IT’S a bundle of bright yellow energy sent to put a smile on faces drawn weary by the winter that won’t go away. No, not the car. I am referring, of course, to the sun, which showed up this week after a prolonged hibernation.
Sadly, it didn’t arrive in time for last week’s UK launch of the Citroen DS3 Cabrio, a car built with sun worshipping and sultry summer evenings in mind, but born into a world of sub-zero temperatures and snowdrifts as tall as the tractors sent to sweep them away.
So there now follows a review of an open-topped car in which the top was open for all of ten seconds, before the cold became too much to bear, despite a hat and gloves. I’ve tried to spice it up with tales of derring-do in an arctic apocalypse (actually the English Midlands), but apologies if it’s a little light on al-fresco adventure.
Cast your mind back to the beginning of last week. It was with April only a handful of days away and with more than a hint of disbelief in my voice that I asked the lady at Citroen if I could bagsy the one yellow DS3 Cabrio in the car park because “it would stand out well against the snow for photographs”. The truth is, I reckoned it would be easier for the RAF search and rescue pilot to spot it when the inevitable stranding occurred.
Moments later, and still within sight of the launch venue, we were stationary. The DS3 Cabrio in front, a white one that would have been invisible but for its blue canvas roof, had slid into a snow-filled ditch at the side of the single-track road and was stuck fast. The driver claimed he had veered to avoid an oncoming truck, but his tyre tracks, and the total absence of any trucks as far as the eye can see, told a different story. A shove saw him on his way again.
If soft-snow traction isn’t the DS3 Cabrio’s party piece, then its canvas roof most certainly is. It peels back like the lid on a sardine tin and can open or close in 16 seconds when the car is travelling at speeds of up to 75mph, perfect for those moments when you’re caught in a light shower, or a full-on blizzard. You’ll have to slow your Mini Convertible to 20mph, or your Fiat 500C to 37mph, to pull off that trick. And, unlike its two rivals, the DS3 Cabrio boasts three seats in the back. Just make sure your friends are of the slender-hipped type if you plan to travel five-up.
A switch near the rear-view mirror slides the roof to one of three positions – intermediate, horizontal and total – according to how at one with the elements you wish to feel. In the “total” position, though, the stack of folded canvas obscures the view backwards, so it’s just as well parking sensors are fitted as standard to all models. That’s handy when you have to perform a three-point turn on a narrow country lane that’s filling with drifting snow faster than the owner of the stricken car ahead can scoop it away.
Although it’s made of fabric, the roof does a good job of insulating the cabin and muffling background sounds. Passing lorries, or snowploughs, will sound like they’re trying to join you for lunch, but wind noise is negligible. Citroen claims a DS3 Cabrio with the roof up has exactly the same aerodynamic profile as a standard DS3 hatchback.
A mesh air deflector pops up to reduce buffeting when the roof comes off but, as our ten-second test proved, is powerless to stop the cabin temperature from plummeting to match the ambient temperature outside.
Which makes you think… what’s the point of an open-topped car in a country with a climate like ours? I’ve no idea, to be honest, but the stats show Brits love a car with a removable roof. We’re either optimistic, or deluded.
Our test car was a top-of-the-range Dsport model, powered by a turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine that develops 155bhp and 177lb ft of torque for a 0-60 time of 8.3 seconds and a 132mph top speed.
As is the way with these small-capacity forced-induction units, the headline figures are only half the story, and the DS3’s little motor is exceptionally flexible on a cross-country jaunt. The lightest of touches with the throttle brings a smile to the face as the car picks up speed, backed by a raspy exhaust note that’s not too intrusive.
Because the DS3 Cabrio isn’t a complete drop top, most of the car’s upper structure – the side pillars and three edges of the roof – remains in situ with the hood down. This means the DS3 Cabrio’s body shell doesn’t need much extra bracing, so it only weighs 25kg more than the hatchback. That’s why it’s only 0.1 seconds slower to 60 than the hatch, and why it doesn’t shake itself silly over pock-marked roads like some cars shorn of their lids. It’s not the most chuckable of cars –the steering’s a little too light for that sort of nonsense -– but neither is it meant to be.
It also means the Cabrio keeps the hatchback’s distinctive “shark-fin” pillars, while gaining LED rear lights with mirrors to make it look like the oval pattern of light goes on for ever.
The boot is a handy 245 litres, almost twice as big as the cubby hole in a Mini Convertible. The boot lid opens with an out-and-up motion, a bit like a 1980s top-loading VCR. Just be careful you don’t break a nail slamming it shut. Not that I did, you understand, although I almost lost a finger or two to frostbite.
CAR Citroen DS3 Cabrio Dsport THP 155
PRICE £19,675 (£20,650 as tested)
PERFORMANCE Max speed 132mph; 0-62mph 8.3s
MPG (combined) 47.9
CO2 EMISSIONS 137g/km