First Drive: DS3 Performance


We covered the facelifted DS3 recently, and were pleased to see that it was still a good-looking and interesting hatch. DS has now added more power to the mix, hoping to give the DS3 a more purposeful edge. AOL Cars heads to the French coast to find out what's what.

What is it?

The DS3 Performance is DS' attempt at a hot hatch. As such, it's added a larger engine, better brakes and an all-important limited-slip differential to the little hatchback. The layout may sound familiar, as it's similar to the one seen on Peugeot's 208 GTi. That French hatch went down remarkably well with critics, which should mean that the DS3 Performance is in good stead already.

What's under the bonnet?

The DS3 Performance features a four cylinder 1.6-litre petrol engine which produces 205bhp and 299Nm torque. This is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels. For the most part the engine feels keen, and the exhaust makes a pleasing sound throughout the rev range. It definitely feels up to speed with rivals, but may lack the drama that many are looking for in a hot hatch. Be quick off the mark, and you'll hit 62mph in 6.5 seconds, and carry on to a top speed of 143mph.

There's also a nice amount of noise from the exhaust, with the DS3 giving all the burbles that you'd expect from a hot hatch. Could it be a little more dramatic? Perhaps. But it's doesn't leave you feeling cold.​

Drivers will also be pleased to see a combined consumption figure of 52.3mpg, meaning that despite the added grunt there won't be any more trips to the pump than in a regular petrol DS3.

What's the spec like?

Inside, DS has added certain elements to make the performance feel sportier than the standard car. There's large bucket seats which provide a decent amount of support for both driver and passenger, as well as a re-trimmed gear stick. Given that the DS3 Performance commands a £20,495 asking price, there's a decent amount of equipment to hand such as satellite navigation and climate control. There's also plenty of gloss black trim which gives the cabin a more premium edge, but the vast majority of the car's interior design is standard DS3. As a top-of-the-range model there's also Apple CarPlay, which makes linking up a smartphone to the car's system even easier.

Outside, the DS3 Performance is subtler than some of its rivals. You'll still find large 18-inch alloys and a chrome twin-exit exhaust, but it's not as flamboyant as others. Small 'Performance' badges can be found on the boot and flanks, as well as on the nose and even on each brake caliper. Thankfully, the DS3 Performance carries the look off, treading the line between understated and interesting well.

Any rivals?

Unfortunately for the DS3 Performance, there's a huge variety of cars for it to contend with. Sitting at the top as the undisputed king of hot hatches is the Fiesta ST, which ticks almost every box that a hot hatch needs - as well as costing a little over £17,000. As far as performance on a budget goes, you'd do well to beat the little Ford. You'll also see the likes of the Renaultsport Clio and Mini Cooper S as competitors, which both command fearsome followings. If DS was looking for an easy win, its not going to find it here.

What's it like to drive?

It's pleasing to report that the DS3 Performance does just that – perform. The 1.6-litre engine responds well to throttle inputs and accelerates keenly. The car's ride height - now lowered by 15mm over the standard car - helps keep the DS3 Performance planted through the corners, while the Torsen limited-slip differential manages to reduce understeer around the bends.

The six-speed gearbox, which has had its ratios shortened and throw sharpened, is decent enough in action. That found in the Mini may be a little more pleasant to use, but it gets the job done. There's no doubt here, the DS3 Performance is a quick little car, it just doesn't feel quite as urgent as rivals.

First Drive: DS3 Performance

First Drive: DS3 Performance

Around town the car's suspension is a little jarring and unsettled at points, despite tarmac that was much smoother than back home in the UK. Pick up some speed, and the chassis settles down nicely. The steering has a decent amount of weight to it too, and it's easy to accurately place the car into any corner. Those added Brembo brakes are also very impressive, and have a decent amount of feel. The added braking performance is noticeable over the standard car, and is welcome given the car's added grunt.

AOL Cars Verdict

The DS3 Performance is an interesting and well built hot hatch. It's a definite sign of intent from DS, showing that the company is happy to go out on its own and create something a little faster and more exciting than the standard car. It comes with a hefty list of equipment, and offers drivers the choice between hatchback and cabrio.

However, when a car nudges over £20,000 it comes into contact with some serious competition. Although the DS3 Performance is a decent little hot hatch, it gets undercut by rivals who offer a little more for less. It's a good looking car though, and feels well suited to European roads, albeit the smoother sections.

As a little hatch for those looking for a bit more power and excitement, while still retaining decent running costs, it's a fine choice. It just struggles in the face of a tidal wave of competition which can give the full hot-hatch experience for a less significant outlay.

The Knowledge

Model: DS3 Performance
Price: £20,495
Engine: Four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power: 205bhp
Torque: 299Nm
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Fuel Economy: 52.3mpg
CO2: 125g/km