Fun French car set to lift the Irish gloom
ROAD TEST:There is not enough fun in our lives anymore. We sit at home, commute to work or shop at the weekend, surrounded by the worst kinds of depression.
A constant barrage of promissory notes, of legal or political controversy. Joe Duffy, Six-One and Vincent Browne have sucked the laughter from our lungs, and when we peek out on to our driveways, there’s usually little enough joy to be had there, either. A succession of grey, silver, black and dark blue hatchbacks and saloons, all purchased with an overriding obsession for low CO2 emissions and frugality. Of fun, there is little or none.
It doesn’t have to be like this. It was once the case that fun cars were either too expensive, too impractical or too unreliable to be bought by the majority of us – but that has long since changed.
Take, as an exemplar, this new Citroen DS3 cabrio. Citroen’s revival of the DS badge has been a huge success for the French firm, a rare glimmer of such at a time of retrenchment and falling sales for the big three French carmakers. In 30 months, 300,000 DS models have been sold globally, 200,000 of them the perky little DS3 hatch.
In Ireland, the success is rather more muted, if it’s there at all. Citroen’s sales have been nibbled away by the German premium boys at the top end and by the Korean warranty-wonders at the cheap end. The DS brand and the DS3 have failed to capture Irish hearts, hardly a surprise when you remember both were introduced in the middle of 2009, when few were buying cars, and few would even consider a quasi-premium sports hatch from a French manufacturer.
Let’s get the Frenchness, if that’s what bothers you, out of the way with first. The DS3 feels distinctly Germanic inside thanks to high levels of quality and big, comfy seats. There’s more space inside than its main Anglo-German rival, the Mini, and outside it’s little short of gorgeous. Those chunky looks, that sharkfin b-pillar and the new 3D-effect tail lights all live up to the promise of the DS brand being the motoring answer to France’s great luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton or Hermès.
Brimming with fun
And it really is fun. Okay, so we’ve been testing the 150bhp 1.6 petrol turbo engine (co-developed with BMW) which will only be available on special order in Ireland, but the DS3 cabrio brims over with fun. It’s light on its toes and agile. And if it gives in too easily to lurching understeer (especially in the wet) when pushed, then at lower efforts it’s bubbling and fizzing with enthusiasm for the drive.
The convertible roof is a neat installation, and given that it’s really a glorified sunroof (the pillars and side rails of the roof remain in place) then it’s rather well suited to Irish conditions. A 16-second retract or replace time and the fact that you can lower or raise the roof at speeds of up to 120km/h means that you can take advantage of the scattered bright spells.
The boot, at 245 litres, is more practically sized than that of the Mini cabrio or the Fiat 500C. And the boot lid opens with a delightfully quirky motion, cantilevering up almost flush with the body. A shame that the actual boot opening is so small, meaning larger items won’t go through to the space beyond, but it is an inevitable compromise for an open-top car.