First drive: Citroen DS3 Cabrio
What is it?
The convertible version of Citroen's popular premium hatchback, the DS3. Don't get too carried away though – it's more akin to the Fiat 500, or dare we say it, the 2CV, than a full-on drop-top like the Mini convertible.
Citroen are keen to mention that there's a reason behind this: weight-saving. A traditional drop-top would have added as much as 100kg to the DS3's kerb weight, and probably an extra chunk onto the price tag too – neither of which are particularly desirable.
Instead, they've managed to quarter the weight figure – the Cabrio coming in at a measly 25kg more than its hatchback sibling.
What's under the bonnet?
The usual range of Citroen engines – though petrol only for now. There are three, including a new 1.2-litre 3-cylinder, and two 1.6-litres with either 122bhp or 155bhp. The latter, which we drove, hits 60mph in just over seven seconds and goes on to 133mph. It feels comfortably, if not drastically quick – while the slick six-speed gearbox is a million miles away from the horrid floppy gearshift you would have found in Citroens just a few years ago. Diesel fans needn't despair though: Citroen says some black-pump models will be on the way shortly, just not available at the car's February launch. Similarly, there's no automatic option available as yet, though that may change.
What's the spec like?
We haven't been handed a confirmed list, but given the cabriolet features the same trim levels as the standard hatchback, we'd expect nothing to change here. With that being the case, levels of kit are about what you'd imagine for a psuedo-posh small car – not especially generous, particularly on entry-level versions.
There are some niceties thrown in for free though. A smart leather steering wheel and either an aluminium-effect, 'infinite blue' or piano black dashboard help reinforce the premium feel, while mood lighting also makes an appearance on most versions. Then of course there's the rather smart electric roof, which can be retracted at any speed up to 75mph, and the standard parking sensors – admittedly to make up for the lack of rear visibility.
There are new upholstery choices with the Cabrio too, including 'Granit Blue' leather that's unique to the drop-top, while some fancy "3D effect" rear lights also set it apart from the hatchback.
At around £15,000, the DS3 sits happily between the smaller but cheaper Fiat 500C, and the Mini Convertible – which is more expensive but does come with a fully-disappearing soft top. Aside from those, there's just the aging (and perhaps soon to be replaced) Peugeot 207CC... and that's about it, for now at least.
Beyond that, you'll need to drop a pair of seats and look at options like the Mazda's MX-5. In terms of driving experience, we reckon the DS3 sits about half way too – it's probably not as involving as the Mini, but is at least less roly-poly than the bouncy little Fiat. The 207CC, meanwhile, doesn't stand a chance.
Is it any good?
Forgive us for getting over excited, but we'd describe it as "lovely". It might be the (slightly) warmer climate of Spain convincing us that the Cabrio adds another dimension to the DS3, but it's a very pleasurable experience indeed. It's easy to dismiss it as "not a proper convertible", but the benefits of keeping the sides of the car in place are that you don't feel quite so drastically exposed.
There's none of the dreadful wobble you feel in a lot of drop tops, and although the steering could be a bit more direct, the DS3 remains an enjoyable car to drive. Refinement is also excellent, with the new soundproofed roof said to keep out just as much noise as the standard hatchback's.
It does, too – aside from sporting an extra button, from the inside you'd have no idea it wasn't metal above your head. However, while Citroen says it's got the largest boot in its class – and we're sure it has – it's only accessible through a daft, letterbox-shaped opening below the rear window. To be fair, the boot lid cleverly slides up and out of the way to aid access, but you're restricted to whatever can be posted through the rectangular hole.
Then again, the occasional Ikea bookcase can always poke out of the open roof.
The AOL Cars verdict
The DS3 has been a very popular car for Citroen, particularly in this country, where the firm has sold 36,000 of them since the launch in 2009. The one thing really missing was a convertible option, and now it's here we're sure it'll sell by the absolute bucket load. It deserves to do well too, as it's clearly a well thought out product.
Aside from the slightly daft boot opening that's more a means to an end, it's an impressive package. The roof is clever, and it does make the car feel about twice as special. Money no object, we think it's hard to see why you'd opt for the hatchback instead.
Model: Citroen DS3 Cabrio DSport THP 155
Price: £19,600 (est)
Engine: 1.6-litre, turbo
Power: 155bhp, 240Nm
Max speed: 133mph
MPG: 47.1mpg (comb'd)