A little while ago I wrote (HERE to be precise) that I had lost that lovin’ feeling when it comes to the hot hatch sector. I stand by what I wrote because I feel that manufacturers seem to be in the middle of a ‘who can make the fastest hot hatch’ competition at, imho, the expense of good old-fashioned fun. The DS3 Performance featured here with 202bhp is by no means the fastest or most aggressive and there is much to like with the car; but I still feel it has a surfeit of performance at the expense of driving enjoyment.
It unquestionably looks the part. With its shark-fin side-panel and low roof line, the DS3 Performance has the funkiest hot hatch shape on the road, I reckon. The standard DS3 pocket-sized good looks are augmented by a subtle body kit. Add the regulation big, wide alloys under lower wheel arches, a proper rear spoiler and diffuser and a twin exhaust et voilà, it transforms into a properly attractive performance motor.
It’s not just for show either. Under the bonnet there’s a 1598cc turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine. With 221lb.ft (300Nm) of torque peaking at 3000rpm, wringing the best out of the car means keeping those revs up for maximum go with the usual performance car soundtrack. The traffic light sprint to 62mph arrives in a creditable 6.5 seconds and on to 143mph top speed where allowed. Which is nowhere.
This is the point where I wonder who this car is for. Sure, we can all get our power kicks in a hot hatch but it seems to me that the supposed target customer – youngish fellows – are really going to struggle to insure a car with this level of performance. The car costs a reasonable £22,450 as tested but in a land where insurance providers will find any excuse to load up the premiums, young drivers will have to have deep pockets.
Of course, to be a driving enthusiast does not require a person to be either male or young. I want to be absolutely clear and inclusive on that point. Thus older drivers will fare better but, given that they may have a family or work responsibilities, the car then begins to show its limitations.
The DS3 Performance has four seats. The front has ample room and absolutely splendid bucket seats that grip and support the occupants. The back seats however are cramped and only tiny people need apply. I guess that’s just the three-door hot hatch way and this car is no different than many in this regard.
The interior feels upmarket with quality materials. Attractive gauges, colour-coded upholstery and comfortable seats all add up to a classy environment. The driver’s seat has plenty of adjustment and I found an excellent driving position. Lankier folk may struggle a bit though. All the usual tech suspects are on board and there is a detailed specification at the end of this review.
With the intelligent addition of a Torsen limited slip differential this sporty motor makes a very decent job of body control and lateral grip clipping through the corners efficiently, the diff keeping things under control near the limit of common sense.
Put the boot right in and there is a hint of FWD torque steer but smooth driving makes for quick progress provided the engine is kept spinning. Let the revs drop off and it all gets a bit flat. I would have liked a crisper shift if I’m honest but otherwise the car truly merits inclusion on the hot hatch hit parade.
The problem I have though is with the ever increasing search for power. Think back to the early days of the first GTI’s: Not quick but full of purpose the whole ethos of early hot hatchery delivered up great dollops of fun. That’s what is missing. Not every one agrees with me, which is nothing unusual, but one or two have.
The DS3 Performance is in many ways an excellent car. It is certainly a looker and I loved the seats. For me though, there are more enjoyable cars further down the DS3 range with lively engines but without the hardcore ride, making every day use more liveable. Geoff Maxted