Meet the hottest of HOT HATCHES

 
Ryan Borroff
DESPITE the fact that Citroën has been doing rather well these past several years in the World Rally Championship, it’s taken until now for the French manufacturer to create a road car with WRC credentials.

Citroën has created its new 204bhp 1.6-litre DS3 Racing model to be an extremely sporty rival to cars including Mini’s John Cooper Works model. The figures for both cars are suspiciously similar, with both able to sprint from 0-62mph in just 6.5secs and on to a top speed north of 145mph. Yet the Citroën has better economy and lower emissions. So what’s it like to drive?

In short it’s a belter. It certainly looks the part with contemporary and sporty looks that make the Mini appear outmoded. But forget the OTT graphics (a £450 option I suspect few people will choose) – it’s lairy enough in its choice of just two colours, orange and black or carbon grey and polar white. And then there is that aggressive front end and shark-like gills, not to mention the beautiful Nemesis 18-inch alloys which must be some of the finest-looking wheels currently in production. The DS3 Racing is designed to get noticed and understated it isn’t.

I’m in the slightly more restrained grey and white version. The car has been developed by Citroën Racing and tech-wise the turbo-charged engine is managed by a specially-tweaked engine control unit. It also gets remapped sports steering, a 30mm wider running track, stiffer suspension, upgraded brakes – which include four-piston Brembo racing calipers and bigger disc brakes at the front – and a modified exhaust system with a special twin tailpipe at the back. The car has a 15mm lower ride height and weighs less due to a bunch of carbon fibre components around the car including the radiator grille, air diffuser, front bumper spoiler and lower body trim.

And it’s not only one of the fastest hot hatches you can buy but also one of the most fun to drive. Citroën UK will get just 200 of them to sell here, and they’re so difficult to get hold of that I can only have the car for a two-hour test. But what a rush it is to drive.

The car feels very quick, feels stable at speed and the ride quality is good. It certainly handles very well, enough to keep me happy and confident. The engine is not as throaty as I would like and I would have preferred stiffer side bolsters in the sports seats. The gear shifting on the six-speed manual gearbox felt a little lightweight at first though I did get used to it quickly.

Inside, the cockpit is trimmed in Alcantara and leather, while aluminium drilled pedals complete the racer look. The steering wheel feels excellent. The instruments are as cool as they are in the regular DS3, but here they’re enhanced with racing red and they look great illuminated in the Hatfield Tunnel. Overall, the car feels strong and well built.

What’s perhaps most surprising is how easy to drive the car is around town and during normal driving. It seats four, even five adults, and has a sizeable boot, so in practicality terms it’s not a massive compromise and should be very easy to live with.

The difficult part will be getting one. There’s already a lead time of six months but it would be well worth the wait.

THE FACTS: CITROEN DS3 RACING

PRICE: £23,100
0-62MPH: 6.5SECS
TOP SPEED:146MPH
CO2 G/KM: 149G/KM
MPG COMBINED: 44.1MPG