A cloud of shame hangs over me as I confess that the Citroen DS3 and I did not get off to a very good start. The first example I saw was the only one in the country on that day, hurried over from France to act as a static display. There was so much cooing from the Citroen people about how wonderful its design was that I switched off all enthusiasm and dismissed it as a frippery.
But then Citroen sent me one for a week. Oh, my.
As the heading to this article has already suggested, it was a DSport with the 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine co-developed by PSA Peugeot Citroen and - for use in the MINI - the BMW Group. There, I knew I wouldn't get far without bringing MINI into the conversation. It's difficult to avoid. And let me tell you, there have been times when I thought I would like to own a MINI, but now that the DS3 is among us, I'm not so sure that I do.
It's quite a car. I think it looks better in the fresh air than it did under spotlights indoors, and the distinctive triangular lips of metal immediately behind the doors (which do only a moderate amount of damage to the visibility in a car which has very little of this to start with) annoy me less than they originally did.
The interior is also of a character quite different to that of other cars. In its own way every bit as attractive as that of the MINI, I'd say. Possibly (whisper it) better.
From the specification details given so far, you'll have gathered that this is the hot hatch DS3, so if it is to be a success it's very important that it drives well. It does better than that. It drives magnificently.
It is not as sharp as a MINI, therefore not as exciting. but also more relaxing, if relaxing happens to be what you want to do. On a race circuit it would probably be efficient but not soul-stirring, but on the road it's excellent, with lots and lots and lots of grip and a good enough front/rear balance that I never encountered even a suspicion of either understeer of oversteer.
And it manages to be like this while also having the most phenomenal ride quality. The 45-section Bridgestone tyres mean that it doesn't exactly feel like a luxury car (they're too low-profile for that), but the suspension is so well arranged that it rides as smoothly as could reasonably be expected for such an agile car.
There's plenty room up front, and a reasonable amount for passengers in the rear. With the back seats in place, the boot holds 285, which is not so very far off the 300 litres of the more obviously family-friendly C3.
All this for a very competitive price of £12,600. Unless you refuse to contemplate buying a car with a Citroen badge, or, more reasonably, object to the lack of glass area, precisely what more could you want of a modern hot hatch?
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