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Used Citroen DS3 buying guide
What's the Citroën DS3 like?
In a word, popular. With MINI doing brisk business and Fiat getting in on the act with its retro-styled 500, Citroën decided it was time to get a piece of the action. And it did so by launching a new 'DS' sub-brand that kicked off with the DS3.
Based on the C3 hatch, the DS3 went on sale in the UK in the spring of 2010 and immediately garnered rave reviews from the motoring press. With sharp three-door styling, a range of punchy petrol and diesel engines, and plenty of scope for personalisation the DS3 was designed to attract the style-conscious buyers monopolised so effectively by the MINI and Fiat.
A Citroën you could have fun in
And the DS3 was something of a revelation. It was nice to drive, handled and rode well, and if you opted for the turbocharged THP model got down the road pretty nicely too. With the 0-60mph dash despatched in just over seven seconds, this was a Citroën you could have fun in.
The roomy cabin was well screwed together - not something that could always be said about small Citroëns - while plenty of chrome and piano black trim lifted the overall ambience.
It was safe in here too, a full complement of air bags and electronic safety systems securing a five-star NCAP rating. Plenty of standard equipment sealed the deal (even if the built-in air freshener wasn't everyone's bouquet of flowers), and there was always the chance to plunder an extensive options list that included satellite navigation and audio upgrades amongst other goodies.
What trim levels are there?
Trim levels at launch were 'DSign', 'DStyle', and 'DSport', the latter bringing items such as bigger wheels, standard climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, and extra body addenda. Little has changed over the past couple of years other than tweaks to colour options and equipment levels, and the introduction of an 'Orla Kiely Collection' special edition in early 2011. Special paintwork, graphics, and interior trim marked out the latter.
Were there any recalls?
A few recalls have been issued for the DS3 (and related C3), most fairly minor. Fuel tank mountings, the front axle and drive shafts, bonnet catch, battery earth cable, and driver's airbag are the main offenders but these should have been attended to on any used example. A check with Citroën themselves will confirm this.
Citroën DS3 engines
- 1.4 VTi - 95bhp
- 1.6 VTi - 120bhp
- 1.6 THP - 150bhp
- 1.6 HDi - 90bhp
- 1.6 HDi - 110bhp
Gearboxes are a choice of five or six-speed manuals or a four-speed automatic, depending on the engine fitted. Six-speeders make best use of the available power and improve cruising refinement, and would be our pick.
Citroën DS3 history
September 2009 - officially unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show
Spring 2010 - DS3 range launched in the UK
February 2011 - introduction of 'Orla Kiely Collection' special edition. Limited to 500 cars with the choice of Obsidian Black or Mativoire Beige paintwork, leather trim, and 'Acorn' graphics
April 2011 - DS3 Racing model becomes available in the UK. Around 200bhp, big wheels and brakes, and a smattering of carbonfibre trim up the performance ante, along with a price tag the other side of 20k
July 2011 - Minor updates including a choice of new paint colours, and revisions to standard equipment levels and options
Which version should I buy?
Just the three-door body style available, so no decisions to make there.
Where it gets a bit trickier is in choosing the right colour. Citroën went all-out to attract trendy and youthful buyers to the DS3 resulting in a range of eye-popping hues and combinations, not all of which were particularly tasteful. If dark grey paint and a fuchsia-coloured roof is your thing, there is probably a car out there for you.
Eye-popping hues and combinations
Our advice is to stick to bright red or yellow with a white or black roof - both suit the DS3s sharp styling and will be easier to sell on in the future.
The turbocharged THP petrol is the pick of the engine range and would be our choice, but if your next car must sip from the black pump the diesels are refined and economical. In 90bhp form it even sneaks under the magic 100g/km barrier meaning no road tax and exemption from London's Congestion Charge - a handy bonus in these straitened times.
What problems should I look out for?
Very few we're pleased to say. Solid build quality and reliability weren't always phrases you'd associate with Citroëns of the past, but the company promised the DS3 would be different and feedback from owners and the trade would seem to back this up. With the earliest examples just a couple of years old, main dealer service stamps and the balance of the original warranty will give peace of mind. However, it is worth checking a few things.
- Diesel models came fitted with a particulate filter (DPF), and while these aren't especially problematic on the DS3 they can prove troublesome on cars driven mainly in town. Longer runs are needed to regenerate the filter and burn-off soot deposits - a blocked filter will require a visit to a dealer to undertake a forced regeneration, or at worst a complete replacement. The part alone is over £500 so worth bearing in mind if you cover few motorway miles.
- A few owners have reported paintwork defects that have required dealer rectification, while alloys wheels can show early signs of corrosion. The larger 17" wheels are also prone to kerbing so worth looking out for on a potential used purchase, particularly as a replacement will put a £240-sized dent in your wallet.
- Electrical niggles can occur though the warranty should take care of these, and there were some software updates applied to early cars as part of routine servicing. Notes in the service history should show what's been done and when.
- Lastly, DS3 keys come with a colour-coded fob to match the paintwork, so if the colour is different it would be worth asking why. Likely to be just a replacement key but check anyway to be sure.
What should I expect to pay?
Prices for the DS3 are holding up well and at the time of writing £9,500 will get you into a 2010 1.6VTi petrol on a 10-plate, from a Citroën main agent or independent dealer. For that you can expect a car that is well equipped, in excellent condition, and with around 30k on the clock. Independent dealers have got higher-spec THP and HDi 110 models for about the same money but mileage is likely to be 10k or so higher.
At the other end of the spectrum a smidgeon under £13,000 will secure a mid to late 2011 car, from a main agent and with miles in the low teens or less. Don't forget there is still room for haggling though.
Despite a reputation for offering some incredibly competitive deals on new cars - with the expected effect on residual values - Citroën avoided playing this game with the DS3. Discounts at launch were hard to come by, even from internet brokers, resulting in impressively low depreciation. The DS3 may not quite match the MINI in this respect but it's a very good showing nonetheless.
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