While manufacturers like Volkswagen, Fiat and Mini totally reincarnated their highly successful past models – the Beetle, 500 and Cooper, Citroen took a totally unique approach when they revived the DS nomenclature.
Instead of modernising the large saloon that was the original DS, the name was reborn in the form of something a bit more contemporary: a dainty two-door hatchback called the DS3.
Now, some might argue that the DS3 doesn’t live up to its name – DS standing for Deesse, meaning “goddess” in French. After all, it does have much smaller proportions than the original, which was swooping and graceful.
But think of the DS3 as a cute, bite-sized encapsulation of all that charisma, style and unconventional charm that made the first DS a legend in the automotive history books.
And it certainly is stylish and charismatic – I’m not just rehashing the press release here. Parked along the usual set of mundane hatchbacks you’re going to encounter while out shopping or going about your other errands, the DS3 is going to attract plenty of attention.
It’s striking, with those pronounced lines, slightly flared wheelarches and gleaming chrome strip down the sides. A very “planted” look has been achieved: one gets the sense that it would stick to the tarmac like gum to a shirt, even when things get precarious.
The model I sampled wore a discreet dark shade of grey, although there are many other hues one can specify – including a very conspicuous yellow colour that I suggest you avoid unless you’re famous enough to pull it off without looking silly.
The Citroen DS3’s most direct competitor is the Mini. This is evident not only when you look at the DS3’s size, but also once you start looking at the endless range of customisations Citroen are offering with their new baby – much like Mini, they are trying to give consumers a chance to configure a truly one-of-a-kind car that makes a bold statement of individuality.
Fashionistas can go crazy with the many colour co-ordination choices. For example, there are four roof colours to choose from: Onyx black, Opale white, Botticelli blue and Carmen rouge. I don’t think I’ve seen that many roof colours at my local Plascon outlet. For a bit of added novelty factor, the colour you choose to adorn the exterior of your DS3 will also feature on the car’s key fob.
And then there’s the dashboard. When you’re buying something German like an Audi or BMW, you’ve got two choices of dashboard trim material: brushed aluminium and brushed aluminium. But in the Citroen you have a choice of eight dashboard strip finishes. Although, you should prepare to become one pedantic car owner if you choose Piano Black – it has a tendency to show dust and unsightly finger prints.
Everything inside the DS3 exudes an air of quality. The long held perception that French cars are poorly built is being slowly dispelled with Citroen products of late – I’ve also sampled their C3 and everything seems as well sorted as it is in the DS3.The company is working hard to establish a reputation of sound quality and reliability, investing heaps of time in thoroughly testing products before releasing to the public: in the development stages of the DS3, almost two million test kilometres of were covered.
Value for money is another category where the Citroen scores. Even in the entry-level version, one gets cruise control as standard. That would be an exorbitant extra if you were to specify it on one of the DS3’s competitors. You also get one of those gear change indicators, which are becoming more popular these days. It simply tells you when it’s best to shift up, thus saving fuel and increasing economy.
The people at UK’s Top Gear magazine have also given the DS3 their seal of approval – allowing it to drive away with both their “Car of the Year” and “Small Car of the Year” titles.
As if all that wasn’t cool enough, here’s the cherry on top: when you take home a DS3, you can drive in the knowledge that your choice of car is also good enough for the best of local stars like Mamelodi Sundowns player, Siboniso Gaxa. His DS3 is yellow, with an image of our National flag etched on the roof.
Prices range between R199 000 for the DS3 Style and R255 000 for the DS3 Sport. A hot DS3 Racing version is rumoured to be in the pipeline – but don’t hold your breath.
Here’s my late Christmas wish Santa: a black Citroen DS3 with a South African flag painted on the roof – like Gaxa’s.