Originally launched as the DS 3 Crossback in 2019, this upmarket five-door, now renamed the DS 3 E-Tense, was initially only available with a choice of petrol and diesel engines.
A 100% electric variant followed a year later, and then in 2023, the “Crossback” moniker was dropped, it received a subtle facelift and other updates, plus it’s now a straight choice between petrol or electric power.
The EV version (marketed as the DS 3 E-Tense) battles it out in the competitive compact SUV electric segment with rivals including the Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Soul EV, Kia Niro EV, Peugeot e-2008, Vauxhall Mokka and Jeep Avenger.
In fact, the DS 3 has a lot in common with the latter trio because they are all part of the huge Stellantis Group, which also includes Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Abarth and Citroen, and they all share the same platform.
For 2023, the DS 3 E-Tense has a larger 54kWh battery (up from 50kWh) and a claimed 15% more power, while a mild makeover delivers extra kerb appeal and improves aerodynamic efficiency.
As a result, this chic little electric SUV now offers a range of up to 250 miles (previously 212 miles) on paper.
The redesigned front end features new LED headlights and daytime running lights, plus a new spoiler and larger diamond grille.
“DS Automobiles” is proudly displayed across the boot, while the profile is distinctive with flush door handles and that shark’s fin rear window design. There are also new wheel designs and seven body colours with contrasting roofs.
Inside, the most significant change is the updated infotainment system, which is easier to use than the previous version and it’s also more responsive.
There’s a 7.0-inch digital driver’s instrument display and a 10.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.
Elsewhere, many of the materials used have a premium feel. The watchstrap leather seats are particularly classy and very comfortable.
However, some of the quirky functionality does take some getting used to. For instance, the switches to open the windows are positioned on either side of the gear selector, while touch-sensitive short-cut buttons for the touchscreen, plus other essentials such as audio volume and heated seats, are integrated into the dashboard panel around the central air vents.
The extensive DS Safety Pack is also fitted as standard, and this includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist and speed limit recognition – all helping to give the DS 3 a maximum five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP.
The driving position is on the high side for me, though I suspect it will appeal to most buyers looking for that SUV feel, as will the light steering and ride that’s set up for comfort.
As you’d expect, there’s plenty of instant torque, but it’s not gut-wrenchingly fast like some other EVs.
The single electric motor that drives the front wheels produces 154bhp and 192 lb-ft of torque, taking nine seconds to hit 62mph (maximum speed 93mph).
The smooth power delivery results in a refined cabin ambience that fits the car’s classy character well, and it drives well.
You can have some fun in the DS 3 E-Tense because it’s nimble and responsive, but you will experience body lean in faster, more challenging corners, so best not to get carried away.
Traction is good overall, though it is possible to spin the front wheels on looser or wet surfaces if you plant your foot from a standing start.
There are three drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport. As ever, Normal is just fine because Eco dulls the driving experience and though Sport livens things up a little, the DS3 E-Tense is as its best cruising.
You can also select the B transmission setting, rather than Drive, which results in increased levels of brake regeneration, which is especially useful on downhill stretches of road.
I’d estimate its real-world driving range is probably closer to 200 than 250, which certainly makes it a realistic proposition for most drivers.
The DS 3 can take up to 100 kW DC charging, which enables a 0-80% replenishment of its battery in 30 minutes. Plug it at home via a 11 kW AC wall box and a 0-100% charge will take five hours, 45 minutes.
So far so good. However, though space up front is fine, there’s barely room behind for adults, while visibility is compromised for small children because of those fins on the rear doors, the high waistline and the thick B pillars. What’s more, rearward visibility isn’t the best.
The boot is 350 litres, or 1,050 litres, with the rear seats folded. Not class-leading, but enough for the shopping or a modest amount of luggage.
Other than its questionable practicality as a family car, the biggest challenge for the DS 3 E-Tense is its price. Ranging from £37,200 to £41,700 (the four trims are Performance Line, Performance Line+, Rivoli and Opera), it’s a relatively expensive small electric crossover.
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