DS is something of an unknown quantity. You’re probably aware of the DS 3, originally the Citroën DS3, a small, quirky looking hatchback that proved incredibly popular, but DS as an independent brand? Probably not.
It’s impossible to talk about DS without mentioning Citroën, and that’s chiefly because DS as it is today has existed for less than five years. When Citroën resurrected the name with DS3 it was, to all intents and purposes, a rebadged Citroën C3 with a few premium touches to justify a higher price. That approach was rolled out over the C4 and C5, too, creating the DS4 and DS5. That worked for a little while, even after DS became a separate brand under the PSA umbrella in 2014, but to really sell the idea of a premium brand to the wider world, DS needed to do more than sweep every trace of Citroën branding. The company needed an all new range of cars.
DS launched as a standalone with the DS 7 Crossback in 2018, and today we have this: the all-new DS 3 Crossback. Where the old DS 3 was a hatch, the new DS 3 Crossback, which replaces it, is a small SUV that sits below the larger DS 7 Crossback. If you’re going to start selling cars, starting with a range of SUVs is probably quite a smart idea right now…
The DS 3 Crossback is the first car to be built on the new Common Modular Platform that will underpin future models in the PSA group. It’s also available with traditional petrol and diesel powertrains, and, unlike the old DS 3 hatch, it’ll be available as a full-EV, the E-Tense.
DS talks a lot about how the DS 3 Crossback features ‘advanced technology’ and an ‘avant garde design’, and offers ‘dynamic serenity’ and ‘refinement and attention to detail’. On first impressions at least, walking towards the DS 3 Crossback for the very first time, it’s clear to see DS is trying to make a little more effort. While it might seem like a gimmick, flush door handles that leap out of the doors on your approach add a touch of theatre to the experience, and, while it perhaps isn’t the prettiest car in the world from the front, it’s really very smart at the rear.
Climbing inside the DS 3 Crossback, you’re presented with an interior that will feel familiar to anyone who’s driven a DS 7 Crossback, but very different to anything from the likes of Škoda, SEAT, Volkswagen or Audi. The dash features an array of touch buttons that bring up the controls for things like the navigation, climate control and radio on the 7-inch central touchscreen, while on the centre console you’ll find buttons for the windows and central locking, as well as a small switch to control the car’s three drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport.
The driving position is good (you have much more adjustability than you used to have in the DS 3 hatch) and the seats in our test car were very comfortable. They looked good, too.
You get rear parking sensors, a heated rear screen, 40/60 split rear seats, electric windows all round, electric mirrors, air conditioning, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and a 7-inch central touch screen as standard. One feature you get higher up the model range are DS Matrix LED Vision headlights, which allow full beam in almost any situation, with segments of LEDs turning on or off if a car appears in front of you, meaning full beam across the whole road with the exception of the space occupied by the other vehicle.
There are three petrol engines and one diesel to choose between at the moment. All of the petrols are 1.2-litre, three-cylinder turbos, with power ranging from 102PS (101bhp) to 133PS (131bhp) and 157PS (155bhp), while the diesel is a 1.5-litre with 103PS (102bhp). The E-Tense, on the other hand, has a 100kW (138PS or 136bhp) electric motor with 260Nm (192lb ft) of torque, and should be able to manage 200 miles on a single charge.
At the top of the range is the Ultra Prestige model with the 155bhp petrol engine (the model range is the same as that of the DS 7 Crossback, starting with Elegance, followed Performance Line, Prestige, Ultra Prestige and finally the La Première launch edition). With 240Nm (178lb ft) of torque, 0-62mph takes 8.2 seconds and the top speed is 129mph. Power goes to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox (only the lowest powered petrol and the diesel model come with a six-speed manual). Drive frugally and you should expect to see 41.7mpg.
The engine is remarkably quiet – only an abrupt squirt of the throttle alerts you to the fact there’s an engine there at all. Driving around at town or motorway speeds, the cabin is generally quiet, too, with only the flow of air over the mirrors disturbing the tranquillity.
Over imperfections the DS 3 Crossback is compliant and comfortable. Where it struggles, though, is when you accelerate over bumps. The suspension has been engineered for comfort, which is great if you’re cruising your way to a summer holiday but less helpful when you want to drive with a hint of pace. Accelerate or brake hard and you can feel the front or rear dip and dive, and accelerate over a bump and the long suspension travel can’t react quickly enough, causing the front wheels to lurch and crash slightly.
The eight-speed ‘box in the DS 3 Crossback is very good – left to its own devices you can hardly feel it working. It only struggles a tad when you’re slowing to a halt, as you can feel the gearbox struggle against the brakes. The paddles behind the wheel are best left alone, however. They’re nice to have, certainly, but given this car’s relaxed character you probably don’t need to use them that often.
Stick the car in Eco and you have a very relaxed throttle response, a gearbox that wants to be in a higher gear to conserve fuel and very light steering. Normal is the middleground (the steering has a much more reassuring weight to it, even if it offers no real feel at all) and Sport gives the heaviest steering weight, sharpest throttle and most aggressive gearbox. Unless you really want to have the car in Eco, keep it in Normal.
The DS 3 Crossback isn’t the most dynamic small SUV on sale, but then again that isn’t what DS has set out to do. It has been built for comfort and quality, and there’s no doubt in our mind it is comfortable reasonably well put together.
The DS 3 Crossback it feels different. It isn’t radical, it isn’t an entirely new proposition – it is ‘another SUV’, after all – but in a marketplace where so many SUVs have started to blur into one another, the DS 3 Crossback feels just about different enough to hold its own. Being slightly different right now is a real positive.
Stat attack: DS 3 Crossback Ultra Prestige PureTech 155