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Citroen DS3 Racing

Click to view picture gallery“Citroens DS3 has been highly
  praised by most motoring pundits;
  it
s won various ‘Car of the Year’
  awards; and 13,000 DS3 models
  have been snapped up. And now,
  if you
re very quick, you can buy
  the ultimate DS3
the rally-bred
  DS3 Racing
...”


TESTED HERE IS THE TOP-DOG DS3 — the DS3 Racing. An evolution of the DS3, it's produced by the WRC Citroen Racing division and cleverly links their endless world rally championship successes to a 'racing' Citroen that the public can buy.

However, that's not to say that the DS3 Racing is a lightweight, stripped-out road version of a rally car the DS3 Racing has gone down the road already taken by the MINI and Fiat 500, and loads the three-door hatch with a high-performance engine, top of the range equipment, lots of bespoke bodywork colour, and graphic pack options.

In the UK, just 200 right-hand drive DS3 Racing versions are available as a limited edition and just 50 are left to be built, each to their owner's specification.

Priced at 23,205, the DS3 Racing is powered by a 204bhp 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine that puts out 203lb ft of torque from only 2,000rpm. This powerplant comes from the PSA Peugeot-Citroen / BMW / MINI family of high-pressure turbocharged petrol units and, power-wise, it sits between the MINI Cooper S and MINI John Cooper Works.

“Performance is, not
surprisingly, pretty rapid:
zero to 62mph is done
and ‘DS-dusted’
in 6.5 seconds;
top speed is 146mph.
It’s also, rather
unexpectedly, fuel and
CO2 efficient —
the official Combined
Cycle consumption
is 44.1mpg, which
my test car
matched exactly!
Performance is, not surprisingly, pretty rapid: zero to 62mph is done and 'DS-dusted' in 6.5 seconds; top speed is 146mph. It's also, rather unexpectedly, fuel and CO2 efficient the official Combined Cycle consumption is 44.1mpg, which my test car matched exactly! Tailpipe emissions are a relatively-low 149g/km, so road tax costs 125 a year.

In the unlikely event that one of these DS3 Racing models is used as a company car, the Benefit-in-Kind tax will be 19%. However, due to its group 32E rating, insurance costs are high (less potent DS3 models are rated in groups 13 to 22).

For the record, you can buy a DS3 model for far less they range from just 12,405 up to 17,695. But as MINI and Fiat have proved, lots of bespoke add-on body paintwork and trim packs and finishes are of huge appeal.

Mainstream DS3 versions, depending on the engine specified (1.4 / 1.6 petrol to 1.6 HDi diesel), are available with DSign, DStyle and DSport levels of trim and equipment.

But back to the DS3 Racing, the flagship of the range. In addition to the much more powerful engine, WRC Citroen Racing tweaked its road handling using a high-performance suspension, 30mm wider front and rear tracks, a 15mm lower ride height and stiffer suspension settings with custom front and rear shock absorbers.

Brakes are, naturally, beefed up: racing specification four-piston callipers with special discs at the front and discs at the rear. A set of 18-inch sports alloy wheels running ultra-low profile tyres completes the DS3 Racing's sporting visual drama.

But that's not all of the WRC Citroen Racing upgrades. In addition, the DS3 boasts sports seats, racing dials, carbon-fibre trim and inserts, leather steering wheel, re-mapped engine control unit, sports exhaust system, a bespoke turbocharger, sharpened response sports steering, and carbon-fibre rear diffuser, front skirt and wheelarch extensions.

All the usual items of specification from the standard DS3 are, naturally, carried over so you still get air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, cruise control, high-spec sound system, alarm and central locking. As already mentioned, despite its name the DS3 Racing is no stripped-out lightweight competition machine; but it is a very fast road or track car that's been sympathetically tailored for everyday use.

“The only real complaint
is the very firm and
uncompromising ride.
And on our poor road
surfaces, the DS3 Racing
feels even more
extreme with a really
harsh ride, especially so
at higher speeds.
And because of the larger
wheels and tyres,
road noise intrusion is
amplified. That said,
the steering response
and feedback now
competes happily with
the highest
performance MINIs
...”
The only real complaint and you're already expecting this is its very firm and uncompromising ride.

And on our poor road surfaces, the DS3 Racing feels even more extreme with a really harsh ride, especially so at higher speeds. And it's not a quiet ride either; because of the larger wheels and tyres, the road noise intrusion is amplified.

That said, the steering response and feedback is now much better and competes happily with the highest performance MINIs.

What does add to the mean-looking DS3 Racing's appeal is that it's definitely not 'all show and no go' the performance figures prove that. And the very responsive, free-revving, high-torque engine and slick close-ratio six-speed 'box are the best two reasons to own one of these machines.

A firm ride is always expected with small hot-hatchbacks, but for British roads the DS3 Racing's uncompromising firmness and very short travel suspension, and with no 'give' in the walls of the low-pro tyres, quickly becomes tiresome.

It's better on open A-roads and motorways, and even acceptable on urban roads; but along winding country roads where the DS3 Racing's kart-like handling should see it excel it's compromised as the car is constantly unsettled, and hops and lurches from one ridge to another. In real-life the rally/race track specification suspension settings just don't work except for boy- or girl-racers; but then it's not them buying this car.

Against: Extremely firm and uncompromising ride, road noise intrusion, lowered suspension cannot absorb the bumps and ridges of our poor roads and gives unpredictable handling at high speeds, restricted rear quarter visibility.

Not to be overlooked, though, are its good points: a great engine, sports styling that looks great inside and out, sharper steering response and good fuel economy. And the drivetrain is brilliant. But the DS3 Racing ownership experience is an uncomfortable one. That said, nearly 200 UK buyers obviously disagree. David Miles

Citroen DS3 Racing | 23,205
Maximum speed: 146mph | 0-62mph: 6.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 44.1mpg
Power: 204bhp | Torque: 203lb ft | CO2 149g/km