► Goodbye DS 3 hatch
► Hello Crossback SUV
► Our first test of dinky crossover
Here's the DS 3 Crossback, which nominally replaces the 3 hatchback as the baby of the DS Automobiles range. But it's not so much a case of evolution but revolution, as the three-door hatchback MINI rival bows out for an SUV with an additional set of doors and a higher riding, beefed-up body.
You’ll struggle to find much resemblance to the previous incarnation here, except for the shark-fin B-pillar being a token design reference. Of course the reinvention is because of global demand for SUVs, with manufacturers having to physically go big, or go nowhere. The premium market is similarly increasing in size, and DS wants to establish itself in the heart of these trends.
In DS’s eyes, the MINI hatchback and Audi A1 is so 2010 - it’s all about the MINI Countryman and Audi Q2 now.
DS 3 Crossback interior: diamonds are forever
Since DS Automobiles positions itself as the technological flagship of the PSA group draped in French luxury, the DS 3 Crossback prides itself with comfortable seats, flush door handles, LED headlights and trademark diamond-shaped apparel dressed on the dash, grille and switches.
The smallest DS model may have inflated in size, but so has the kit list… and price. Higher spec models come with leather seats, head-up display, a 10-inch touchscreen, and plenty of driver assistance tech with lane-keeping assist and autonomous emergency braking.
Prices have gone up too, with the most affordable model costing over £21k and rising up towards £34,000 for the La Première launch edition.
The leather seats on our Ultra Prestige model are extremely welcoming - the driver’s noisy massage function less so – and the diamond-themed dash isn’t as in-your-face as some pictures may suggest.
There’s more space in the rear seats than the Audi Q2, but less than the Countryman, while boot space trails both. The optional Focal sounds system is particularly good, even when streaming music over Bluetooth, so fork out for that to drown out any possible complaints.
There are a few quirks too. The dash buttons are touch sensitive, but slow to respond, while the familiar PSA touchscreen media system continues to be fiddly to use. If you want to switch music or alter any other features – such as the climate control – the sat-nav map disappears. Thankfully, the digital cockpit has a sat-nav mode as backup. Which you’ll need. Especially when the system struggles to fathom the maze that is Monaco.
Surely it doesn’t drive as well as that hatch?
Of course not but, despite the extra bulk of bodywork over the DS 3 hatch, the Crossback is still easy to place on the road. With its new platform, DS's small SUV is 40kg lighter than the Citroën C3 Aircross, helping it feel quite light on its feet - which also helps when it comes to braking, since the pedal response itself is half-asleep.
Otherwise this is a smooth-riding SUV that grips well, provides liberal amounts of body roll and offers a wealth of oomph from the PureTech 130 three-pot engine. It might feel out of breath higher up in the rev range, but it’s fine for most drivers, delivering the majority of its torque low down in the rev range. It sounds good, too.
You can choose from three 1.2-litre petrol engines, ranging from 99bhp, this 128bhp and the flagship 153bhp. The latter two are only available with a competent-shifting eight-speed auto. The PureTech 155 might tempt those wanting maximum performance, but there’s only an additional 7lb ft more torque – something you simply won’t notice in everyday driving.
There’s a 99bhp diesel option for those covering long distances and fully-electric E-Tense version for those who don’t; offering at least a 186-mile WLTP range with an electric motor dishing out 134bhp and 260Nm of torque. Battery charge takes 30 minutes to reach 80% capacity on a 100kW charger, but you’ll have to wait until 2020 for it to be in UK dealers.
DS 3 Crossback: verdict
The DS 3 Crossback is a rather likeable car. Against its two main rivals, the MINI Countryman is a better all-rounder, managing to entertain the driver while offering more space for passengers. You’d choose the Audi Q2 for its DSG ‘box and better build quality, but feels quite stingy when it comes to equipment and rear passenger space.
The 3 Crossback's ace in the pack is its visual appeal. It also handles well enough for most customers, though with plenty of body roll. But like its premium SUV peers from Mini and Audi, it’s a costly way to make a statement.
Check out our DS reviews