Corned Beef: Citroën DS3 Cabrio review

How do you improve on the best car Citroën currently builds? Why, you take something away of course, which is exactly what Citroën has done with the new DS3 Cabrio. By removing the roof – or at least part of it – Citroën has managed to retain the best bits of the DS3 hatchback and create a no-compromise soft-top.  The fact is, the Citroën DS3 Cabrio is every bit as convincing as its tin-top sibling.

The DS3 is the darling of the Citroën range – critically acclaimed, loved by its owners and – as recently reported – the fourth most satisfying new car in Britain. Citroëns aren’t meant to perform well in satisfaction and reliability surveys – it just isn’t done. But with the DS3 accounting for 25% of overall sales, Citroën will be mighty glad the car exists.

So it was only a matter of time before Citroën would ‘do a MINI or Fiat 500’ with the DS3 and extend the range. Fortunately this doesn’t mean a bloated, oversized DS3 – there’s already a DS4 and DS5 waiting in the wings for anyone looking to go large – with Citroën choosing to do the sensible thing and create a soft-top version instead.

But rather than follow the lead set by the MINI Convertible, Citroën has gone down the route of the Fiat 500C. That means, rather than being what we would call a proper convertible, the DS3 Cabrio has what in truth is a rather fancy extra long sunroof. But don’t let that put you off, the DS3 Cabrio’s roof is quite the techno masterpiece. And what’s more, it probably makes a huge amount of sense in Britain.

Corned Beef: Citroën DS3 Cabrio at the rear

Let’s get the headlines out of the way first. The folding roof – let’s stick with that – can be fully retracted in less than 16 seconds. And then, should the elements take a turn for the worse – which, let’s face it, could happen at any point in this country – the roof can be closed in another 16 seconds. Nothing too earth-shattering about that.

But the Citroën DS3 Cabrio’s party piece is its ability to allow for the roof to be operated at speeds of up to 75mph. So, if you’re hurtling along the M11 and you suddenly feel the pitter-patter of little raindrops – don’t panic. Simply press the button above the windscreen and you’ll return the DS3 Cabrio to its cocoon-like self. That’s assuming you’re not breaking the speed limits…

Other headlines? Well, at 245 litres, the Citroën DS3 Cabrio has the largest boot in its class – nearly double the amount you’ll find in the MINI Convertible and 60 litres more than the Fiat 500C. Equally impressive is the fact that the Cabrio only gives us 40 litres on its hardtop sibling.

But the hardtop doesn’t get a rather nifty tailgate opening mechanism which uses a circular motion allowing the boot to be fully opened even when parked close to obstructions. It looks bit Transformers in action and helps to ensure your DS3 Cabrio will trump your neighbour’s standard DS3 in the battle for which car looks best on the driveway.

The DS3 Cabrio will also seat five adults in relative comfort, although it does feel a little snug in the back with the roof up and as it’s a three-door only, access to the rear can be a bit of a squeeze. But none of these problems are unique to the Cabrio.

Citroën DS3 Cabrio dashboard

Normally in a convertible, you’d expect a massive increase in weight to compensate for the loss of rigidity. Not so in the DS3 Cabrio. In fact it has only put on 25kg of weight, helping it to achieve the same dynamic qualities as the standard DS3. In fact, with no modifications to the suspension or brakes, you’d be hard pressed to notice the difference. At least, not with the roof up, anyway.

The LED rear lights also warrant a paragraph all to themselves. They are a thing of beauty, although sadly the photos don’t do them justice. The central part of each light cluster is dominated by a rectangular set of 31 LEDs with semi-reflecting mirrors that reflect the light into ‘infinity’. There’s also a 15-LED ‘blade’ that works as a side and brake light, with a chrome-finished DS logo to finish things off.

Sounds tacky when describing it, works beautifully in practice. Look out for DS3 Cabrio-style rear lights appearing on Vauxhall Corsas and Fiat Puntos soon…

Citroën DS3 Cabrio LED rear lights

All good so far then? So what’s the catch?

Well it’s hard to think of any really – not least because all the complaints are minor and actually apply to the hatchback, too.

One big issue is the complete lack of rearward visibility when the roof is down, which could be a bit disconcerting for some drivers, not least when trying to reverse. Citroën has countered the issue by fitting a set of reverse parking sensors across the range, so this does help matters.

There’s also a fair amount of buffeting with the roof back at high speeds. The wind deflector helps, but it can’t quite eradicate all of the buffeting. Needs to be said though, it’s quite a feat to be able to have the roof back at 70mph on the M1 anyway. And let’s face it, the DS3 Cabrio is going to be much more about posing than it is rushing down the outside lane of the M6.

That’s not to say the Citroën DS3 Cabrio isn’t up to the task of long distance motoring. The 1.6-litre THP unit remains a peach of an engine, with 155hp just the right amount of power for a soft-top supermini. Plenty of low-end torque with a smooth delivery of power throughout the revs. But if that’s too much, you can choose a non-turbocharged 1.6-litre or a 1.2-litre. No diesels are available at present, although Citroën says they’ll be introduced at a later date.

Styling is a subjective issue, but if you like the DS3, you’ll find little offensive about the DS3 Cabrio. At certain angles it’s almost impossible to notice the fabric roof – the basic shape and structure of the DS3 has been retained. Some people will take a dislike to the pram-like appearance when the roof is back, but we reckon it gives it some retro charm. We approve.

Citroën DS3 Cabrio on the road

The Citroën DS3 Cabrio will be a big seller. The recent good weather we’ve seen in the UK will undoubtedly help to drive people into the Citroën showrooms and may actually ‘convert’ some potential DS3 hatchback buyers. For sure, it doesn’t provide the full ‘wind-in-your-hair’ experience of a true convertible, but some people will find the increased safety and security of the DS3 Cabrio a bonus. After all, the DS3 Cabrio’s design has meant it retains its curtain airbags.

Does the Citroën DS3 Cabrio represent good value for money? Well that depends on how you view the £2,500 like-for-like increase over the equivalent hatchback. The Cabrio is as good to chuck along a B-road as the hatchback. It also rides as well as the hatchback. And the steering is as numb as the hatchback. In short – aside from the slight reduction in boot space, it’s the same car just with a corned beef-style roof option.

So there we have it. The Citroën DS3 Cabrio – the corned beef of the DS3 range.

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

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