’t too far off the mark, as the vehicles do share the same engine – a super-responsive 156bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged power plant, which makes both cars great fun to drive.
Prices start at £10,875 and rise to £15,030 – but crucially Citroën says that all its models will be cheaper than the equivalent Mini. And they’ve chucked in the sharks for free…
Blankets on the ground: the best picnic spots
Your back is sticky, your legs have cramp and if you have to listen to one more radio adbreak you will SCREAM! Time to pull over and eat that delicious picnic you carefully threw together from what was left in the pre-holiday fridge (beetroot and Nutella sandwich, anyone?)
But where to stop? The usual sites are all litter-strewn nightmares. Thankfully, the RAC has launched picnicwithrac.co.uk – a site for sites, compiled by 4,000 of its members. And the best in the country is at the Ladybower Reservoir (above), off the A57. Just don’t forget the bottle opener…