France. A nation overflowing with artistic ideas and culture that regardless of where you go, you will gaze in amazement. At least this is what you see on the internet and movies. I’ve been told that it isn’t actually that great, the city, the people… well they aren’t exactly polite nor humorous. But I’d like to keep an open mind until I see if for myself. What I can comment however are the French’s history of cars…
Generally, the French has not been successful in making cars of their own next to their German counterparts. But due to their perseverance to stay in the industry, or rather persistence along with ‘artistic’ ideas; here we are today, still seeing them in the market. Are they really that bad? No. They’re not, but they aren’t overzealously exemplary either and that means, generally people who buy French did not look around at other cars, or they fell in love with the design and styling cues. (Please disregard the Renault Megane RS on the above comment however, because that is excellent.)
And here we are, down to the Citroen Dee-Ass-Three. It’s their take against Italy’s Fiat 500 and the Brit’s outstandingly successful MINI. Basically the French decided to bring in their home baked baguettes to go head-to-head against Pasta and (INSERT BRITISH FOOD HERE); well we know that it’s not going to win. So now that we’ve got the DS3’s competitors out of the way, I’m going to get down to the concept of the DS3.
The DS badge dates back to 1955 when Citroen first launched it, and in the 20 years it stayed in production, the DS was one of the most respected cars in the world at the time, mainly for its infamous ride quality thanks to an innovative hydraulic suspension system (yes, it’s common today but back then, not that many cars even came with independent suspension). They sold a close number of 1.5 million units and was even rated as one of the top 5 cars of the century. Quelle suprise!
With the revival of the influential DS badge again, what does Citroen have under it’s sleeve this time to impress the modern market? We’ve had the DS4 and DS5 in the market for just a shade over a year now, and the latest instalment to Malaysia now is the DS3. Some might think it’s a new car, but please take note that the DS3 has been in the worldwide market for almost 4 years now. *glass shatters*
When it was launched – the DS3 was one of those cars that sparked my interest. It raised some curiosity out of me personally due it’s funky styling, a strong character and the fact that it was about to alter some market out of the MINI. No, I’m not a big fan of the MINI. I remember when I first saw internet launched photos of the DS3 Racing, with its flamboyant racing stripes and crazy-funky styling, I was sure it was going to be something to adore. I had to wait 4 years. 4 years for it to arrive here in Malaysia… And we didn’t even get the Racing version!
Disappointments aside – what was given to us on a silver platter was the 1.6 VTi version. And this means that it’s not even close to being HOT. The normally aspirated 1.6-litre 4 potter produces 120bhp and a maximum torque figure of 160nm at it’s disposal. It will speed through traffic from naught-to-sixty in an agonising 10.9 seconds and a decent top speed of 190km/h.
And it’s 4-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t do this car justice. It feels like it came from the middle-ages, spotting long ratios between the gears makes the car feel sluggish and heavy on the run. “S” mode doesn’t change much either, as it just makes you feel like you’re stressing out the engine. The power comes mostly towards the higher-end RPMs and to keep it on its toes, the tiptronic function is the only way to go.
Indeed it is frustrating considering that it actually has a rather admirable chassis. Sometimes you pick up the keys to some test cars and because it’s underpowered, you just want to throw the hatred out of it, especially when it looks so funky and elegant. But in my time with the DS3… it made me discover that just because something looks fast, doesn’t mean it needs to go FAST!
It’s the perfect city roundabout. The DS3 has the go-fast looks and funky styling that anywhere you go around town, people look at you. Of course, other than the fact that the particular test car was in yellow and there aren’t that many DS3s yet on the road; you can look at gazing eyes when you drive past people anywhere. And call me thick, but I quite like that in a car. Sleeper personas aside, when you can’t go fast, might as well grab some attention along with it right?
And I’ve always made a point – that for me to really enjoy a car, I have to really enjoy the interior. It’s true, we spend most of our time INSIDE the car, rather than outside. And I’m happy to report that the DS3’s funky styling continues right inside too!
It’s not perfect, but somehow it’s imperfection makes it interesting. It’s an enjoyable experience inside the car, and although we don’t get the navigation screen like the DS3s in Europe can opt for, the interior still stands rather welcoming. Black plastics everywhere to keep you away from the idea that it’s plastic, and a rather good quality dashboard to keep it feeling expensive. And it get’s flat-bottoms too to make you feel like a racing driver, and help fat people get out easier…
I do love the cluster. It’s like clock-work all round when you drive it. Beautiful pieces matched together to give you a memorable experience. And along the journey, Citroen has graciously equipped this small little hatch with a premium HI-FI system, complete with 8 speakers and a subwoofer for us to enjoy our tunes from music devices. Thank you for that. I think the audio system in the DS3 is one of the best in it’s class.
I’ve failed miserably in hating this car. I really have. I wanted to hate it. It’s the wrong one! But I ended up finding the side of the DS3 that we all should love about. It’s character. Yeah sure, a MINI is faster and a better driver, and a Fiat 500 is cooler and cuter… but the DS3 deserves a spot in the class because it has it’s own character. Something different to it’s competitor.
It’s sad that it came too late to our shores. And whilst the rest of the world are probably already bored of the DS3, we are just about to taste of what it can really offer. Regardless, I’m glad that it’s here in the first place. I almost gave up in seeing it on our shores, but here it is nevertheless. Better late than never. Look elsewhere if you want a little hot hatch, this is not it. But if you want something different, and with a soul; the Citroen DS3 is probably your best bet.
P.S:- A turbo and manual gearbox. Thats all it needs to completely transform it from being a funky car, into a fun driving one. Can we have the full blown 1.6 turbo now please? 😀
Words: Qhalis Najmi | Photos: Haznajims