Gina Baksa reviews the sporty DS 3 Black Lézard PureTech 110 S&S 5-speed manual hatchback.
The last time I drove a French-made car was a bone-shaking ride in my beloved 2CV when I was a student. Fast forward a few decades, and Citroën has created a DS premium division that embraces its Gallic heritage with a nod to a far sexier, on-trend design in the turbo-charged DS 3 Black Lézard PureTech 110 S&S 5-speed manual hatchback.
Aesthetically speaking, black is the new black with the DS 3 Black Lézard: blessed with its Nera Black exterior and black hand-finished roof, this cool cat has curvaceous, sleek lines with an agile grace and dynamic profile.
It looks robust but not boxy and visually is more than a match for its closest hot hatch rivals. Rear windows are dark-tinted, lending a rather roguish air.
I love the matching black basalt leather upholstery, the gloss black dash, the centre console, and the interior door handle surround.
The part-leather steering wheel is height and reach adjustable, which is great for a shorty like me, and I liked the feel of it – well designed apart from a very plasticky cover on the lower half that cheapens the look and keeps hands cold. And I’d imagine sticky on a warm day.
For me, the driver’s seat is the most important element of a well-designed car. If the seat is lousy, no matter the power under the hood or bells and whistles in the cabin, the drive will be awful. So, I’m happy to say the DS 3 Black Lézard has beautifully designed leather sport seats that feel snug, sexy and supportive, delivering a most engaging driving experience. Both driver and passenger seats are height adjustable.
The gloss black dashboard is well designed with easy-to-read speedo and rev counter dials and includes an exterior temp display and even a tyre pressure monitor.
Electric windows are only available in the front of the DS 3, so it’s old-school winding for rear passengers. Mirrors are well placed – all electrically adjustable and heated, and there’s an auto door and boot lock when driving, which is a great safety feature.
The leather vibe extends to the hand break, which is well-sited and easy to use – although oddly not accessible with the armrest down. The five-speed gear knob is also leatherbound and smooth.
The DS 3 Black Lézard also comes with a nifty black leather pouch wallet – useful for keys, sunnies, lipstick and phones.
Acceleration on this turbo DS 3 Black Lézard is fantastic. It is far better than I’d imagined. She purrs hungrily into life and reaches 62mph in 9.6 seconds but feels much faster.
Thanks to the turbo-charged, fuel-injection 1199-litre engine, this pocket rocket takes off with just a touch on the accelerator and a smooth gear shift up and down the five-speed box.
Likewise, I found the brakes very sensitive – just a touch, and they’ve engaged. Thanks to an excellent sports suspension, I not only felt comfortable and secure but could feel the DS 3 holding the road very well.
Driving in London was a breeze since I could take off speedily from lights to escape the testosterone-fuelled white van men. For town traffic, the DS 3 Black Lézard is superb. And she performed very well on the motorway too.
We had a blast driving out of London into Hertfordshire, and she handled the outside lane with ease. I had to watch the speedo as it would be easy to hit a ton. The top speed is actually 118, which for UK roads is more than adequate.
An indicator on the dash also tells you which gear you are in too – very handy for new drivers. Fuel capacity is 50 litres, and fuel economy is quoted as 65.7mpg combined, which is somewhat optimistic. My motorway and town driving achieved closer to 56mpg.
I’m not a fan of cruise control, but it’s here if you want to take your foot off the pedal for a while. The sport suspension is firm yet never a hard ride – unlike one of DS’s main competitors I could mention, and the automatic air-con was efficient.
A 7-inch, well-sited touchscreen has all the usual bells and whistles, incorporating sat nav, excellent radio, plus a Mirror Screen with Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. Six speakers and DAB digital radio had a great sound, and you can synch your phone contacts for a hands-free conversation with a handy volume control on the right-hand paddle.
Under the armrest in the centre column, there’s a 12v socket for accessories as well as a USB port. But where are the cup holders? I’d have thought the French love affair with coffee would make this necessity an absolute priority. Mais non!
The side pockets were just wide enough to fit a water bottle, below which satin chrome door sill protectors provide a cool design feature.
As well as indicator lights on the two wing mirrors, DS 3 Black Lézard offers two great safety features: should the car be in a collision severe enough to deploy the airbags or seat belt pre-tensioners, the DS Connect box emergency and assistance makes an automatic emergency call on behalf of the driver, with the precise location given to the call centre. Very useful, especially for solo female drivers.
The Active City Break is a useful enhancement that can anticipate impact and engage the brakes automatically, avoiding accidents. This only works in urban areas at under 20pmh.
Access to the rear seats is easier than some three-door hatches as the front seats move far enough forward to allow access without losing a limb. There are three seatbelts at the back and three headrests, so you could easily carry a child and two adults. But three adults would be somewhat cosy.
The seats split-fold to 33/66, providing extra space in the already spacious boot. Two handy ISOFIX mounting points for child seats are standard, while the below parcel shelf boot volume is generous, and I could easily fit two medium-sized suitcases.
At night, the LED Vision Xenon headlights came into their own, especially on the motorway, with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto lights and windscreen wipers. Especially helpful in this bizarre spring/winter/summer weather we are experiencing lately. Daytime front fog lights also came in handy when the sea mist descended on a trip to Brighton.
My only niggle was difficulty in reverse parking, as the wide door pillars obstructed the view. Admittedly, I don’t tend to use the dash reversing camera, but the rear parking sensors were helpful. Forward and side views are superb, though.
In summary, the DS 3 Black Lézard is an excellent 3-door hot hatch with exciting agility, superb comfort in both driving and passenger seats and great performance on the motorway as well as in city traffic.
The DS 3 Black Lézard’s turbo, direct injection engine gives an exciting and responsive ride with that extra ‘va va voom’. I loved it!
DS Lézard Vital Statistics
- RRP: £19,550
- 0-62mph: 9.6 secs
- Fuel injection: Turbo, direct injection
- Capacity: 1,199cc
- Five-speed manual
- Max speed: 118mph
- Tank range and capacity: 722 miles / 50 litres; 11 gallons
- Warranty: 3 years, 60,000 miles
- Insurance Group: 21E
- CO2 emissions: 100g/km (1st-year VED £125)
- Luggage capacity: rear seats up to 285 litres
- Rear seats down: 980 litres
- Insurance Group: 21
DS Automobiles – Where and How
DS 3 Black Lézard is available only with the award-winning and best-selling PureTech 110 S&S engine, with a manual gearbox, priced at £19,545 OTR.
Body colours include Perla Nera Black, Platinum Grey, Ink Blue and Whisper Purple. The enhanced specification includes DS LED Vision headlights, 17-inch black diamond-cut alloy wheels and gloss-black ‘A-pillars’.
For more information on DS 3 Black Lézard, visit the DS Automobiles website here.