This small French cabriolet is a great antidote to frowny motoring thanks to its fun, and wallet-friendly, nature
SINGAPORE – Open air and sunlight makes people happier. There’s no other way to explain the predominance of sunroofs in very un-sun-challenged Singapore, or the continued existence of cabriolets. As we saw in our coupe/convertible-heavy previous issue, you can choose from affordable like the Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet, driver-focused targa fun with the Mazda MX-5 RF, and top-end luxury in the Mercedes SL.
Citroen’s sub-brand, DS (which became a brand in its own right last year beginning with the DS 5) aims to chase away the blues on the affordable end of the scale too, with its DS 3 Cabrio. On the face of it, it’s a perfect competitor for the Beetle Cabriolet: Both are small Euro-fun drop-tops with 1.2-litre turbo engines and room for four/five, but the DS 3 brings a significantly different experience to the topless table.
Like the Beetle, the DS 3 has a folding, fabric roof, but more like the MX-5 RF, DS 3’s pillars remain in place while the roof itself retreats rearwards. The result is that the DS 3 can behave much more like a regular hatchback – side note: the revised DS 3 hatch isn’t currently on pricelists but will be returning in 2017 – than ‘full’ folding cabrios.
Typical of recent weeks, it rained tigers and wolves for our first 24-hours with the car, and to its credit, we didn’t feel hemmed in or claustrophobic as some cabrios do with their tops on. The tall windscreen and windowed A-pillars offer good front visibility, although side and rear visibility is limited by the quirky B-pillar design and small rear window that sometimes transmits road vibrations.
The busy suspension is responsible for that, and it’s crashy over bad bumps, but ignore the sporty ride and you’ll realise that in noise terms, the DS 3 Cabrio is better than some compact hatches. You won’t turn your head in fear hearing a truck roar up behind you, and likewise with the top down, the key drawbacks of convertible driving (wind noise and excess chassis flex) are minimised. The soft top’s retraction takes 11 seconds, it works at speeds of up 110/km/h and has two stages: The first leaves the whole roof open, the second stows the rear window down so the section behind the rear passenger’s heads is open, although the folded fabric roof does obscure driver vision in this mode.
The PSA group’s turbocharged 1.2-litre inline triple, as found in the Peugeot 308, amongst others, is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. Like its corporate cousin, the DS 3’s triple delivers punchy performance and good acceleration, although the powertrain isn’t the most refined and occasionally lurchy, only some vibration makes its way into the cabin, but the engine also delivers proven frugality if driven gently.
The interior is DS business as usual, with French flair turned up to 10 thanks to satin chrome and handsome instruments, though flashes of plastic-ness (such as creaks and the faux CF trim) break the glamour a little and being French, everything works properly, but it won’t be instinctive at first.
Still, there’s acceptable room for four on board, you could fit five if you dislike the three rear passengers, and the boot is small at 245-litres. The hatch has 285-litres so it’s not much bigger, but the Cabrio’s loading aperture is rather small and at least the rear seats fold down. The equipment level is good, though not outstanding, there’s no keyless entry/start, but there is a full-featured infotainment system with surprisingly good audio, Bluetooth and CarPlay, plus xenon lights, a reverse camera and a generous six airbags.
Off the cuff you could say the DS 3’s biggest chance at success lies in it being one of the cheapest European cabriolets around, but its unique roof structure, peppy performance and relative refinement means this is a Frenchie that has substance to chase away the blues even on grey days.
DS 3 Cabriolet
Engine 1,199cc, 12V, inline 3, turbocharged
Power 110bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 205Nm at 1500rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 188km/h
0-100km/h 9.6 seconds
Fuel efficiency 4.9L/100km
Price $118,999 with COE