DRIVEN: CITROEN DS3 RACING
Is it a hot hatch? Is it a track car? Is it something more sophisticated?
Whatever the clinical term is, it's something to do with split personalities. Basically it's either bi-polar disorder or some sort of schizophrenia, because the DS3 Racing has no idea what sort of car it wants to be.
On the one hand you would be forgiven for thinking of it as an out-and-out boy racer's favourite. It's called the DS3 Racing, for a start, which you'd think would give you some clue to the tone the car is trying to set. Then there's the black-and-tan paint job and the outlandish graphics (though the car can be had in more subtle shades of black and white, while the graphics are an optional extra).
The funny thing is that it doesn't take you more than half a mile to realise that the DS3 Racing has far more sophisticated aspirations than that. Much like it's more everyday DS3 Brethren, the Racing has distinctly premium ambitions - this is a car that's after a slice of the same premium-in-miniature pie that Mini has had more or less to itself for the past decade.
This is, says Citroen, actually a sophisticated performance hatch that can play the everyday commute and still turn on the fun when you want it as opposed to an uncompromised track fiend. Thus, set against the Max Power-esque visuals is a pretty high kit count, including integrated sat-nav (although it's hardly the paragon of easy-to-use virtue) and some racy-looking but squishily comfortable chairs.
In itself, there is nothing wrong with this 'premium' feel, but it just sits so oddly with the boy racer flipside of the car's personality. A perfect example is the liberal spreading of carbon fibre around the car. It's real stuff, and it's nicely made, but it's there for show as opposed to weight saving. See what I mean by a confused personality?
Even the name isn't quite right. It's called the DS3 Racing, but is built by Citroen Racing, the same chaps who make the rally cars that have dominated the top level of rallying for the past decade. So why not actually have a go on playing to that heritage?
At this point you might well have given up on the DS3. If you want an out-and-out flingable performance car you're clearly better off visiting your Renault dealer, whereas if you want to 'customise' your new car with lurid decals, shiny bits and big wheels, well, you probably know the way to the nearest Halfords. And even if your heart is still set on the Citroen, a price that nudges £23.5k might make you gulp a bit.
But if you're still keen and you're sold on those love-'em-or-hate-'em looks, you might just be pleasantly surprised. Because the hot DS3, like its more humble siblings, goes, stops and steers with more than a modicum of competence.
The steering and gearchange aren't perfect, but both are reasonably direct even though they lack that nth degree of precision. The short wheelbase, meanwhile, makes the thing eminently chuckable, and you can even turn off the ESP, unlike with any other Citroen.
There is, in short, quite a decent car hiding beneath all that confusion - and profusion - of conflicting personalities. If only it could sort out what it wanted to be. And perhaps didn't cost quite so much...
Dimensions (L x W x H) (mm) 3962 x 1717 x 1443
Wheelbase (mm) 2464
Engine/Transmission THP 207hp/6-speed manual
Engine Type 4 cylinders/16v petrol + turbo
Capacity (cm3) 1598
Max power CEE hp/kW @ rpm 207/152 @ 6000
Max torque CEE (Nm) @ rpm 275 @ 2000 to 4500
Tyres Bridgestone Potenza 215/40 R 18
Standing 1,000 m (sec) 26.5
0-62 mph (sec) 6.5
C02 Emissions (g/km) 149