DS 3 Crossback E-Tense is more than just a Citroën with notions

PSA’s new compact premium electric car delivers more than the sum of its parts

Make: DS

Model: DS3

Year: 2019

Fuel: Petrol

Date Reviewed: March 20, 2019

Thu, Mar 21, 2019, 19:45

   

For all the talk of a new electric dawn, there’s not a lot of options on the road at present. Many manufacturers have electric vehicles on the way, but the floodgates are far from open.

So there is certainly room for a compact premium electric car. Enter the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense.

The E-Tense is the catch-all name for electrified models from the Citroën spin-off brand and will be applied to its future hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEV) or BEVs.

The PSA Groupe, with its Peugeot, Citroën, DS and Opel brands, is gearing up to deliver a host of electric vehicles using its new multi-energy CMP platform starting this year. At the front there is conventional space for a traditional engine or electric motor, but under the floor and in places only mechanics will ever see there is engineered space that can house rechargeable battery cells without any compromise on interior cabin space.

The premium DS brand is the first PSA firm to bring a CMP-based model to the market in the form of one variant of its new DS 3 Crossback. The range itself goes on sale mid-summer with petrol or diesel power in time for the start of the 192 registration period. Later in the year the electric-powered DS 3 Crossback E-Tense will intensify competition in the premium electric car market.

Power to the EVs front wheels comes from a 100KW (134hp) electric motor that gets its electricity from a 50kWh capacity rechargeable battery pack mounted under the floor, console area and seat bases.

Driving range

Performance figures are impressive. The DS 3 Crossback E-Tense can sprint from 0-100km/h in 8.7 seconds and can do the shorter dash from 0 to 50km/h in just 3.3 seconds. Under the new, stricter fuel consumption-testing regime, known as WLTP, a full charge will deliver a driving range of 320 kilometres. The engineers estimate that 30 minutes plugged into a public fast charger can deliver up to 80 per cent battery capacity.

A high-performance heat pump reduces electrical consumption while also optimising thermal comfort without affecting the battery temperature control; excessive heat is a big issue with battery-charging.

The E-Tense ticks the commuting box nicely with a good range that, combined with a dedicated home charger, will ensure an ease of use that will impress owners. Retail pricing hasn’t begun but an educated guess would see it at circa €40,000 net of incentives and grants, somewhere near or in between the €37,630 Hyundai Kona Electric and BMW i3.

We got to drive a pre-production E-Tense in the confines of a French Air Force mountain compound near Monaco. The car was easier to drive than was the paperwork to enter the base. The car felt utterly normal; even the electric charging socket is located in a normal place behind a regular fuel filler flap. The E-Tense lacks the option of a staged energy recuperation gear selector-type set-up you get with a Kona, and makes do with a hybrid-like selectable B gear position option on the lever. The electric car is heavier than the diesel of petrol variants, but the additional weight has been distributed well and is low set, pushed to the four corners. We look forward to a comprehensive and higher speed test in the coming months.

Over the next four years we will see four new DS models launched

While we wait for the E-Tense, we can still consider the new five-door compact crossover, which follows on from the recently launched mid-sized DS 7 on the French brand’s latest product offensive.

Cutting loose

The French brand is setting out a new stall and cutting loose its previous models. Over the next four years we will see four new DS models launched.

The DS 3 Crossback is a very important car for the French brand and will go on sale in 38 countries shortly after production begins in May. DS says it will expand its sales outlets from 376 stores to 700 globally by 2021 to meet the growing demand for premium cars.

DS has identified the Mini Countryman and Audi Q2 as key rivals for the new DS 3 Crossback and is presently negotiating pricing. It has a number of party tricks to catch the eye, such as pop-out door handles similar to those on the Jaguar iPace. When you approach within 1.5 metres of the car the four handles pop out and retract when the door is closed again or locked. Of course the handles perform on demand, too, with a press of the key fob.

Inside, the car leather and Alcantara work very well, while a diamond motif is the order of the day from the design department. Even the air vent design generates a talking point. The boot holds a respectable 350 litres and when the split rear seat is folded there is up to 1,050 litres of cargo space.

The DS 3 Crossback is capable of DS Drive Assist Level 2 autonomous driving, which is close to fully hands-free driving. When it’s active the car can adjust the steering autonomously to stay in its lane and also adapt the car’s speed relative to the vehicle in front via adaptive cruise control. This is handy for slow-moving traffic on dull commutes, and in city traffic. A host of other ADAS safety aids are available. Its AEB auto emergency braking system can identify pedestrians and cyclists, even at night.

The brand has still to find its niche in many markets, including Ireland.

The entry six-speed manual Puretech 100hp DS 3 Crossback should start from approximately €30,000. From launch, three three-cylinder petrol and two four-cylinder diesel engines will be available; all are turbocharged. The six-speed manual PureTech 100hp petrol engine starts off the range with a 130hp and 155hp (both automatic) completing the petrol offering. We tested both with their EAT8 eight-speed gearboxes and surprisingly the 130hp proved a sufficient power source for this car. Diesel versions start with a manual 100hp BlueHDi with a 130hp automatic version the most powerful oil burner.

Angry and annoyed

Citroën fans lucky enough to have owned an original DS were angry and annoyed when the PSA group started to blatantly cash in on that car’s wonderful legacy several years ago.

Back then we were told that DS would become an accepted premium brand in just a couple of model generations. Well, it has been a couple of generations, and the brand has still to find its niche in many markets, including Ireland.

On the road the DS 3 Crossback has suspension tuned for a reasonably comfortable ride, but it falls well short of the magic carpet ride of its namesake.

During a mix of urban, motorway and mountain road driving the car delivered a comfortable but uninspiring drive. You can select from three drive modes – eco, normal and sport – and none affect the suspension. When cornering with gusto the car gently rolls and threatens to run wide, but hangs in there.

The car may look sporty but in reality it isn’t.

The French-built DS 3 Crossback is entering a rapidly growing crossover market and is likely to get lost in the crowd. True, the all-new DS 3 Crossback delivers more than the sum of its parts. The styling is very well executed and there is sufficient bling available inside and out to merit premium status.

Unfortunately, with just one DS dealer in the Republic, the message of how interesting this little car is stands little chance of being spread. Without expansion of its network in Ireland the vast majority of car buyers – if they know it at all – will continue to see the DS brand as little more than a Citroën with notions.

Lowdown: DS 3 Crossback 130 EAT8 Puretech Prestige

Power: 130hp
Torque: 230nm
0-100km/h: 9.2 seconds
Top speed: 196 km/h
Claimed fuel economy: 4.9 l/100km (57.6)
CO2 emissions: 115g/km
Motor tax: €200
Price: TBA (est circa €30,000)
Verdict: More than simply a Citroën with notions