Citroen DS3 Cabrio THP 155 Makes for Fun in the Sun

Cool styling, roof up/down to 75 mph, 155 engine nippy and economical

Lacks storage space, some quality issues, rear view obstructed when roof down

Citroen DS3 Cabrio?

Citroen DS3 Cabrio DSport THP 155 side view
Introducing a cabriolet to Citroen’s popular DS3 model range was a good move. The small and rather cool Citroen DS3 Cabrio oozes France through every seam -and whether it’s sat outside a Parisian café at night, or cruising past the marina at Cannes, the Cabrio fits into these scenes perfectly. But how does it do mooching about on the pot-holed roads of Yorkshire, England, and is there any point in buying the cabriolet version here? Let’s take a look as we take a week to review the Citroen DS3 Cabrio THP 155.

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

I don’t think there’s a need to circle around the point here – the DS3 Cabrio is a cool-looking car. Over the week I had the car, I didn’t receive a single negative comment about its looks from anyone. Indeed, it was praised by both blokes and girls alike. The body is taut and compact, but rather than looking weedy, the DS3 Cabrio slings out an air of purpose and, to a point, sophistication.

The stubby front bonnet makes you wonder how Citroen have squeezed in an engine any bigger than a go-karts, but they have – apparently by using a shoe-horn. The face of the car has good proportions, and it’s not overly cluttered either. There’s a couple of ‘reverse C’ slashes around the vertical LED running lights and the fog lamps, which give the Citroën a more edgy countenance. The main front light pods are massive, and yet still seem to fit the DS3 well.

Down the side, the unusual A-pillar appears to be pushing up out of the bodywork like a shark’s dorsal fin butting through water. An excellent piece of design which really makes the DS3 stand out from the crowd. Bulging arches sit over 17″ alloy wheels, and on the DSport I had these are a nicely-chosen set too.

On the rear, the lights are one of the main attention-grabber’s. Turned on, the ‘3D’ effect is amazing and looking down them it appears they go down for miles. The end edge of the car finishes not far off the back of the wheels, making you itch to see how it handles, plus there’s a wee bit of rear diffuser action going on too, adding a sporty edge.

The soft material roof slides back between the metal edges of the roof, leaving that structure in place. I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of cabriolet’s, but the fact that these stayed gave me a more secure feeling when driving quickly, plus there’s probably more rigidity than a conventional soft-top, as Citroen’s engineers have designed the DS3 Cabrio to be ‘as rigid as a saloon car‘. The roof fold back into two positions, so you can either leave the rear window in place or drop that back too so you’ve got the same effect as the Fiat 500 Cabriolet’s. There’s one rather large problem with that, and that is that you can no longer see behind you. Ah. Erm… glass back up it is then.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio DSport THP 155 boot and roof

Citroen DS3 Cabrio DSport THP 155 droptop

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Older Citroën’s, such as the Saxo, were never exactly going to tick either the quality or design boxes. They were boring, used poor-quality materials and fell apart at the merest hint of a bump. The DS3 has come a long way since then, but there are still good and bad points. The DSport has deep, shaped leather seats in the front, and the rears are comfortable enough too.

From the photographs here, you’ll probably be thinking that the front seats look lovely and supportive – and you’d be right to a degree. However, the bottom section of the driver’s is narrow and can pinch your legs, unless you’ve got skinny pins. I almost got used to it, but I still maintain they’re too confined. The rears have a surprising amount of leg room, but they lack a middle armrest. Citroen says the DS3 will seat five people, and it will do, but your middle passenger is going to have to be on the smaller side to keep those at the sides comfortable. Oh, if you’re in the back, be wary that you’ll find your head bumping the upper frame should you want to lean against the window (as one does on long journeys) as it pinches in towards the rear.

On the Cabrio DSport I tested, a gloss black finish stretched across the dash and down to the centre console and gearstick surround. It definitely gives a funkier look than a traditional flat or mottled plastic, and Citroen have at least made a good deal of effort to shed the demons of older cars. However, that glossy finish is highly susceptible to scratching, and it’ll only take one go with a rough cloth to make that finish look bad. The physical layout of the centre console is decent, and yo can find whichever control you need easily and quickly when driving.

Although they’ve come a long way in terms of quality, there’s still some unfortunately-familier cheaper plastics dotted here and there, and some of the control buttons are a bit suspect too. Also, the shiny upper dash finish is all good, but then as you get down to the lower controls for the stereo, it looks a bit like the designers have decided to go for an espresso break, come back, realised it’s nearly home-time, and simply chucked in substandard switchgear. It spoils the effect, and surely it wouldn’t have taken much to find something better.

The drivers console ticks all the boxes, as it’s stylish, simply laid-out and looks cool when lit. There’s not an overload of information to deal with, and there’s nothing distracting about the LCD display either. The DS3’s chunky steering wheel is super-grippy, although the stalks behind it for your radio controls, cruise control etc felt a bit outdated.

The DSPort I was sent came with the £800 option of eMyWay Signature, which includes satellite navigation, bluetooth for phone and music plus a USB socket. While I though the sat nav was okay to use and the display was nice and clear with plenty of useful features, I was let down big time when one day the radio suddenly refused to receive any FM station whatsoever, and at the same time the sat nav lost all the roadwork and traffic hold-up information. As much as I tried, these wouldn’t come back. I believe Jeremy Clarkson’s DS3 tester also lost the ability to tune into BBC Radio 2, so it could perhaps be a common fault.

Something that annoyed me hugely was that the Cabrio’s DAB radio system. This would be great actually, but the fact was that the DAB’s separate remote and system was so complex I gave up after a while. I’d say I’m pretty tech savvy, but there was no light on the remote to physically tell you it was on, and, should I have got it working anyway, there was no display to tell you which station you were listening to. An utterly useless piece of kit that shouldn’t be on a car like this, or any car in fact. If you want DAB, take my advice and buy one of the many aftermarket units that are for sale.

Something else I much grouch about was the lack of storage compartments. The glovebox is so small you can’t even fit in the owner manual, there’s no real cubby holes to store loose stuff, aside from the tiny holder under the (optional) driver’s armrest, and there’s also not a cup holder in sight for either the front or rear. Okay, cupholders aren’t the be-all and end-all of a car, but it’d be nice to have at least one somewhere.

Boot space on the Cabrio isn’t so bad at 260 litres, and it fact it beats its rival the Mini by quite a way. However, the entry slot into the boot is just that – a slot. The boot might fit a medium-sized suitcase in, but you probably wouldn’t be able to fit it through the opening. The saving grace is that the rear seats fold down to allow more space, and you could slot it through that way.

The Citroën DS3 Cabrio’s interior appears to by style over substance in many ways, and it’s definitely not a car I’d choose to undertake a road trip in. While there’s a few negative points to take into account, the interior is still stylish, comfortable and way more roomy than it looks from the outside.

Engine and gearbox

Available with three petrol engines and one diesel, we were sent the DS3 Cabrio with the most powerful version of the petrol – the THP 155. This is a  1.6 litre, 4 cylinder turbo’d unit, and it ain’t short of poke. Considering the engine is physically tiny, as mentioned earlier, it still puts out 155 bhp and an impressive 177 lb ft (240 Nm) of torque.

The Cabrio is not a heavy car, weighing just 1,250 kg, and while the zero-to-sixty mph time is not exactly face-altering at 8.2 seconds, once you’re on the move it shifts unexpectedly quickly. More on that in the next section. The engine itself sounds great, the turbo whistling merrily as you accelerate. I think the 155 Cabrio has easily enough power – any more and the traction control would be working its socks off constantly, plus you’d go through a front set of tyres in a short and painful wallet-hurting time. Motorway acceleration and pace is absolutely fine, and you’ll hit traffic flowing speeds with ease, and should you want to push above that, know that it’s done with enough vigour to make you grin.

The THP 155 only comes with one gearbox – a 6-speed manual. I was half and half on this one, as the ratio’s were slightly weird. Second, third, fourth and fifth gears are all really long, and I often found myself deliberating whether it was worth changing up or not in light town traffic, and although 6th is a good economy gear, I found myself having to change down to 5th or 4th to get the acceleration needed to pass vehicles doing around 60 mph. The physical changes between gears is fine though, and the ‘box is nice enough.

Fuel economy is great considering how quick the car is. Official stats come out as urban: 35.3, extra urban: 58.9 and combined: 47.9. I was getting near to 37 mpg around town, and on a longer run on a mix of winding, hilly country roads the DS3 THP 155 managed just over 42 miles-per-gallon. On short journeys with light traffic doing around forty mph, the live readout regularly read 50 mpg plus, but I don’t trust those entirely.

All in all, I think the DS3 Cabrio THP 155 is well worth a test drive in should you be looking for something with enough power to have a load of fun in, while still returning decent fuel economy.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

Reading figures about engine power on screen or paper is one thing, but what’s the DS3 Cabrio THP 155 like in the real world? First off, let’s talk about about how the Cabrio put the power down on tarmac, not paper. I gave the DS3 a good workout on some long, wide country lanes and when I needed the oomph to overtake, the little Citroën was more than willing, easily cutting its way past slower cars.

Motorway acceleration and pace is absolutely fine too, and you’ll hit traffic flowing speeds with ease. Should you want to push past seventy mph, know that it is done with enough vigour to make you grin like a Cheshire cat. The car is sedate enough when you want it to be, and it behaves well in city traffic, but should you suddenly act on the entirely natural -yet overwhelming – urge to blast forward and leave the traffic behind, then the Cabrio 155 lets you have your fun with absolute delight.

Regarding the handling and suspension, I couldn’t find any real problem with it. The ride is soft enough to be comfortable for the driver and passengers, yet sporty enough to let you push the Citroën around corners hard. The wheels being sat right at each corner of the car make for a gratifying, lively swoop round your favourite bend, and the DS3 didn’t roll much either, giving me confidence in its ability to corner well.

The steering is precise, and although it doesn’t have that same sharpness – or feedback – in comparison with something like a Lotus Elise, you’ll likely agree it’s easily adequate for this car. With regards to safety tech, the French are usually pretty good with this stuff now, and the DS3 Cabrio is no exception, having Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, plus Emergency Brake Assist, which will apply maximum braking power should it detect you’re not going to stop in time. There’s also Stability Control too, in case things get a little hairy one a fast corner.

As this is a cabriolet, you’ll obviously have way more wind noise than the hard top DS3, but it’s not overly bad either. At highway speeds – with the roof up – you can still hold a conversation perfectly well without getting to your destination hoarse, although I noticed when it rained heavy it was a bit like being sat in a tent in one of the Lake Districts famed downpours. Noisy.

With the roof down, the wind turbulence inside the Cabrio is fine up until around 50 mph. Above that – and especially in the back of the car – the girls will complain about their hair whipping into their faces (and eyes), while having a conversation starts to become more of a shouting match. As I said at the beginning, with the roof folded all the way back, you simply cannot see behind you as it obstructs you view entirely. From the out side, the roof down in that position looks the best, so it’s unfortunate that you have to lift it to where the rear window is up to see behind.

A positive is that you can lower and raise the roof at up to 75 mph, which is mightily impressive, and it’s a huge advantage over traditional rag-top’s, which are usually limited to either having to stop entirely or only at low speeds. One example why this is better; I was driving along a narrow and busy countryside lane with no stopping place at around sixty miles per hour, when the clouds decided to dump their load in one mighty storm. No probs, as a push of a button bought the roof back into position quickly enough to avoid us being drenched, and that’s another reason why I prefer this set-up over normal cabriolet’s.

Price

The Citroën DS3 Cabrio THP 155 comes in at £19,680. Add to that a couple of options such as metallic paint, the DSport Plus pack and the eMayWay Signature entertainment system, and you’re looking at almost £22,000. Spec something like a Mini Cooper S Convertible 1.6 to the same (or similar) equipment level as the DS3 Cabrio DSport with the above options and you’re looking just over £24,500, which is a big chunk o’ change in difference. There’s also the Fiat Abarth 595 C Competizione to consider, which comes out at around the same price as the Citroën if you spec some natty seats and wheels.

Citroen DS3 Cabrio DSport THP 155 verdict & score

The DS3 Cabrio 155 is without a doubt a fun little car to drive. The engine has enough power to keep you happy, while the handling is tight too. There was issues that I disliked here and there, such as some of the interior trim feeling cheap, the stereo losing the will to accept FM stations, the hopeless DAB system and the roof squeaking back embarrassingly loudly and only on occasions when I lowered in the vicinity of a person.

Aside from those things, I enjoyed driving the DS3 Cabrio. It’s a tough choice between this, the Mini Convertible and the Abarth 500 C, and while you’ve got that superb German build quality with the Mini, and that famed Abarth tuning with the 500, the Citroen’s styling and excellent engine still make it very much a contender.

Do you own a Citroen DS3 Cabrio? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8.5
Interior  7.0
Engine (THP 155)  7.5
Gearbox  7.0
Price  7.0
Drive  7.0
Overall Score  7.0 / 10 

  Specs

Model (as tested)  2013 Citroen DS3 Cabrio DSport THP 155
Spec includes  Leather upholstery, parking sensors, 17″ alloy wheels, LED running lights, power mirrors, sat nav,    See spec sheet for more
Options you should spec  3D rear lights (no-cost option on DSport Plus)
Price (as tested)  £21,950 (including options)
Engine  1.6 litre petrol, 4-cylinder, turbocharged
Power, Torque, CO2  155 bhp, 177 lb ft (240 Nm) | CO2: 137 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 132 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 8.2 seconds | Not tested as yet, but its hard-top sibling got a 5-star Euro NCAP
Fuel economy (mpg)  Urban: 35.3, Extra Urban: 47.9, Combined: 58.9
Weight (kerb)  1,250 kg (2,755 lbs)
Websites  Citroen UK, Citroen France, Citroen Worldwide

Check out our other car reviews here

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Jason Fanthorpe, Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

6 responses to “Citroen DS3 Cabrio THP 155 Makes for Fun in the Sun”

  1. Paul Hitchcock

    Why do motoring journalists have this obsession with cupholders? They are a thoroughly bad idea. If you are thirsty then stop. Presumably at the urging of the gendarmerie, French manufacturers, who used to fit such things for the front seats (they still do at the rear) no longer do so. Good for them

  2. Paul Hitchcock

    Thanks for your response.

    It is a matter of opinion of course but whilst France seems to me to have as many bad drivers as the UK it has many more good ones also. On a recent trip I followed a couple of vehicles in succession along many kilometres of autoroute. They were meticulous in steadiness of speed, road position, indication, anticipation etc. One was, believe it or not, a small white van! You would be lucky to meet one as good in a month in the UK yet alone two in succession.

    As for our old friend the cupholder, it took me about thirty years to realise that one should leave early enough and stop frequently to stretch ones legs both literally and figuratively! Dare I say it but taking a drink whilst on the move is akin to driving along with one hand on the wheel which, in some countries such as Australia, is regarded as driving without due care and attention.

  3. Stuart

    I’ve had my THP cabrio for about 6 months now. Collected it in Winter when I had no chance to pull the roof down. But now the sun is out, I am smiling all the time. Not being a full convertible, its less ‘show off’ and provides some privacy whilst I listen to Reo Speedwagon or Air Supply.
    Did I say it was quick? Its a performance bargain. 8 seconds to 60, and over 40mpg. I still have a clean licence but no thanks to this little Citroën.
    Lastly, why does anyone criticise the poor rear view / lack of cupholders / small boot? Try using the side mirrors / drink beforehand / pack light.

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