Let’s say you’re looking at Citroen C3 Aircross, but you want something more premium, or perhaps you want an alternative to an Audi Q2 or a Mini Countryman. Well, say hello to the all-new DS 3 Crossback, the latest – and smallest – SUV to come from the French boutique carmaker.
Boutique design, modern technology
Whether you like the looks or not (a few of my followers don’t much care for it), one thing is for certain, it’s different. This is a small SUV that will not only stand out in your local supermarket car park, but also turn heads as well. The first car I stepped in to was finished in ‘Imperial Gold’ and in my opinion it looked stunning underneath the sunlight that was beating down in Kew Gardens.
At the front you have intricate daytime running lights, at the side you have alloys that will be at least 17 inches in size as well as a shark fin design to the rear doors, and the tailgate has a clean look thanks to a boot release button that is located out of sight on the rear bumper, much like a Mazda MX-5. Not that they are comparable cars, of course.
Step inside the car using the fancy flush fitting door handles and you’ll find a distinctive design all the way through, but one design feature that is likely to catch your eye is the collection of diamond shaped controls on the centre console. There’s also a 7″ touchscreen as standard on the base model (Elegance), which is home to DAB radio, Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity.
That’s not the only tech you get though, as even the base model – priced from £21,555 – comes with standard features including rear parking sensors, air conditioning, autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, speed limit recognition and intelligent speed adaptation.
Built on a new platform
The new DS 3 Crossback is the first Groupe PSA car to be built on ‘Common Modular Platform’, meaning DS has been able to fit the 3 Crossback with big alloys, but it’s not just about added style. The new platform is able to offer more dynamism as well better refinement. More importantly, though, it’s a platform that is ready to take on an electric powertrain as well as ICE options, without compromising on interior space. The electric version will be called E-Tense, and will be available to order later this year.
That is then, though, what about now? There are four internal combustion engines to choose from; three petrol and one diesel. I got to experience two of the petrols whilst on the UK launch of this car; the PureTech 100 and the PureTech 155. Both engines are a 1.2 litre, three-cylinder turbocharged unit – as is the PureTech 130, which is also available for this car. For those of you wondering about the lone diesel, that’s the BlueHDi 100 unit, which is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox.
I started with the PureTech 100, which seemed to look a little bit underwhelming as it offers just 101hp and 205Nm. Yes, I don’t know why it’s not called the PureTech 101, either… There is only one gearbox available for this engine – a 6-speed manual gearbox, which helps to feed power to the front wheels – there’s no all wheel drive option for the DS 3 Crossback. 0-62mph is dealt with in 10.9 seconds, and the top speed is 112mph.
Despite being the less powerful petrol, the PureTech 100 holds its own and didn’t feel under-powered on my short drive of the car, even on the motorway. It offers a good response low down in the rev range, and the performance felt stronger than its power output would suggest. It makes a decent noise as well, thanks to its three cylinder configuration, but at no point did I find it loud, and it was barely audible at cruising speeds.
Is it comfy, though?
One thing DS knows a thing or two about other than style, is of course, comfort. At this point it’s hard not to make the somewhat obligatory link to the iconic Citroen DS from the 50s, so I’m not going to bother to resist. This is an area where the DS 3 Crossback well; the optional ‘Opera’ inspiration (that’s what DS names its interior options) comes with black leather seats with a watchstrap design, which are very comfortable to sit in. ‘Bastille’ black leather seats come as standard, though, just in case you don’t want to spend the extra money for the ‘Opera’ interior.
The ride on the 17″ alloys is fine, although, as I discovered when I drove the La Premiere, the 18″ alloys do give a more unsettled ride. Therefore, I’d urge to stick with the 17s if possible. DS states that the 3 Crossback is not only designed for the city, but also for longer journeys, and I think that’s a fair statement as I imagine this would be a stress-free car to drive for longer distances.
How does it drive?
So far I’ve commented about the engine, and the ride, but what about the rest of the driving sensation? Well, the bias towards comfort does have a negative aspect when it comes to handling. It’s far from dire, but if you want a small premium SUV that will reward you with its handling and its drive-ability, I would point you in the direction of the Audi Q2. The 3 Crossback, however, is not set out to the most dynamic car in its segment.
The brakes performed well, though, and there was a decent amount of grip, so as I said, it’s not dire. The 6-speed manual gearbox performs pretty well; it’s not quite as notchy as other PSA Group cars I’ve driven, and on the whole, it felt a bit slicker than what I used before. It’s worth noting that you only get this transmission on this petrol; the other two use the 8-speed automatic.
What about the everyday stuff?
As much as the DS 3 Crossback has been designed to turn heads, and to ooze style, it still needs to be practical – and safe – enough to fit in to everyday family life. This is where the 3 Crossback doesn’t so well compared to the Q2 or the Countryman – well, at least when it comes to the boot. Whilst the Audi and the Mini offer respective boot sizes of 405 and 450 litres, the DS lags behind, offering 350 litres.
Space in the back isn’t too bad, although taller passengers are likely to struggle for knee room. Legroom is respectable enough, though, and the headroom is agreeable as well, but I doubt there would be enough space to fit three adults in the back without some grumbles.
In regard to safety, the DS 3 Crossback comes standard with autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, speed sign recognition, six airbags, and speed limiter, although more safety features can be had when you work through the higher trim levels. Euro NCAP is yet to crash test the 3 Crossback, but I bet my bottom dollar it will be awarded five stars.
After my time in the Prestige, I slotted myself in to the sumptuous ‘La Premiere’ edition, which was fitted with the 8-speed automatic mated to the PureTech 155 engine. The power is impressive, although I’d argue that the 130 unit should have you well covered.
However, the 155 unit will be the one to go for if you want to get the most performance out of your 3 Crossback. With that in mind, let me give you the performance stats. This unit will hit 62mph in a respectable 8.2 seconds, and it will top out at 129mph. The engine certainly has a good amount of poke, and for the most part, the 8-speed auto works well.
I did find it would pause a little bit between changes when you wanted to really get a move on, but through normal driving it works fine. You also have the option to take over yourself using the flappy paddles on the steering wheel, and I found the changes to be smooth and pretty slick.
There is one downside to the La Premiere trim level, and that is the fact it has 18″ alloys, which do cause a negative effect for the ride. It’s not teeth-shaking, but it is busier, and it’s noticeably jiggly compared to the 17″ alloys on the Prestige, as I mentioned earlier. Still, the wonderful burgundy interior helps to make up for it.
This model also had the Focal sound system fitted as an optional extra, and my word, did it sound good. I put on a bit of Frank Sinatra, and I swear to God, it was like having Ol’ Blue Eyes himself in the car singing to me.
How much do both cars cost?
I’ve mentioned the price and specification for the Elegance model, but what about the cars tested here? The Prestige starts from £24,955, offering features such as 17″ alloys, black leather seats, front and rear parking sensors, 10″ touchscreen, navigation, automatic lights and wipers, climate control, plus the features you get as standard on the Elegance.
La Premiere is the current range-topping version (it’s limited until September this year), priced from £32,455, offering features such as 18″ alloys, LED headlights, Premium Safety Pack including DS Drive Assist, climate control, Art Rubis Nappa leather seats, wireless phone charging, keyless entry and start, pearl stitching, plus more.
Should the Q2 and Countryman be worried about the new kid on the block? Yes, I think they should. The DS 3 Crossback offers distinctive styling, decent value, a good level of kit and safety as well as high level of comfort. I’ll be giving this car a more thorough review in June (it’ll be the Prestige PureTech 130 version), so be sure to check back to see what I think it is like to live with one for a week.