Citroen DS3 Cabrio review

1 April 2013

Citroen DS3 Cabrio front view roof open

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Good: Roof is simple to use and works at speed, cosy when closed, roomy interior
Bad: Poor rear vision when fully open, a bit too much bodywork to feel like a real cabriolet
Price: from £15,045
Someone, somewhere, is having a laugh. The Citroen DS3 I’ve been loaned in the middle of an arctic cold snap is finished in Polar White. It stands out in my photographs like a snowflake in a blizzard. It also happens to be the new soft-top Cabrio version of the car – perfect for opening wide to soak up the warm spring sunshine, which will surely be along any month now.

At least the open-top DS3 is snug when fully zipped up. With the roof closed, it’s not immediately obvious you’re travelling in a soft-top. It seems just as quiet as the fully enclosed version of the DS3, and feels equally composed on the road. The suspension remains firm and jittery, and the absence of metalwork overhead doesn’t seem to have lessened the body’s rigidity. No squeaks, rattles or groans arise, and the steering feels as sharp and direct as in the hatchback. According to Citroen, even the drag coefficient is unchanged.

Partly, that’s because so little of the hatchback has actually been sawn off and thrown away. Viewed from the side, the Cabrio is virtually indistinguishable from the tin-top because the doors, side windows and roof rails remain unaltered. It’s only the roof panel and hatchback that have seen attention from Citroen’s hacksaw.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio side view

The Citroen solution is very similar to Fiat’s approach in whipping the top off its 500 city car to create the 500C. Both are a far cry from the Mini Convertible, which features fabric right down to its shoulder-line as well as frameless windows, leading to a much more open-air feeling as a result.

Citroen has both alternatives beaten when it comes to enjoying those fleeting moments of British sunshine, however. The DS3 Cabrio can be opened or closed at speeds up to 75mph, whereas the Fiat needs to slow to a more sedate 60km/h (37mph) to get the canvas to budge. An even keener weather eye is needed by Mini Convertible drivers, as the big cloth clamshell won’t keep a sudden shower at bay unless speed falls to just 20mph – a highly impractical pace on a motorway.

Operating the DS3’s roof at motorway speeds is not kind to your eardrums, however. The blast of air that rockets through the narrow gap as the roof first cracks open or pinches closed sounds like one of those manic Dyson hand-dryers turned up to 11. Going from fully open to fully closed takes 16 seconds, irrespective of road speed.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio rear part open

To operate the DS3’s roof, simply press the rocker switch mounted in the header rail. One touch will send the canvas scooting back beyond the rear seats, folding into a neat pile above the spoiler at the rear extreme of the roof. This is as open as the car gets if you want to preserve all-round vision. Press again and the glass rear window tucks itself neatly out of the way, allowing the canvas to slide downwards a little further. The resulting concertina of cloth completely fills the rear-view mirror and, alas, doesn’t really make the car feel much more open. However, it may help owners persuade themselves that they’ve bought more than a big sunroof for the extra £2,345 the Cabrio commands over the hatch.

If a big sunroof is actually what you’re after, the DS3 can still oblige. By pressing and releasing the roof button at opportune moments, you can halt the roof wherever you please along its horizontal slide. And whenever you shut the roof, it will generally pause just behind your head, requiring a firmly held finger or a brief second prod to seal out the weather completely.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio interior with roof open

Once properly open, the roof produces relatively little wind noise and buffeting in the cabin. This was a surprise in my particular car as the deflector strip that’s supposed to pop up failed to deploy for me. It’s meant to stick up at the front and help direct air more smoothly over the open roof at speed, but in my car it sulked stubbornly in its folded position even after I gave it an encouraging prod with my fingers. [Update: apparently there's a latch holding the deflector closed, which I failed to spot.]

Practicality is surprisingly good for such an obviously leisure-orientated car. Citroen is keen to point out that the DS3 Cabrio can carry five people, if three of them are sufficiently soft and squashy to fit in the back, whereas the 500C and Mini Convertible are strictly four-seaters. The DS3 also boasts a much bigger boot at 245 litres versus 125 litres for the soft-top Mini and 185 for the 500C.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio rear view roof fully open

The DS3 Cabrio’s bootlid opens in an unusual fashion, pivoting outwards and upwards on fancy hinges, which the company says gives better access in tight parking spots. Interestingly, a fully folded roof overlaps the bootlid, seemingly preventing access to the luggage unless the roof is first attended to. However, a quick squeeze of the boot release sends the roof climbing up the rear pillars into its mostly-open position. Once there, you can try the latch again and this time the boot will open normally.

Surprisingly, performance for the Cabrio is not quite on a par with the hatch, despite a very modest weight increase of 25kg – about the weight of three quarters of a tank of fuel. As much as a second is added to the quoted sprint to 62mph, depending on the particular Cabrio variant selected.

At launch there are three engines to choose from in the Cabrio – all fuelled by petrol and ranging from 82bhp to 155bhp – with the option of an automatic gearbox only on the middle 120bhp engine. The three engines come paired with different trim levels – basic DSign for the lowest power engine, DSport for the highest output (the car shown in the pictures) and middling DStyle trim for the middling engine. CO2 scores come in at 112g/km, 136g/km and 137g/km, the latter two very close to the equivalent tin-top ratings.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio interior

Prices run from £15,045 for the entry-level 82bhp DSign car, up to £19,675 for the DSport THP 155 pictured here. The Fiat 500C undercuts these costs by a big chunk, starting at an impressively keen £12,960, but you will immediately be able to tell the Italian is a cheaper car from the moment you climb aboard. The Mini Convertible, naturally, is more expensive than both, starting at £16,070.

No doubt the Cabrio range will broaden in time to include more engine, trim and transmission combinations, including the 90bhp e-HDI diesel engine that achieves a very reasonable 91g/km in the DS3 hatchback. Assuming that engine is on the way, a sub-99g/km open-topped DS3 sounds like quite a compelling proposition.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio roof opening

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