DS starts with the name. The entry-level model of the upmarket French brand will henceforth go by the name "3" rather than "3 Crossback". Still, this model remains taller than a traditional hatchback, which DS cleverly responds to the high demand for SUVs and crossovers. To immitate the rugged look of such cars, the chrome has been replaced by black accents.
Although all versions have more black elements from now on, the distinction between chic and sporty variants remains. The vehicle shown here is a "Performance Line" and it was chosen partly for its tamer interior. This is because the standard interior is based on fabrics and styles from the French fashion world, which is sometimes perceived as kitsch or too much in the rest of Europe. The Performance Line has a much milder style, while even in it the extravagant shapes of the exterior return.
The slightly taller build allows the seats to be positioned more upright, allowing more (leg) room to be realised in a compact car. Although the space in the rear is not overwhelming, with an accommodating driver and/or co-driver, just enough space remains for adults in the back. Space in the front is decent and there the 3 convinces as a premium product with its generously sized seats. Not only are they excellent, the fine upholstery feels pleasant.
With DS, form always comes before function, which is why it sometimes takes a while to figure out how certain functions work. From now on, the buttons on the centre console no longer need to be pressed; touching them will suffice. However, as this provides no feedback, the new buttons were not perceived as an improvement.
Clearly better though is the new audio, communication and navigation system called "Iris". This is displayed on a slim, wide screen with once again extravagant shapes in the menus and dialogues. In addition to the touch-sensitive screen, a voice-activated assistant that is activated with the words "Okay Iris" is now available. This assistant is not limited to audio and navigation. It can also inform about weather and traffic and even tell a joke. In doing so, DS promises to gradually expand the system through "over the air updates" (no dealer visit required).
A favourite with the editors is Focal's audio system. Its sound is crisp and harmonious (no overpowering tones), even at high volumes. Although the bass is slightly lacking because of the small speaker cabinets, the sound is so refined that it deserves the title "hi-fi". Partly for this reason, it is extremely regrettable that Focal audio is only available on the petrol-powered DS 3, not the electric-powered version. The latter has to make do with an unbranded audio system that sounds like the speakers are placed behind a wet curtain. The sound is bombastic with little clarity.
Petrol engine: Puretech 130
The DS 3 is available with a petrol and electric engine. The "Puretech 130" petrol engine has not changed since the model was introduced in 2018. It is still a 1.2-litre three-cylinder. This cylinder count causes a rumbling sound that is clearly audible and detracts from the "premium" feel so carefully constructed.
The performance of the 130 hp / 230 Nm power unit is more than adequate, thanks also to the exemplary 8-speed automatic gearbox. On a demanding course (mountains and city traffic), test consumption came to 6.5 litres per 100 km.
Electric motor: e-Tense
With electric motor, the DS 3 is a very different car, literally and figuratively. This is because Stellantis, the parent company of DS (and Citroën, Peugeot, Fiat) has developed an entirely new electric motor and battery. As DS is Stellantis' most prestigious brand, the 3 may be the first to use this technology. The battery has the same dimensions as before, but thanks to a different chemical composition and smarter cell distributions, the capacity is greater (now 54 kWh). The DS 3 Crossback e-Tense previously had a range of 320 km, which is now 402 km. This increased range is also thanks to an improved streamline and tyre choice.
Engine output has increased from 136 to 156 hp, but little of that is noticeable in practice. This is because the DS 3 is focused on comfort. DS also tries to give electric cars the character of a combustion engine to make the switch as easy as possible. This is why the DS 3 e-Tense is not a fast electric car, but mainly a smooth and effortlessly performing car. In sport mode, the 3 shows a bit more liveliness, although it stays at that. The 3 never really bites and is never really fast. Performance is nonetheless more than adequate. In real life, the tyres create a lot of driving noise, so this electric car is certainly not silent.
Thanks to the new infotainment system, the DS 3 can now plan its own charging stops along the route if the battery charge is insufficient to reach the destination. Charging can be done at the same speed as before: 11 kW at a public charging point and 100 kW at a quick charger. En route to the latter, the battery cannot be preheated to allow extra fast charging on arrival. However, the charging curve has been slightly improved, which means charging at high speed for slightly longer than before.
The chassis has not been updated for the 2023 model year. Yet the DS 3 continues to stand out for its handling. As before, there is little communication between the mechanics and the driver, while the steering is experienced as very precise. In doing so, the DS 3 makes driving especially effortless. Even on bad road surfaces or with a sporty driving style, everything is made easy and that makes for a superior feeling.
The DS 3 has been updated for model year 2023 and that involves much more than modernising the technology. The exterior now better matches the style of the newer and larger models. Moreover, chrome has been swapped for black accents, giving the car a tougher look, which suits a "crossover" like this one well. The interior is full of references to the French fashion industry, while ergonomics have been improved. The infotainment system has been greatly improved and the Focal audio system is even the best in this segment.
Handling has remained the same. The emphasis is on comfort, with precise steering and a refined suspension ensuring effortless driving. With the PureTech 130 petrol engine, the DS 3 delivers tidy performance at moderate consumption. The three-cylinder rumble detracts from the premium feel. The electric e-Tense is therefore by far the best choice. It offers superior performance, smoothness and quietness while the mileage costs are lower. Thanks to an all-new battery and electric motor, the range is great for luxurious and carefree driving.
- Distinctive design
- Refined underpinning
- Smooth, strong and economical (e-Tense only)
- Firm price
- Lots of tyre noise
- Focal audio not available in e-Tense