French carmaker Citroen has kicked off a bold campaign to wrest a piece of the luxury small car market share from Mini, BMW and Audi with the release of its new DS3 hatchback.
A rival for the Mini, BMW 1-series and the to-be-released Audi A1, the DS3 is the first in a new range of premium-priced small cars that are expected to hit the market in the next two years.
Borrowing the badge from its renowned innovatively-styled 1950s car, Citroen now claims that the moniker stands for ‘dynamic styling’.
The DS3 is the upper-class model of the new-version Citroen C3 hatchback due for release in Australia later in the year, although it comes only in 3-door specification, albeit with a wider track and lengthier wheelbase than its city cousin.
Stylistically, it departs from the C3 as well, with the most notable being the ‘shark fin’ B-pillar behind the doors and the effect of the ‘floating roof’ that can be created if buyers opt for a two-tone colour scheme.
Aimed to directly compete with the Mini – against which it is slightly longer – its pricing is accordingly matched to do this, with the ‘DStyle’ version marginally undercutting the Mini Cooper automatic, and the ‘DSport’ is priced some AU$4,000 cheaper than a Cooper S.
Following a similar trend to Mini, Citroen will market the car for its ability to be customised, with buyers able to match up a host of paint and trim jobs to create that individual look.
The DS3’s engine – producing 88kW via a four-speed auto and 115kW via a six-speed manual for the DStyle and DSport versions respectively – is shared with Mini and Peugeot.
Hinting that the DS3 is considerably lighter than the Mini, the DSport boasts a standing 0-100km/h sprint of 7.3 seconds, and it interesting provides better fuel economy (6.7 litres per 100km) than its DStyle counterpart, although the transmission would certainly have something to do with this.
Standard fittings for the DStyle include 16-inch alloys, six airbags, stability control, cruise control, trip meter, foglights and leather steering wheel. The DSport comes with bigger wheels, and additionally includes climate control, sporty pedals, chrome exterior flicks and a rear spoiler.
Other extras for both models include Bluetooth, premium audio systems, a choice of grey or red leather trim, a leather dash and metallic paint.
The question remains as to whether this concept will sell well in this market. Citroen is still finding its feet in the Australian market after years in the wilderness, and it still has shaken the tag for poor reliability underneath the funky designs it has traditionally been able to produce. Citroens have also not enjoyed strong resale value, and this will be a factor that could play on the minds of potential customers.