DS3 Crossback review – diamond with rough edges

DS3 Crossback review – diamond with rough edges
DS3 Crossback review – diamond with rough edges

My kids are generally full of wide-eyed enthusiasm and approval for the test cars I bring home.

Not for the DS3 Crossback though. The first response from my five-year-old was “urgh” followed by “that’s horrible”.

It’s fair to say he wasn’t a fan of this compact SUV’s “unique” appearance. And to be honest, I can see where he was coming from.

It’s not a car that can be accused of being boring to look at or lazily designed.

In fact, its styling is busy to the point of near-distraction. Inside and outside it looks like the designer forgot to stop and was still adding swoops and slashes and more diamonds even as the production line fired up. Picking a motif and running with it is one thing but the DS3 Crossback pushes its diamond gimmick too far.

DS3 Crossback profile view
(Photo: DS)

DS3 Crossback La Premiere

Price: £33,995 (£35,605 as tested)
Engine: 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Power: 153bhp
Torque: 177lb/ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 129mph
0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
Economy: 41.7-45.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 121-128g/km

The overly complicated design also causes practical problems. The weird backwards strake that cuts halfway into the rear window is both distracting and obstructive for a driver glancing over their shoulder.

Even the car’s description seems to have been over-though. Our top-of-the-range La Premiere came with “DS Opera interior Inspiration in Art Rubis red”. It sounds dreadful but looks great, with a marbled finish to the wine-coloured leather that adorns the seats and dashboard.

It matches DS’s ambition to create a luxurious feel and is backed up by tactile, good-quality switches, even though most of these aren’t exclusive to DS.

DS3 Crossback interior
The La Premiere’s interior is a mix of beautiful materials and terrible layout (Photo: DS)

Luxurious also generally means well-equipped and the La Premiere doesn’t disappoint here. While lower-spec models lack features such as leather, reversing camera and the more advanced driver assistance, the top model gets everything thrown at it. A head-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, auto-dipping matrix LED headlights, traffic sign recognition are all included, as is a 10-inch touchscreen with 3D sat nav, and wireless phone charging. In fact, the only options on our car were the £900 Focal sound system and £750-worth of metallic paint.

What the DS3 Crossback doesn’t get – whatever the trim level – is a lot of space. It’s a compact SUV with the emphasis heavily on compact. It feels cramped even for the driver and the dark interior, weird side swoops and almost-complete lack of legroom make the rear seats an uninviting prospect.

There’s a soft, comfort-led ride that betrays DS’s close links to Citroen. At times it feels like you’re sitting on a marshmallow as you float down the road. It means the DS3 Crossback is great at soaking up the lumps and bumps under the wheels but doesn’t inspire confidence on twisting routes and lacks any real engagement through its overly light steering.

DS3 Crossback dynamic
On the road, the DS3 Crossback is comfortable but unengaging (Photo: DS)

Orders are now open for the all-electric DS3 Crossback E-Tense, with deliveries starting early next year but in the meantime the car comes with the choice of a 99bhp diesel or 1.2-litre petrol engines in 99bhp, 128bhp and 153bhp.

As befitted our range-topper, the test car came with the most powerful petrol and an eight-speed auto gearbox. When larger cars in the PSA family can make do with lesser engines this could feel unnecessary in the dinky DS but it’s another tick in the “luxury” column, offering easy acceleration and comfortable cruising.

Starting at just over £21,000 for the entry-level model and rising to the tested version’s £34,000 before options, the DS3 Crossback faces some serious competition. Not only is it up against the characterful Toyota C-HR and solid VW T-Roc but also premium models like the Audi Q2 and BMW X1 and, at the top end, entry level versions of larger cars like the Range Rover Evoque, Volvo XC40 and Audi Q3.

It does well in terms of offering a more unusual and luxurious addition to the market, with decent equipment and cosseting ride. But it’s a long way from a driver’s car and the fussy looks are going to be a hard sell for some people.

DS3 Crossback rear
The DS faces some tough competition (Photo: DS)

Mazda MX-30 prototype drive - at the wheel of the FrankenEV

We get an early chance to try Mazda's first all-electric car

Maserati Levante Trofeo review - hail to the king

Range-topping V8 SUV brings eye-popping performance and luxury

Lego Technic Land Rover Defender review

Building the brick version of one of 2020's most anticipated cars

2019 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian X review - making a statement

Mitsubishi has upgraded its big-selling pick-up truck the L200