DS 3 Crossback 1.2 PureTech 130 2019 Road Test

The DS 3 Crossback is potentially a make-or-break moment for Citroen's standalone luxury brand, DS Automobiles. Are buyers of crossover SUVs like the Audi Q2 and MINI Countryman happy to pay strong money (top models are more than £30,000) for something quirky and unusual? And is the DS 3 Crossback luxurious enough to encourage you to splash out?

From a purely aesthetic point of view, the DS 3 Crossback certainly has the wow factor. It manages to have the same head-turning quality as the bigger DS 7, without simply being a reduced-size copycat. Few people will know what the DS 3 Crossback is, but that's part of the appeal.

That continues inside, to an extent. It certainly feels like designers have spent an awful lot of time making the DS 3 Crossback feel very different to anything else within the PSA Group (which includes Peugeot and Vauxhall, as well as Citroen). There are lots of soft-touch materials, although it's difficult to hide its family genes. The automatic gear selector on our PureTech 130 test car, for example, could be straight from a Peugeot. Of course, unless you regularly drive a variety of PSA models, you're unlikely to spot the shared parts. And this does feel special, with its diamond-shaped vents and buttons.

Unfortunately, the infotainment system is also the same as used elsewhere in the range - and it remains one of the less intuitive systems. It's laggy to use and even changing the climate control system requires diving into menus - frustrating if you're trying to follow the navigation at the same time. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard across the range, which is useful for using your phone to bypass certain functions of the system.

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The front seats are comfortable, with that high-up seating position that crossover buyers want. There's plenty of space, with enough head and legroom for even the tallest of drivers. There's lots of storage, too - including cupholders and (admittedly small) door pockets.

Space is of more of a premium in the back. There's a reasonable amount of headroom, but adults will complain about the lack of legroom. It feels cramped, not helped by the high window line. The boot's an acceptable (if not class-leading) 350 litres, although there's a fairly high lip for hoisting heavy items for, and the wheelarches noticeably impede on luggage space. Dropping the rear seats is fairly easy, although they don't fold entirely flat. 

Around town, the DS 3 Crossback is quite a fun little car for darting in and out of traffic. Visibility is pretty good, and the 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine is eager if a little vocal. The majority of buyers are expected to opt for the 131PS petrol tested here, although high-spec models come with a 155PS version. The extra power is handy on the motorway, although it comes with a trade-off - it's intended to be a sporty version and the suspension is overly firm, not helped by the 18-inch alloy wheels fitted to the La Premiere launch edition model we tried.

Both the 131PS and 155PS models come as standard with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is a highlight of the car. Gear changes are pretty seamless and well timed. There's also an entry-level model powered by a 101PS petrol engine, as well as a 102PS 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel - both paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. We haven't tried the manual, but we suspect the automatic is the way to go with the DS 3 Crossback.

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An electric version, badged the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense, is due later in 2019. With a range of 220 miles it could be one to watch - especially going by the success of the Hyundai Kona Electric.

No matter which engine you opt for, the DS 3 Crossback is fairly cheap to run. Official fuel economy figures range from 41.7 to 54.4mpg - and while the DS 3 Crossback is too new to be listed on our Real MPG database, other PSA models tend to perform relatively closely to their official figures.

In terms of value for money, the DS 3 Crossback performs fairly well. Even entry-level Elegance models - priced from £21,550 - get 17-inch alloy wheels, a seven-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, DAB radio and rear parking sensors. But things start to get more expensive as you move up the range, with high-spec models costing in excess of £30,000. That translates to monthly payments of more than £500.

For that kind of money, you could get a well-equipped Skoda Karoq, which is bigger and more practical, while also being better to drive. The Volkswagen T-Cross, meanwhile, is just as fashionable as the DS 3 Crossback while also being cheaper. But all this is missing the point of the DS 3 Crossback. You're buying one of these to stand out. It's not necessarily a purchase that makes total sense, but the DS 3 Crossback is one of the more convincing cars to be introduced by the brand.

The DS 3 Crossback is on sale now with deliveries from summer 2019.

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