First Drive: Citroen DS3 Cabrio

The Citroen DS3 has been a firm favourite with UK buyers since its launch, outselling every other car in the French firms range. With the first rays of sunshine finally beaming down on the country, Citroen has now taken the obvious step of slicing the roof off.

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Unlike a traditional soft-top though, the DS3 harks back to the days of the 2CV, using a full-length folding fabric roof that slides its way to the back of the car. Fortunately that’s all it shares with the French farmers favourite, leaving buyers with a sharp looking alternative to the likes of the MINI convertible and Fiat 500C.

The decision to just open the roof up means the DS3 retains its most distinctive feature, that stylish shark fin in the centre of the car. It also has the very pleasant side effect of keeping the car stiff, making the usual creaks and groans of a convertible car a thing of the past.

Of course that does mean you miss out on the complete topless experience, but having doors and windows to the side of you makes cruising with the roof down, even at motorway speeds, a more relaxing event.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio 2013 Right Rear OpenImpressively, should a sudden shower set out to ruin your day, a quick press of a button inside sees the roof roll back in to place electronically whilst you’re travelling at speeds of up to 75 mph. I pressed that button when snow started falling on the A14 and just 16 seconds later I was warm and dry, as were the rest of the seats.

With the roof up, it’s almost indistinguishable from the standard DS3, which means there is a surprisingly good chassis considering its C3 origins. There’s no additional wind noise and the rear window, while slightly smaller than on the normal car, is still a good size. It’s also glass rather than plastic, with a demister element included.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio 2013 DashboardUp front, the dashboard has seemingly been lifted straight from its C3 twin, but a quick makeover with some piano black glossy plastic freshens it up nicely. Quality for the most part is good, with smooth controls and a clutter free steering wheel, but knee level plastics are a tad hard and brittle while the glove box felt surprisingly flimsy.

There’s plenty of room though, with the DS3’s extra size over the MINI freeing up some extra leg and knee room, especially for rear passengers. The boot suffers however, thanks to the motors and such like that work the roof. It’s useable, and you can just about squeeze a full-size suitcase in there, but access isn’t easy. Equally, with the roof down, rearward visibility is virtually non existent.

That said, on the model tested, the DSport THP 155, you won’t want to be spending much time looking behind you. Fitted with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, it whines and whistles its way to 154 bhp (156 PS) and 177 lb ft (240 Nm) of torque, meaning it’s good for a 0-60 mph time of just 8.2 seconds. At just 1,250 kg, it’s also quite light which helps towards an economy figure of 47.9 mpg.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio 2013 Interior

That lack of bulk also makes it a fun car to drive. The stiffer suspension of the DSport model takes away the soothing ride that Citroen are legendary for, but it replaces it with something that turns in sharply, remaining compliant throughout a bend. Come in to a curve a little too quick and you’ll probably find there’s still grip in reserve, but the standard stability control will intervene if things get too out of hand.

Overall it’s a genuinely enjoyable car that gives you a best of both worlds experience. One day it’s a mostly sensible, practical, family car that won’t cost too much to run thanks to 20,000 mile service intervals and a three year warranty, while on other days it’s a sun out, top down hot hatch that rewards the driver.

Alongside the MINI and Fiat 500C, the DS3 Cabrio sits very much in a fashion led segment of the market, but the French cars extra practicality and more engaging drive means it should at least make the shortlist for any soft-top buying fashionista.

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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