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The next phase of DS's premium push hits the UK with this new small crossover, but can it deal with the competition?

Our Verdict

DS 3 Crossback 2019 first drive review - hero front

DS's first foray into the compact SUV market takes on the Mini Countryman and Audi Q2 - but is it premium enough?

17 April 2019

What is it?

With the DS 3 hatchback not long for this world, the last physical ties between the DS brand and parent Citroën are almost cut.

The 7 Crossback was the first stand-alone model unique to the luxury-tilting DS marque and set out its stall with a distinctive cabin and an exterior that caught the eye. Now the 3 Crossback is here to take the fight to a bigger audience, albeit still a somewhat niche one.

The small premium crossover segment may be relatively small beans, but it is dominated by two big hitters in the shape of the Mini Countryman and Audi Q2 – and now the Volkswagen T-Roc is starting to muscle in.

The 3 Crossback is important to more than just the DS brand, because it provides the first taste of the CMP platform that will underpin a slew of forthcoming PSA Group cars that include the Peugeot 208 and the next Vauxhall Corsa. In addition, it will be the first DS car available with pure-electric power as well as conventional petrol and diesel engines when the E-Tense version arrives in September this year.

In the meantime, the 3 Crossback is available with three flavours of the 1.2-litre three-cylinder PureTech petrol: 100bhp, 128bhp and 153bhp, the last two featuring an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. The sole diesel option is a 101bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder unit paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

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Trim levels are Elegance, Performance Line, Prestige and the range-crowning Ultra Prestige, with a launch edition dubbed La Première that adds some unique design details and extra technology from the options list.

What's it like?

Immediately impactful, not least because its design is a little more daring than its bigger brother's. The wide-cheeked, curvaceous nose echoes that of the 7 Crossback, but it continues the theme down the flanks with a deep scallop that flicks up into the side window and leads into a bulbous arch that match the front.

This is a car with no shortage of junk in its trunk, and while that might turn off some potential buyers, it’s easy to see others getting a kick from its modern freshness. The term ‘avant-garde’ is punted around with abandon in the car's accompanying PR blurb, but you certainly can’t accuse the 3 Crossback of being boring.

Step inside and there is more evidence of stylistic bravery, although the accountants clearly had an overall veto on all decisions. It is a trigonometrists’ dream in here, with not a roundel in sight and every button or display framed by intersecting angles. It’s also quite dark. Most of the interior options are black on black or paired with dark colours, and the narrow window frames reduce the amount of light coming in.

There is also something of a quality tide mark inside, too, with the pleasant materials above the waterline and the cheaper, tougher parts-bin elements saved for lower down. In practical terms, there is good space for occupants front and rear, making the 3 Crossback viable transport for four adults, and boot and oddment space are competitive, although the glovebox's capacity suffers from the car's conversion to right-hand drive.

The 1.5-litre diesel is clearly not the most refined of units but the sound deadening does a good job of shielding you from its worst outbursts, so you are only ever aware of its busyness rather than disturbed by it. Its performance is also strictly adequate: 0-62mph takes 11.4sec and full-throttle acceleration keeps you with the pack rather than putting you in front of it. The pay-off is strong economy, with up to 62.7mpg combined under WLTP rules, and so long as you are realistic with your demands, it allows the 3 Crossback to cruise in comfort.

Dynamically, the 3 Crossback also seems to fall between two stools. Despite running on 17in alloy wheels in Prestige specification, it tolerates enthusiastic driving rather than displaying any relish for it. The steering is accurate but suffers from slightly curious weighting off centre and little in the way of communication, while the suspension is slightly on the stiff side of the middle ground. There is a little body roll when pressing on, but more of a concern is how frequently it picks out small and medium imperfections in the road surface.

Should I buy one?

Although the 3 Crossback offers no class-leading attributes in terms of its driving experience, it does at least provide something distinctive and appealing in a segment where style has a big influence on purchasing - or leasing - decisions. If you’ve never driven one of the competition, it could prove to be a satisfying ownership prospect, all the while giving you something to admire on the driveway when you put it to bed for the night.

But what really hurts the 3 Crossback is the pricing strategy, which contrives to make the Audi Q2 and Mini Countryman look like suspiciously good value. An equivalent Q2 is within £1000, while a 2.0-litre diesel with quattro four-wheel drive and an S-tronic gearbox is within £500 of our test car. It may well be that the best of the 3 Crossback is yet to come, with the E-Tense version offering around 180 miles of range, an 80% battery charge in 30 minutes and 134bhp - all for £32,850 in Prestige trim.

Matt Joy

DS 3 Crossback specification

Where London Price £27,105 On sale Now Engine 4 cyls, 1499cc, diesel Power 101bhp at 3500rpm Torque 185lb ft at 1750rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1205kg Top speed 112mph 0-62mph 11.4sec Fuel economy 54.4-62.7mpg CO2 97-102g/km Rivals Audi Q2, Mini Countryman, Volkswagen T-Roc

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Comments
19

MrJ

17 April 2019

More fussy overstyling.

If only DS had sense enough to reprise the elegance of the namesake original.

17 April 2019

I'm all for a bit of individualism, but some of the details inside and out don't work at all for me. The headlights are weird and the combination of buttons and air vents on the centre console looks a mess because it tries to be symetrical and then isn't. The air vents on the door also don't sit right next to the dash and the cheap plastic on the glovebox looks nasty. And then you realise its £27k! 

17 April 2019

The original DS is spinning in its grave.

XXXX just went POP.

17 April 2019

DS aren't making it easy for themselves by pricing this to compete with Q2 and Countryman. Distinctive styling alone isn't going to cut it if the price is unrealistic and the drive mediocre. 

17 April 2019
erly5 wrote:

DS aren't making it easy for themselves by pricing this to compete with Q2 and Countryman. Distinctive styling alone isn't going to cut it if the price is unrealistic and the drive mediocre. 

It is indeed overpriced - however the Q2 is hardly a benchmark for quality or style, both are a let down. The countryman is somewhat bloated. 

If they had priced it more realistically it would be better

17 April 2019

There is something about this DS3, and perhaps also the previous one, that says 'premium', by which I mean sophistication or French chic. 

The interior is as original as the Cactus interior.

And one distinct design language for DS and another for Citroen is beginning to emerge, which promises to be much more interesting than say the hideous Maybach-zation of Mercedes.  

17 April 2019

Insane for such a slow car, Fiesta size + 3 inches with manual box. Not only that it just looks like a 9 year old stretched DS3.  

Inside fine but good luck getting a customer in one in the first place

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

17 April 2019
Kick 'em in the plums!

Ouch.

Steam cars are due a revival.

17 April 2019
£27k for a 100hp French car! Seriously, what are they thinking?
Northwest geezer, love my cars

17 April 2019

The rear doors are fussy for what reason ,looks stupid amd quite ugly not like the C3 Aircross which is quite cute .

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