First Drive: Citroen’s new DS3 Cabrio

19 April, 2013 | by Paul Horrell

OK, let’s get the bad tidings out of the way first. The DS3 Cabrio doesn’t really cut it as a convertible. There’s a lot of structure around you that occludes wide chunks of celestial real estate. Rolling back the roof is more like opening a giant sunroof than going properly topless.

When those sunlit moments arrive, the DS3 Cabrio is more than open enough to enter into the spirit of things. And when the rain returns, the electric roof mechanism is operable up to 120kph, so, if a downpour hits on the motorway, you don’t have to get drenched all the way to the next junction.

Small cabrios, whether they have a full canvas roof or a folding hard one, tend to be woefully wobbly, heavy, cramped and short of bootspace. They often look awkward with it – and where’s the glamour then?

The DS3 roll-top suffers none of that. It looks like a DS3 (good), has the same three-belt rear seat, and although the noise from truck tyres on the inside lane does disrupt things, it’s far from unbearable. Best of all, it still drives like a DS3. The Cabrio weighs just 25kg more than the hatch, and it’s as rigid – what stiffness is lost to the canvas is regained by replacing the hatch’s papier mâché parcel shelf with some steel braces.

So the sweet and game 1.6 turbo petrol engine in this THP 155 version is still able to provide convincing motivation. And because the body isn’t flexing and flopping about, the suspension and steering ensure the handling keeps the playfulness we know and love. The ride’s a bit bobbly, but still detectably supple.

Basic goodness unmolested, we can now examine what’s new. The bootlid opens upward in a neat parallelogram motion, and above it is a heated-glass rear screen. The view backward is OK, unless it’s the sort of weather when you’d need a rear wiper, because there isn’t one.

Normal procedure for open driving is to slide the canvas back so it concertinas above that rear screen. At the front, there’s a pop-up wind deflector above the sun visors which quells the worst of the turbulence. Press the roof button again, and the rear screen hinges forward to lie on the parcel shelf, and the canvas motors back to take its place. This totally blanks the view rearwards. It also looks a bit silly from outside.

And that’s about it. The Cab will cost about R35 000 more than the corresponding hatch, and brings a neat extra trick to the DS3 without any other penalty.

The numbers
1598cc, 4cyl, FWD, 115kW, 325Nm, 47.8mpg, 137g/km CO2, 0-100kph in 7.4secs, 212kph, 1156kg

The verdict
Doesn’t give you much of an open-air feeling, but at least the canvas doesn’t mess up one of our favourite small cars


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