Citroen DS3 Crossback: Bold, edgy and radical

Citroen DS3 Crossback: Bold, edgy and radical

Because for every avant-garde movement that goes mainstream there’s one that gets lost in the mists of history. There’s no denying that this DS3 Crossback is certainly bold. A compact SUV, it is being pitched at customers who “want an SUV with distinctive styling and equipment” and the exterior design certainly is distinctive. DS describes it as sculptural, which it is, with its multiple body creases and styling lines. The company says that this is an SUV that leaves nobody indifferent, which is a very brave philosophy in the current climate. It’s not that the DS3 Crossback is ugly, it isn’t. But it does strike us as fussy looking with too many different elements.You might even call it incoherent. Thankfully the engine range is a little clearer. Three turbo-petrol units and a single turbo-diesel will be available at launch, with an electric version due at the end of 2019.

All the petrol engines are versions of a three-cylinder, 1.2-litre powerplant: with 100bhp, 130bhp or 155bhp. The more powerful pair thrum along nicely when the car is cruising but get noisier (not too harshly though) when a little more acceleration is called for.

The 130bhp version manages a respectable 9.2 seconds for the 0 to 60mph sprint while the more powerful 155bhp version lops a second off that time.

Average fuel economy figures are up to 47.1mpg for the 130bhp model, or up to 45.7mpg for the 155bhp car) although we only averaged in the low to mid 30s during our test drive in mixed road conditions. Emissions range from 113g/km to 128g/km.

The engines themselves are usable enough and will suit anyone who drives a lot in town but the eight-speed automatic gearbox is too eager to shift, with the result that it can feel rather too busy at times.

The sole diesel option is a 99bhp 1.6-litre engine that can return up to 62.7mpg, with emissions of 102g/km that’s mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. We have yet to drive the DS3 Crossback fitted with this engine but have in other Citroen models so we expect it will be relatively refined although none too quick.

Most intriguing of all the engines is the forthcoming electric version, called E-Tense. We had a quick test of it and found that it was a match for many of the similar-sized electric vehicles currently on the market.

With a 0 to 60mph time of 8.7 seconds and a range of about 200 miles, the 50kw/h battery capacity should prove enough to assuage those potential EV buyers who are concerned about range anxiety.

We also suspect that the E-Tense might have one other advantage over the other Crossback variants too.We found the ride quality of the DS3 Crossback unsatisfying, with a tendency to thump into any broken road surfaces or potholes.

That’s a surprise considering how well Citroens such as the C5 Aircross cope with such obstacles. However the E-Tense, with its heavy batteries positioned under the floor of the car, might well feel more composed on the road which is something that we’ve found in electric and conventionally-engined versions of the Hyundai Kona.

That battery weight should also counter the natural tendency of a higher-riding car such as this DS3 Crossback to roll in corners, with the lower centre of gravity improving the handling.And that would be our advice if considering a DS3 Crossback: if you like the look of it wait for the electric E-Tense version, as those fitted with conventional engines are unrewarding to drive.

That slightly off-kilter feeling continues inside the car too, largely thanks to the design.

The switchgear is confusing to look at: the window buttons resemble and are positioned next to the electronic handbrake (which strikes us as not the safest thing to do) while the diamond-shaped arrays of buttons that are shortcuts for the infotainment system have buttons at the top of the four in each diamond that are blank, making it look as if something’s missing.

Then there’s the infotainment display which isn’t big enough and doesn’t have the look and feel of a premium car, unsurprising as it’s the same one used in mainstream Citroen models such as the C5 Aircross.

The leather seats look good (and feel comfortable) while there are nappa and suede-like Alcantara materials that raise the quality but only on the higher trim levels. But the overall effect is a mix of overdesigned and overthought but compromised; and that includes the space with the rear head and legroom which are in short supply.

Buyers aren’t short of compact SUV options at the moment, with the likes of the Volkswagen T-Cross and Seat Arona both fitting the bill better than this DS3, while the Audi Q2 and BMW X1 feel more premium.

None are as bold in their intentions but all feel sensibly conventional. Because however much of a fan of the avant-garde you are, conventional is what you want in a car rather than incoherent.

Published at Sun, 07 Apr 2019 14:46:00 +0000