Citroen DS3 Cabriolet DSport THP 155

OFTEN disregarded as quirky or off-the-wall, Citroen’s occasionally left-field approach to penning new models is something that you either love or hate,

Citroen DS3 Cabriolet DSport THP 155

Engine: 1,598cc, four-cylinder, turbodiesel

Power: 155bhp and 177lb.ft. of torque

Performance: 0-62mph in 8.2 seconds and 132mph

Economy: 47.9mpg (combined)

CO2 emissions: 137g/km

Price: £19,840

But the bold direction taken by the DS3 hatchback that reinvented the DS-line for the 21st century proved an instant hit.

First in a line of more premium-grade Citroens, it shrugged off the financial downturn to return 80,000 world-wide sales in 2011 — the first full year after its launch — and hand a lifeline to the French manufacturer.

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In 2013 the DS3 has added another string to its bow with the introduction of this, the DS3 Cabrio, and it could reinvigorate the stylish small car’s sales once more.

At £19,840, the range-topping DSport THP 155 tested here commands a £2,365 over the DS3 hatchback, but undercuts the equivalent MINI Cooper S by around £1,000.

Sharing a 155bhp version of the same 1.6-litre turbocharged engine as the Brit-built convertible, the DS3 Cabrio is outgunned by some 28bhp, however.

Crucially, though, it goes without the MINI’s full soft-top experience.

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If the Sun’s Page Three models took the same interpretation of “topless” as the little Citroen into the studio red top readers may have to settle for a mere glimpse of cleavage peeking from beneath a woolly cardigan.

Like Fiat’s 500C, the DS3 merely folds back the fabric centre portion of its roof, exposing a full width slice of sky which reaches back behind the rear seats.

The DS3 has always been strong on personalisation and the folding fabric roof can be had in black, blue or grey shades.

The electronically sliding fabric roof is a straight-forward idea which not only maintains the car’s neat proportions, but also allows the roof to be raised or lowered at up to 75mph in just 16 seconds as well as keeping the weight penalty of going topless down to just 25kg.

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Citroen’s DS3 Cabrio has the largest boot in its class — a 245-litre load space.

For those who have appreciated the DS3 from afar without sitting in one I have to report that the appeal only grows from behind the wheel.

The interior of the DSport is a classy blend of gloss plastics, leather upholstery (albeit in a taste-testing blue hue) and controls that feel reassuringly usable in their weight and action.

A full colour screen displaying stereo, sat-nav and the Bluetooth mobile phone connection takes centre stage.

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Only Citroen’s continued placement of steering column-mounted cruise control and stereo controls behind the two broad spokes of the steering wheel, there they simply cannot be seen, remains a source of genuine frustration in an interior which is stylish and otherwise well thought out.

A reasonable dose of interior space, both front and rear, with three usable rear seats which  make a mockery of the MINI’s barely habitable rear quarters.

Sadly, that 245-litre boot fails to be as commodious as it sounds. The boot raises in a clever upwards sliding movement, rather than swinging out, but structural reinforcements required to maintain the car’s structural stiffness following the loss of its roof mean that it reveals only a small opening.

Placing items inside can be like posting an oversized envelope through the letter measuring template at a Post Office.

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On the road the DS3 Cabrio behaves very much like the hatchback. That 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine is a peach and has numerous international awards that back up its classy power delivery.

A readily available 177lb.ft. of torque at just 1,400rpm translates to performance that is so gutsy that it will leave few DS3 owners pining for more.

Refined at low speeds it drags the DS3 Cabrio down the road by its front tyres when called upon with a rasping soundtrack, the claimed 8.2 second sprint to 62mph and 132mph top speed actually sounding a little conservative.

That you can actually achieve the 47.9mpg claimed fuel economy at a cruise is equally impressive, while CO2 emissions settle at 137g/km.

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My only issue during hard driving — and on bumpy b-roads — was that the car did seem to lack some structural stiffness. Scuttle shake (vibration around the A-pillars) was apparent and it felt a little more prone to tramlining and deflection by road imperfections than the hatchback.

Another minor failing was that the pop-up wind deflector at the front edge of the windscreen did pop-up into place.

I have experienced buffeting in the similarly-roofed Fiat 500C with the top down and the same was true with the DS3’s folding top in the middle of its three positions.

It was a shame as, with the roof folded right back there was no buffeting but the rear window is folded flat, the creased fabric blocking my view behind.

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Citroen have come up with a solution to the compact convertible conundrum which manages to maintain the style, interior accommodation of the hatchback upon which its based.

In terms of practicality it has the beating of the MINI Convertible.

It is not without compromise, though, and the Cooper S is the better drivers car.

If you have designs on a hatchback-based drop-top, it remains a damn close call.

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