Au contraire to VW’s New Beetle, BMW’s Mini, Chrysler’s Pt Cruiser and Fiat’s Cincuecento, Citroën is reviving the fabled DS name as a marque, one that intends to impress on consumers a very Gallic flair for sophistication and elegance. With the launch of the DS3, Citroën is showing a new direction for retro-inspired cars. One that points to the future, while keeping a link to the past of luxury of one of the most intriguing and desirable models in the history of all cars, the DS. Produced in the 60s and 70s, the DS impressed everyone with its different kind of beauty and many a mechanical innovation. Now, it can impress again.
To be sold at boutiques placed in the most valued pieces of real estate in selected cities, the DS line will not be seen at regular Citroën dealers (according to the latest print version of Brazil premiere car mag Quatro Rodas). In these high-end shops, visitors will be treated to an “experience” aiming to please all the senses. Visitors will be able to order their cars in a serene and chic environment.
The first of the DS line coming to Brazil will be the DS3. The DS4 will also be making the rounds. According to Brazilian enthusiast site webmotors.com.br, Citroën will retail the car starting in the beginning of 2012. They also mention price…an astronomical R$80,000 (US$50,000)! Being that, in Europe, this car goes for a paltry R$33,500 (US$21,000), the reality of how distorted car prices are in Brazil (and how healthy profit margins are…there! Can you hear? It’s another maker merrily making his way to the bank in Detroit, Turin, Wolfsburg and in this case, Paris).
To be a legitimate heir to the DS, the new DS3′s design is of course beautiful. The roof seems to float due to some clever design cues (the placement of the windows for one). From the side, the shape of a shark’s fin really stands out. Besides these clever tricks, the car offers 38 different color combinations for its sheetmetal, 12 different rims (in different sizes) and 3 trim levels. Are you ready? The levels are called: Chic, So Chic and Sport Chic. Mon Dieu! Très chic!
In terms of engines, the small is beautiful Euro-philosophy makes itself felt. There is a 1.4 VTi 16v unit good for an impressive (for its displacement) 120 horses, and a very good 1.6 Turbo THP (already reviewed on Peugeot’s 3008, here) that produces a healthy herd of 156 ponies. This engine is a very good example of Europe’s current downsizing trend. Coupled with PSA Group’s new 6 speed manual, it makes for an entertaining ride. The car sprints from 0-100 km (0-62 mph) in 7.3 seconds and eventually reaches a top speed of 214 km/h (134 mph), which would make it a thoroughbred on Brazilian roads. BTW, this engine is the result of a joint-venture between PSA and BMW (in which Peugeot did the work and BMW…well, BMW “oversaw” development). The engine can be found in the BMW’s Cooper S and a host of other PSA products.
The Citroën DS3 is a compact car. It measures 3.95m in length, 1.71m in width and 1.46m in height. It has a wheelbase of 2.46m. All of this makes it a very conventional and traditional sized car for its segment in Europe and Brazil.
Inside there are many attractions. Leather is de rigueur mon ami. The design is modern and there are some quirks. When you turn the steering wheel, like in all modern Citroëns, just the rim moves. The central part stays fixed. The bottom of the rim is square. The car’s illumination system is a show. It has a slit of LED daylight running lights. Safety is not forgotten and the cars comes with 6 airbags plus the usual alphabet soup (I won’t bore you repeating all the three letter words here).
Now, how does it drive? According to webmotors (no, I haven’t driven it, how could I? It hasn’t even come to Brazil!), the car’s sporting and captivating design is reinforced by its healthy performance. When you turn on the motor, you hear just an agreable blowing noise coming out of the dual escape exhaust. It’s not necessary to step heavily on the go pedal as the car has ample torque. Getting it into traffic is easy and its tight dimensions help. Steering is very precise.
Since it’s a compact, it doesn’t weigh much (1,100kg). So step on it and it goes! The turbo works wonderfully, and soon you are going at much higher speeds than legal. Acceleration is progressive and enticing. Well-planted, it feels solid at higher speeds. It is also quiet. At highway speeds of 120 km/h (75mph) the engine is turning at just 2500 rpm.
With the DS3, Citroën is bravely going forward where others have feared to tread. Rather than entering an evolutionary dead-end (much like the PT Cruiser did and the Mini and Fiat 500 could well do, too), the French are showing a possible solution for retro cars. Niche vehicles, yes. In this case however, it seems like there is a way forward. Citroën is trying to bridge the chasm between past, present and future. This first effort looks good. In my opinion, the forthcoming DS4 looks even better. Has Citroën found a future for retro cars?