DS 3 Crossback 1.2 PureTech 130 Prestige
There is no doubt that DS vehicles are finished to a higher standard than other group brands; with more exotic materials and finishes. But with the DS 3 Crossback they come at a cost that makes it a hard sell. When you consider the lack of practicality as a family car, you can get a lot more for your money with rivals. It’s not all bad though; because the PureTech engines are simply superb, and there are some very cool design features.
DS Automobiles has been a standalone brand within the PSA Group for some time now, but we haven’t really seen much from them since that happened. There was the DS 7 Crossback we tested some time ago, and now there is the DS 3 Crossback.
Because DS has positioned itself as the group’s premium brand, the design team have worked hard to create a premium image to match.
It’s not unfair to say the styling on the DS 3 Crossback is ‘out there’. Some hate it, some love it. Few cars split opinion like this one; but it does get people talking about it at least.
At the front there is a huge, almost-overbearing grille, surrounded by chrome and flanked by the unusually-shaped headlights. Equally large LED daytime running lights sit at the outer edge of the bumper.
To the side our Prestige test car had 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels and a black plastic trim to give a sense of ruggedness. Chrome door handles sit flush to the bodywork, and pop out when the car is unlocked.
The body line of the rear door is a weird one, sweeping up but towards the front of the car. It almost looks like someone put it on back-to-front.
At the rear there is yet more chrome, running the full width of the tailgate and surrounding the taillights.
There are some fake vents to either side of the rear bumper – no, we don’t really know why either – and dual exhaust tips to one side. The black contrast roof on our test car looked effective against the red paintwork, blending nicely with the privacy glass.
Spend some time examining the interior of the DS 3 Crossback – and we suggest that you do – because there is a lot to see. The efforts to elevate the quality and feel of the interior are plain to see.
There is a diamond theme running through the cabin. They’re on the seats, in the form of quilting. The buttons on the centre console are incorporated into diamonds. Even the air vents in the front doors are shaped that way. Rounding off this theme are the infotainment and instrument cluster displays with diamond background design.
Then we come to the materials. The seats in the Prestige model are leather, which is nice. The dashboard and tops of the door cards are finished in a bronze-coloured material. It almost has a reptile skin feel to it, and is certainly unlike anything we’ve seen in any other car.
Taking pride of place atop the dashboard is a 10-inch HD touchscreen, where everything from the climate control to the satellite navigation is controlled.
The digital instrument cluster is not the most impressive system we’ve ever seen – it’s some way off an Audi Virtual Cockpit for sure – but it is still more premium than analogue dials, and befitting of a car pitching itself as premium.
Setting aside the diamond theme for a moment, the switchgear has a somewhat aeronautical feel to it. This comes mainly from the automatic gear selector, with its joystick design. The window controls, lined up either side, only enhance this feel.
On the whole, the DS 3 Crossback has softer touch materials and a nice variety of textures and colours. Yet it never manages to feel as premium as, say, an Audi. And the likes of the Q2 are a main rival of this car…
While the styling may split opinion, there can be little disagreement about the engine. Our DS 3 Crossback featured the 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine.
There are three power outputs: 100PS, 130PS and 155PS. Our test car had the 130PS version, which also boasts 230Nm of torque. It’s front-wheel drive, and has a rather pleasant 8-speed automatic gearbox.
The on-paper performance figures are reasonably unexciting: 0-62mph in 9.2 seconds and a top speed of 124mph. But don’t let that put you off, because this small 1.2-litre, 3-cylinder engine has heaps of character.
For starters there’s the engine note. There is an unmistakable thrum that amplifies as you reach the upper realms of the rev range. This may not sound that exciting, but from the driving seat it keeps you engaged and puts a smile on your face.
The PureTech is also very rev-happy. It’s more than comfortable being taken right up to the rev limiter, and actually pulls harder the closer you get to it. So whilst the 8-speed automatic does a great job of changing up smoothly, it can be equally rewarding to engage manual mode and let the DS 3 Crossback loose.
The only annoying aspect when you do enter manual mode is that you have to catch the next gear before you reach the rev limiter. There is no forgiveness there, with the car interjecting to upshift for you if you so much as breathe on the limiter. Because you’ve most likely already pulled the paddle by this point, you end up two gears higher…
With an exciting engine in the 1.2 PureTech, the DS 3 Crossback fills you with the urge to head out and take on your favourite road. And sadly, the handling is a little way behind the engine in terms of engagement and excitement.
The steering is numb, with little feel for what the front wheels are doing. The weighting could be a little heavier too, which would give a sportier feel.
The other main issue comes with any compact SUV: height. In order to fulfil its role as a compact SUV, the ride height is usually raised. In the case of the DS 3 Crossback, there are also higher-profile tyres to give that more rugged appearance.
Combining these means that there is a tendency to lean into the corners. There is more give on the tyres themselves, and a taller frame does no favours to the situation. The answer is simple: chill out and take things steady. Forget that the engine is rev-happy, and just let it go about its business without breaking a sweat.
Do this and you’ll find the DS 3 Crossback pleasant and comfortable. There can be no complaints on the motorway. And whilst the bigger tyres are not good for cornering at speed, they are great for absorbing bumps and riding potholes; important on our shambolic UK roads.
There is no four-wheel drive option on the DS 3 Crossback, nor can you specify PSA’s excellent Grip Control. The best you can do is “Advanced Traction Control” with additional drive modes for mud, sand and snow.
Small, turbocharged petrol engines often promise the world when it comes to economy, and then under deliver. Small engines have to work harder at motorway speeds, so what you think would be a steady, efficient slog can actually return figures much lower than expected. Enter the DS 3 Crossback.
By being a 1.2-litre engine, there is just a little bit more torque than the 1.0-turbo offerings elsewhere. On the motorway that counts for a lot, and the PureTech engine is extremely comfortable at motorway speeds. The 8-speed automatic gearbox makes the best use of this extra torque too; balancing power and efficiency with excellence.
On paper, the fuel consumption figure is 42.2mpg on the WLTP combined cycle. Compare that to the Ford Fiesta Active with a 1.0-litre engine and automatic gearbox. It quoted 40.4mpg on the same cycle. Kudos to the DS 3 Crossback.
Emissions have been kept in check remarkably well, at 117g/km. The Fiesta Active was up at 138g/km. Yikes. Though in truth that has little effect on the running costs of the car. Because once the car is registered VED is a standard £145 per year.
In case you are interested, the first year rate on the DS 3 Crossback is £170, making the VED costs reasonably consistent.
There’s also a case to be made for the DS 3 Crossback as a company car. For 2020-21 tax year there’s a 27% benefit-in-kind charge. Based on the p11d value of £28,295 a basic rate tax payer would have a tax bill of £127 a month.
Now, we understand that SUVs are very much on trend these days. But from a practicality perspective they are just a confused offering. To date there has never been one that would convince us to ditch a ‘regular’ hatchback.
And the DS 3 Crossback won’t be the first one to convince us, either. The only positive that comes to mind is an elevated driving position. It gives you a greater sense of presence on the road, and better visibility. But the price you pay for the extra height is plain to see from the ride/handling section of this review.
The rear legroom is acceptable, but no more than you would get in a hatchback. And given these compact SUVs have a bigger, bulkier experience you’d expect there to be more room inside.
Thankfully there is a bit of redemption when it comes to boot space, with 350 litres on offer. The load area is deep too, which is good for larger items. The only down side is having a large lip to lift them over, which can be awkward.
The upsweep in the rear doors causes issue, too. When you glance over your shoulder to check your blind spot, all you see is interior trim. So not only is it questionable from a styling perspective, but it is a downright nuisance for day-to-day driving.
Despite a small 1.2-litre engine the DS 3 Crossback has a braked towing capacity of 1,200kg. That should be enough for a small trailer or even a single-axle caravan. That could be a saving grace for the compact SUV, if you’re looking for a tow vehicle.
As a premium brand, DS Automobiles ensures that its models are suitably equipped. The DS 3 Crossback is no exception, with plenty of technology as standard.
All models feature keyless start, a digital instrument cluster and alloy wheels. You also get automatic lights, LED daytime running lights, cruise control with speed limiter, rear parking sensors and electric windows both front and rear.
On the multimedia front you get a 7-inch touchscreen system with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a DAB digital radio.
On the Prestige model we tested, this specification is enhanced further. The 7-inch touchscreen makes way for a much more impressive 10-inch widescreen, gaining navigation and voice recognition systems. The seats are leather, and the windscreen wipers are automatic.
All models feature the Safety Pack, which comprises an emergency braking system, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, speed limit recognition and recommendation, and intelligent speed adaptation.
It’s the Safety Pack which ensures that the DS 3 Crossback scores the full five stars in the Euro NCAP test. With an adult occupancy score of 96% you can feel safe and secure behind the wheel.
There is also an Ultra Prestige specification, which adds further luxury including Nappa leather, head-up display, reversing camera, keyless entry and LED headlights. The Ultra Prestige also gets the Advanced Safety Pack, which is the standard Safety Pack with extended emergency braking assist, extended lane keeping assist and blind spot detection.
Value For Money
With the DS 3 Crossback being touted as a premium car, there is a premium price to go with it. The entry-level model – a PureTech 100 Elegance – costs £22,120. For a sportier appearance, the same engine in Performance Line specification costs £23,520.
The car we tested, a PureTech 130 Automatic Prestige, costs £28,520. The only option added for our test car was metallic paint, at £750.
But ultimately the car you see here is approaching £30,000 which is a lot of money. It’s especially expensive when you consider that, despite being an ‘SUV’, there is no four-wheel drive, no spacious cabin, and less technology than you would find on a Korean hatchback.
It’s hard to see the market for this car. If you really like the styling, then perhaps you can overlook the price. But objectively there are cars out there which offer the same, or more, for less money.
In fact, you can’t ignore that Peugeot has just released the updated 2008 SUV. It has a more comprehensive range of engine and can be specified with Grip Control. In our opinion it looks better, and benefits from the always-impressive Peugeot i-Cockpit. What’s more, go for a like-for-like comparison and it’ll come out cheaper than the DS 3 Crossback.
There is no denying that the DS name has a rich heritage and history. Those two letters have been on some incredible cars over the years. And whilst the DS 3 Crossback is not one of them, it does celebrate that heritage. In its own style. You have to admire it for that.
Facts and Figures
|Engine||1.2-litre, 3-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Max power||130PS at 5,500rpm|
|Max torque||230Nm at 1,750rpm|
|Drivetrain||8-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive|
|Fuel tank size||44 litres|
|Fuel consumption||42.2 mpg combined, WLTP|
|CO2 emissions||109 g/km NEDC equivalent|
|Towing capacity||1,200kg braked / 640kg unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||350 litres|
|NCAP rating||5 stars|
|Price as tested||£29,270|