Driven design


Can Orla Kiely's design for Citroen's DS3 usurp the Mini as the car of choice for the fashionable set? Motoring Editor MICHAEL MCALEERreports

DON'T BE fooled by the functionality of the modern car: no other mechanical device provokes such emotion. Cars inspire envy, pride, passion, disdain. They are a mobile statement of the priorities and prejudices of their owners. To some, they are a garish symbol of financial success; to others, the ultimate fashion accessory.

The decision to get Orla Kiely to design a special version of Citroën's new DS3 is fitting for a brand whose in-house designers are reckoned to be among the most innovative in the motor industry. It's also fitting for a new car hoping to attract the fashionistas who, up until now, have opted for the retro-styled Mini.

While Citroën remains tight-lipped about the finer details of Kiely's work on the car, her specially designed DS3 is expected to make an appearance at London Fashion Week in September, followed by a fully fledged production version with a Kiely-styled motif on the roof and interior, which will be on sale next year.

In many ways, the French company is following in the footsteps of its arch-rival Mini. Since BMW redesigned the British classic back in 2001, it has brought on board numerous big-name fashion designers to create one-off models of the car. This year, for example, Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein, Diane von Furstenburg and Kenneth Cole will bring their talents to bear on a Mini. The difference in Kiely's case is that her car will enter production for general sale.

Linking a big-name designer with a small Citroën might seem a little odd at first. Yet the French brand has pedigree in the design world. It may have created a host of forgettable metal boxes in the past 20 years, but the Citroën chevron has adorned the bonnets of some notable motoring classics, such as the glorious 2CV and, of course, the legendary DS.

With the new DS3, Citroën is hoping to reawaken fond memories of the two-letter moniker, harking back to the 1950s DS that is regarded as one of the most iconic motoring designs of all time. Lauded by Charles de Gaulle, it was the subject of an essay by French philosopher Roland Barthes, who wrote: "It is obvious that the new Citroën has fallen from the sky inasmuch as it appears at first sight as a superlative object."

Such cerebral plaudits are unlikely for Kiely's customisation of the DS3, but it should catch the eye of label-conscious buyers. The car itself is a direct rival for the Mini in terms of size and driving appeal. Kiely adds the designer kudos that might just usurp the Mini from its parking slots outside the trendiest stores and cafes next year.