Citroen DS3: We're singing in the rain!

By Liz Dobson

Citroen's new hatch is a delight

There's the well-known saying that you have only one chance to make a first impression. But Citroen has a second chance to impress Kiwi car buyers.

Under its new distributor, Sime Darby, the French range is making a (second) first impression with a sporty cabriolet from its halo DS range.

The Citroen DS3 cabrio comes in two model variants both with 1.6-litre petrol engines. The DStyle parades on 16in alloys and with an auto transmission ($40,990) and the aptly named DSport ($42,990) on 17ins and the turbo engine paired with a stonking six-speed manual transmission.

The cabrio is based on the DS3 hatchback's two-toned appearance with Sime Darby making doubly sure of making an impression with a yellow and black combination in my DSport test car.

The cabrio will be competing here with European contemporaries - Mini's soft-top and Fiat's 500C - but unlike those two soft-tops the DS3 comfortably seats five adults.

The DSport's turbo version of the 1.6-litre engine (up from 88kW in the auto to 115kW) provides more power than the French rugby team's front row and more speed than their wings (sorry, boys). Add the six-speed manual gearbox and it's certainly more agile than the French team.

Although there can be a gap between first and second, the car practically slices through the rest of the gears to land comfortably in sixth gear, providing the optimum performance on the open road.

With the power and manoeuvrability thanks to the hatchback shape, the DS3 effortlessly overtakes on the motorway, and zigs and zags through the chicanes in inner city roads.

All of those factors point to great genetics from the DS3 hatch, but it's the fact that it's a soft-top that brings joy to the test ride.

I'm a fan of any convertible and I don't mind taking the roof off in winter even when there is a bit of drizzle - though a friend still holds it against me more than a decade on when I refused to put the roof on a test MGF while zooming along the Waitakere Ranges in the rain.

But the Citroen provides different options of "topless-ness". The soft-top retracts into three positions: spot one is behind the driver's head, spot two behind the rear passengers, and the last sits on top of the boot. Though with the roof folded in that spot means restricted rear vision.

Inside the car, the layout is sophistication meets sporty with a small steering wheel providing the practicality of room for the driver but also visually providing cues from Citroen's rally background.

The dash has an entertainment screen and there is a playful nod to the Citroen-citrus association with the brand. There is a cigarette lighter-looking button sitting prominently on the dash that pumps lemon fragrance into the cabin. It's a fun feature though you'll have to warn any smoker passengers or else they'll be coated in lemon fragrance from pumping the button to get the lighter to pop out. Not that you'd let anyone smoke in the car.

And while you're avoiding smokers you'll also have to be wary of stalkers. The DS3 hatch is a stunning car in itself. There's the colour combo, LED strips behind the front fog lights and 3D brake lights at the rear but add a soft-top to it and you have a vehicle that attracts a lot of attention.

I left the cabrio in a supermarket carpark, with my 16-year-old daughter in the passenger seat, and when I returned with the shopping, she was hunkered behind the dash with the doors locked.

She explained that at least two guys came up to the car, walked around it, stared into it and then gazed at the front bonnet for a long time. I assured her it was the car, not her, that they were staring at. Ah bless self-absorbed teens!

Once she was placated I went to place the shopping in the boot - and noted another flaw with the cabrio. The boot's entrance is narrow meaning you have to lever goods into it but on the upside the boot space is large (245 litres) due to the roof sitting on top of it, not in it.

And open-top is what this car is all about - as long as your passengers aren't smokers or rain worry warts.


- Hamilton News

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