First drive: DS3 Cabrio

The exterior of the DS3 Cabrio 2016.

The exterior of the DS3 Cabrio 2016.

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What’s new?

The DS brand is one of the youngest and least-understood on British roads. Intended as an upmarket spin-off from Citroen, DS began life selling upgraded versions of existing models from the popular French carmaker. Now, though, it has truly begun the process of building its own name, identity and style - the latter being immensely important to this fledgling carmaker.

The rear exterior of the DS3 Cabrio 2016.

The rear exterior of the DS3 Cabrio 2016.

One of the company’s aims is to tap into the idea of French luxury. It does this by using high-end materials, including innovative aesthetic features, and emphasising individuality and customisation. The latest addition to their stable is the DS3 Cabrio, a stylish little roll-top that will compete with the likes of the Mini Convertible.

Looks and image

It looks like nothing else on the road, let alone the supermini segment. Strong, assertive lines and in-your-face decorative touches make this one of the only small cars guaranteed to turn heads. The fact that this is a cabriolet (albeit not a fully-open convertible) gives this car a bold attitude.

The ability to personalise your DS is something the company is proud of. With millions (literally) of possible combinations across the whole DS3 range, you’re likely to build yourself a unique car if you delve into the almost-endless options list. Fun little additions like a basic sketch of some Parisian architecture on the dashboard give you something to look at — valuable in a world dominated by underwhelmingly grey car interiors.

The interior of the DS3 Cabrio 2016.

The interior of the DS3 Cabrio 2016.

Space and practicality

It’s a small car, but the DS does let itself down a bit in the practicality stakes. The firm claims that the DS can transport five adults, but they’d all be fairly cramped. The driver sits in an unusual position, which might not suit taller (or wider) individuals. A lack of cupholders is noticeable, and the £100 optional arm rest obstructs the handbrake and, to an extent, the gear stick.

Still, the boot is larger than that of the Mini Convertible, and as an urban runaround, the DS presents a good combination of style and space. If you want out-and-out functionality, look elsewhere.

Behind the wheel

The petrol DS3 Cabrio is an immediately likeable car with a pretty engine note - important in a car with a folding roof. The steering is light and responsive, enough to rival the Mini’s handling. Opening the roof almost entirely eliminates the already meagre rear visibility, though.

The ride quality is adequate around town, but on high-speed roads with potholes, you begin to notice that this is a small car rather than the old-fashioned French saloon it sometimes feels like. DS uses the word “hypercomfort” to describe the trade-off between driving pleasure and conventional physical ease. On the tatty, pockmarked surfaces of British motorways, there’s nothing hypercomfortable about the DS3.

Value for money

Some say pricey, others say premium - the fact remains that the fit and finish of the DS3 is superior to most other cars in the segment. Throw in the open roof and you have a fun, sophisticated, upmarket car, which you can expect to pay more than £20,000 for. Prices start at around £18,000, but can soar above £26,000 if you tick all the options.

That puts it broadly in line with the Mini Convertible, but twice as pricey as non-cabrio cars of comparable sizes. If you’re looking for a practical city car for less, perennial favourites such as the Ford Fiesta might be attractive alternatives.

What’s more, the DS3 doesn’t deliver the most scintillating driving experience. The Mazda MX-5 is a far more engaging car to have fun with if you can sacrifice those paltry rear seats, and costs around the same.

Who would buy one?

Anybody looking for a compact, stylish car that stands out against the ubiquity of supermini staidness should at least try to find a DS dealer. As the retail network expands, expect to see more from this fashionable little brand - it’s a refreshing antidote to a segment that has become a bit boring. The DS3 is a luxury product, though, so anyone looking for a bargain (as many buyers in this area of the market are) will be tempted by well-priced rivals.

This is a young person’s motor, and wouldn’t suit a family apart from as a second (or third) car. That said, 94-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel has endorsed the DS3, proving that you’re never too old to be chic.

This car summed up in a single word: Fancy

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