SA's premium automotive magazine

Launch Pad: Citroën DS3 Cabriolet

DS3 Cab 2

Open season

John Bentley

It’s a rare windless day in Cape Town and we’re bowling along the N1 with the roof open. My hair’s being ruffled just a little by a light stream of air coming off the pop-up deflector above the screen. Nothing unpleasant, just a slight frisson that adds to the sense of travelling en plein air

I glance down at the speedometer to see we’re cruising at close to 120 km/h. I press the button to close the top, let it close, wait a few seconds, then open it again. No drama. The fabric unfolds, then folds again with no problem at all.

That, says Citroën, is one of the advantages its new DS3 Cabriolet has over the opposition. And I’ve just confirmed the claim.

It’s something Cape Town buyers will appreciate as the rainy winter season approaches. But it’s just one of the special attributes of the Double Chevron’s new upmarket cabriolet. I’ve already found that the 155 THP model I’m piloting is just as punchy and responsive as the hatchback version, and I’m soon to confirm that it’s every bit as dynamic, just as taut as its tin-top sibling, with the same absorbent ride quality.

Eschewing the Huguenot Tunnel, the launch route takes us over Du Toit’s Kloof, as stern a test of steering, grip, handling and ride as you’ll find anywhere. And the topline 155 THP Sport is pretty impressive in all departments.

Citroën South Africa CEO Didier Gérard is confident that, despite being a niche offering, the cabrio version of the DS3 is going to prove a popular choice for buyers in search of an upmarket compact car with a touch of je ne sais quoi…

The luxury ‘DS Line’, he points out, has caught on in this country better than anywhere else in the world. Currently, the DS range accounts for a third of all local Citroën sales. Not surprising, he reasons, given Citroën’s history of selling ‘special’ cars in this market. And the new drop-top fits right into that legendary heritage.

It’s no ordinary convertible, but a model that brings innovation, bold styling and sophisticated refinement to the segment. It’s also the only true five-seater Cabrio in its category, and has the same load capacity and 60:40 split rear seats as the hatchback model, though access to the boot is slightly compromised from outside.

Great care was taken in designing the mechanism of the canvas roof to ensure that it can be operated at up to 120 km/h. The top, which is more like an extended sunroof (echoing the roll-back top of the classic 2CV), is electrically operated and takes just 16 seconds to close.

There are three settings operated by a button in a console just behind the top of the windscreen. The three positions are intermediate (partially open), horizontal, which leaves the rear window in position, and fully open, when the roof folds down on top of the rear window, which itself folds flat.

An important feature is that the folded roof does not go down into the luggage compartment, thereby retaining the 245-litre capacity of the standard car.

The Cabrio weighs just 25 kg more than the hatchback, and torsional stiffness is claimed to be unaffected.

In established DS style there are a number of personalisation options. Three soft-top roof colours are available, Brilliant Black is standard, with Infini Blue and Monogramme Moondust as options, the latter available on Sport models only .

The Cabrio comes with all-new upholstery, including three Claudia leather options, and the dashboard finish echoes the roof colour. Models ordered with eMyWay satellite navigation feature a ‘Carbotech’ dashboard.

There’s also a new three-dimensional light signature in the 3D tail lights, inspired by the Citroën Revolte and Survolt concept cars.

The DS3 Cabrio is available with three petrol engine options: the VTi 82 featuring PSA’s zippy 1,2-litre three-cylinder engine producing 60kW and 118 Nm; the VTi 120,  with a normally aspirated 1,6-litre four-cylinder with outputs of 88kW and 160Nm, and the THP 155, powered by a turbocharged 1,6-litre producing 115kW and 240Nm. The VTi 82 and 120 models have five-speed manual transmissions and the high-performance THP 155 features a six-speed manual ’box.

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