Long termer report: Citroen DS3 wins hearts and tackles bumps

The Citroen DS3 has been with us for about a month now, and the supermini has made an impression on everyone who's managed to grab the keys on a Friday night.

Those same keys are returned to the Autoblog pot on Monday morning with an 'it's-quite-good-isn't-it' grin and a five-minute discussion on much better it is compared to Citroens from the Nineties.The DS3's burgeoning reputation as a game changer seems assured then, but living with the car on a day-to-day basis has added a little more depth to our opinion of the car as driving prospect in a sector crammed with talented rivals.

The first thing everyone notices about the DS3 (after the endearingly chunky styling) is how firm the suspension feels. For those who spend their weekends in London that can make for an occasional crash over awkward man-hole covers, but for those of us in the home counties, it makes for entertaining times.

Despite the difference in ride to the built-for-comfort C3, the DS3 gets the same suspension set up, just tweaked a bit. But the results are impressive when you consider Citroen hasn't seriously turned its hand to dynamic ability in some time.

The DS3 can't replicate the razor-sharp turn in of its major rival the Mini Cooper, but it feels just as poised in the twisty stuff. It's also got a better turn of pace. The 154bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine delivers energy in smooth, torquey lumps, which makes it feels quick in gear and, at 7.3 seconds to 62mph, comfortably quicker than the standard Cooper.

Most important though is the Citroen's willingness to be driven enthusiastically. The car might look like a product of the 21st century's preoccupation with upmarket superminis, but there is something old school and uniquely French about the DS3 when you take it by the scruff of the neck.

It's to Citroen's credit that the car feels like a different prospect on the road than the Mini or the Fiesta. The Mini is more finely tuned, but it is also easily unsettled and the more powerful models are blighted by torque steer. The Fiesta is smooth, comfortable and incredibly accurate, but it is also underpowered and curiously muted when you start trying really hard.

The more time you spend with the DS3 the more you appreciate the idiosyncrasies of Citroen's sporty supermini. The car is not perfect of course - the steering doesn't offer tremendous feedback at the limits of grip and even out of town that rear torsion bar doesn't appreciate serious bumps - but it has character to spare.
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