It’s been a few years since DS Automobiles split from Citroen to become an innovative premium brand. Like its big brother, the DS 7, the DS 3 Crossback is a distinctive car.
Competing with other upmarket compact SUVs, including the Audi Q2, MINI Countryman and Volkswagen T-Roc, the DS 3 Crossback definitely has kerb appeal, with its epic, curvaceous grille, matrix LED headlights, pert rear and clever profile incorporating the signature DS 3 hatchback ‘fin’ in the rear windows.
It’s plush and different inside too, boasting quality materials, French flair and imaginative design elements such as flush door handles that deploy automatically.
Initially available with a choice of petrol and diesel engines, a 100% electric version (the e-Tense) is also on the way – marking the start of the DS car range of the future.
I tested the most powerful version of the petrol-engined versions (100bhp, 129bhp and 153bhp) in top spec Ultra Prestige spec.
My car came with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a basic price of £32,455, though the range starts at £22,105.
Parking sensors, keyless start, a 7.0-inch touchscreen, DAB and lane keeping assist are standard on the entry-level Elegance model. Move up to Performance Line and there are sportier styling details, plus alcantara seats, rear parking sensors, heated exterior door mirrors and much more.
Prestige adds climate control, automatic windscreen wiper activation, a 10-inch HD infotainment screen, sat nav and leather upholstery, while the range-topping Ultra Prestige trim gets a head-up display, proximity keyless entry, matrix LED headlights, blind-spot monitor, reversing camera and heated front seats with massage function.
Under the bonnet of my car was a lively three-cylinder 1.2-litre turbocharged engine developing 153bhp capable of 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds and a top speed of 129mph. With CO2 emissions as low as 109g/km and fuel economy between 41.7-45.5mpg, it’s an impressive performer.
As you’d expect from a car in the premium sector, it’s refined on the road. Push it and you know you’re being propelled by a thrummy three-pot, but generally the cabin is a good place to be.
Up front there’s a digital display ahead of the driver, while just below the touchscreen in the centre console and around the gear selector you can fill your boots with a quirky combination of buttons and switches.
Sadly the touch-sensitive short-cut buttons just above the air vents are especially frustrating. You end up prodding them a few times, because you’re never quite sure whether the instruction has hit home.
Space up front is good, but it’s less than impressive behind where there’s only just room for adults and visibility is compromised, especially for small children, thanks to the fins on the rear doors, high waistline and thick B pillars.
Special praise for the seats in general though. They were finished in brown watchstrap leather (another DS speciality) and were supremely comfortable.
The boot is 350 litres, or 1,050 litres, with the rear seats folded. Not class-leading, but enough for the shopping or a reasonable amount of luggage.
With light steering and a ride that’s set up for comfort, the relatively tall DS 3 Crossback drives well, but it’s certainly no hot hatch and is probably best suited to an urban environment or cruising.
Switch the drive mode to Sport and it’s a little more lively on more challenging country roads, but broadly speaking, it’s on the floaty side.
Thankfully, the engine has plenty of pulling power (though the 129bhp version would do just fine), and there’s plenty of grip, while the gearbox seems slick enough.
However, it’s worth noting that like an increasing number of so-called SUVs on the market these days, there is no four-wheel drive option.
There’s no shortage of safety features either, including adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB). However, they are not all standard, so it’s worth optioning a Safety Pack.
Verdict: If you’re looking for a compact SUV and you want to stand out from the crowd, then consider the DS 3 Crossback. It’s not without a few frustrations and compromises, but DS should be applauded for trying something different. Adventurously designed, easy to drive and oozing quality, it’s definitely worth a test drive. Maybe this flawed gem will come into its own when the 100% electric version is launched…