The new Citroën DS3

Citroen DS3

Citroen DS3 - Credit: Archant

Citroën’s original DS ‘deesse’ was launched to great acclaim in 1955 and now becomes a brand in its own right

Motoring fans were wowed in 1955 when Citroën used the Paris motor show to unveil the original DS model.

Some backed their enthusiasm with hard cash: the big saloon’s sleek aeronautically inspired lines, advanced hydro-pneumatic, self-levelling suspension and cosseting cabin – with eye-catching, one-spoke steering wheel – persuaded 743 people to place orders within 15 minutes. By the end of the day 12,000 had followed suit.

It also helped that this elegant new car’s DS designation was a neat pun; ‘déesse’ means goddess in French.

Fast forward to 2010 and the compact hatchback DS3 that revived the prefix had an equally galvanising effect upon Citroën’s sales and image.

As with the original, eye-catching design was key: a blanked-out section of the centre side pillar gives the impression that the roof is floating; all the more so if the roof section is picked out in a different colour or a decal. Customers can also access a huge customisation catalogue.

An equally dazzling Cabrio version followed and while the DS3’s bigger sisters the DS4 and DS5 have been less successful, it has come as no surprise that the 60th anniversary of the original DS also heralded acknowledgement of a badly kept secret: ‘DS’ would become a brand in its own right.

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Citroën itself will continue to offer the value and innovation for which it has always been famous, while erstwhile rival and latterday owner/sister brand Peugeot courts more upmarket clientele, leaving the newly independent DS brand to go after the German-dominated premium market.

The first ‘proper’ DS will be an even sleeker facelifted DS5. A truly eye-catching premium car, it is quite different from the increasingly ‘samey’ styling of the German triumvirate Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but hamstrung by over-harsh suspension. This has been re-modelled now to deliver a more even-handed handling and ride quality, more in keeping with the original ‘Goddess.’

Will the vacant DS1 and DS2 labels be filled? Citroën/DS says not. The newborn brand’s remit is to stay at the top and bigger end of the car market, which has fuelled volumes and profitability in emerging car markets such as China, as well as mature ones like the UK. Over here, DS models will continue to be sold by Citroën dealers, albeit in posh branded zones within the showrooms. At least for now.

Citroën DS3

Price: from £13,295

Driving appeal: ****

Image: *****

Space: ****

Value: *****

Running costs: *****

Reliability: ****

How green?: ****

Best rival: MINI

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