Cars - DS

Road tests and reviews of the latest DS models available in South Africa

2016 DS 3 Performance

By Franky Johnson

The DS 3 was the last model in the line-up to get a makeover following the DS brand’s official separation from Citroen – and to celebrate finalising the divorce, so to speak, it becomes the first to get a new Performance variant.

As the name suggests, in the DS 3’s case this is a range-topping hot hatch that aims to add a dash of extra sportiness to the proto-luxury image that DS is trying to project.

Emphasis on 'trying' at this stage – for if you peel away the layers of funky colours and optional graphics you’ll find that the fundamental quality of the materials isn’t quite up to challenging the likes of the Mini Cooper S just yet.

So it’s better to think of the DS 3 Performance as a rival to other less prestigious supermini-sized hot hatches such as the Ford Fiesta ST, Opel Corsa VXR and Peugeot 208 GTi. In fact, the more potent ‘by Peugeot Sport’ version of the latter even shares its engine with the DS 3 Performance.

That powerplant is a 1.6-litre turbo petrol producing 205bhp at 6,000rpm and 300Nm of torque at 3,000rpm - enough to see off 0-62mph in 6.5sec and reach 143mph flat out. This exactly matches the GTi by Peugeot Sport while being moderately more responsive than the Fiesta and the Corsa.

The engine drives the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox aided by a limited-slip differential – a mechanical device that improves traction by distributing the power to the driven wheel with the most grip.

These can be quite aggressive (the optional ‘Drexler’ item on the Corsa VXR a case in point), but we found the DS 3’s to be very effective at hauling the Performance out of corners without corrupting the steering.

On a smooth road, this combination of high grip and the undeniably muscular response of the engine makes for rapid progress. The THP engine feels like its got a big set of lungs for its relatively modest capacity and the throttle response is impressively crisp for a turbocharged motor, helped by the use of shorter ratios within the gearbox that enhance all-round acceleration.

Shame they don’t also make operating said gearbox a little silkier, too, as it’s a slightly notchy, long-winded affair without the polish of the best in the sector. The engine doesn’t sound especially exciting, either, with just the occasional ‘whumph’ between spirited upshifts underlining its urgency.

On bumpier surfaces the DS 3 Performance starts to fall foul of its suspension tuning. The car is 15mm lower than a regular DS 3, and although it is supposed to be less extreme than the limited edition DS3 Racing – the only previous hot-hatch incarnation – and the 208 GTi by Peugeot Sport, the uprated springs and dampers still deliver a decidedly firm ride.

Steering needs work but cabin gets regular DS 3's update. You might put up with this if the DS 3 Performance was as fun to drive as the Fiesta ST – or even the 208 GTi. Unfortunately, it isn’t. The steering has been tuned for a more relaxed feel than the 208 GTi, and perhaps DS has gone too far towards numbness as a result. There just isn’t the thrill you get from the best in this sector, while the suspension is still too hard to justify a ‘grand touring’ moniker. Ditto the brakes, which are powerful but lacking in finesse.

The interior of the DS 3 Performance gets the same upgrades as the ordinary car – largely centred around a new touchscreen infotainment system – and then accessorises them with racing-style seats and other unique trim touches.

Satellite navigation remains optional, and you can also add Apple CarPlay for an extra charge.

On paper this is a relatively cheap hot hatch to run but as with all cars of this type your fuel economy will be heavily influenced by the way that you drive it.

IN A NUTSHELL

The DS 3 Performance is an attractive, sporty-looking car with a powerful engine, and a generous array of personalisation options means it may appeal to those who like to stand out.

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