DS 3 Crossback E-TENSE review
DS might not be the most recognisable brand in the world, but the French manufacturer has ambitions to rival more familiar names whose electric SUVs have set the benchmark in the segment.
Specifically, the B-segment: this DS 3 Crossback E-TENSE is a compact SUV that looks set to rival the Kia e-Niro, Hyundai Kona Electric and MG ZS EV. Prices start at just over £30,000 – after the government’s £3,000 discount has been deducted – which looks very reasonable on paper given the car’s premium brief.
This isn't an electric-only model, mind. ‘E-TENSE’ is a powertrain option that sits alongside petrol and diesel versions of the DS 3 Crossback, available on four separate trim levels. All cars are built on the same platform, in the same way that the Audi e-tron and Mercedes EQC are constructed on chassis designed for internal-combustion-engined vehicles.
But that’s not to say the DS 3 feels flawed. A single 134bhp electric motor gives the car front-wheel drive, with 0-62mph taking nine seconds en route to a top speed of 93mph. Meanwhile, a 50kWh battery offers up to 200 miles of range; a reasonable return for the capacity.
Based on our test drive, it’s a figure you should get close to in the real world. Yes, the Kia e-Niro – which peaked at 5.1 miles/kWh when we ran it for six months – offers slightly more for your money, but demand for that car means you’ll be waiting the best part of a year before you take delivery.
The DS 3 Crossback E-TENSE’s maximum charging rate is 100kW, at which speed you can top up the battery from 0-80% full in around half an hour. A full charge from a 7kW home wallbox should take just over seven hours, costing roughly £7 on a typical domestic electricity tariff. That translates to fuel costs of 3.5p per mile: a petrol or diesel vehicle would likely cost three or four times as much.
First UK deliveries are set to take place in early 2020, and DS is trying to secure a deal with BP Chargemaster that would allow drivers to charge up at the firm’s public chargers at a reduced cost. DS also has its own line-up of wallboxes for customers to choose from, which link to the MyDS smartphone app: this allows drivers to schedule charging sessions remotely – helping to make use of cheaper, overnight electricity tariffs – as well as allowing interior pre-heating and cooling, too.
Behind the wheel, the E-TENSE’s powertrain is the main highlight. Unlike most electric cars, there’s no immediate surge from 0-30mph: instead, the DS 3 builds power gradually, making it very relaxing to drive.
When it reaches motorway cruising speed, the electric motor is virtually inaudible, to the extent that it’s as quiet as far more expensive luxury vehicles. There’s some wind noise caused by the wing mirrors, but DS has tackled this by adding thicker glass, door panels and an ‘acoustic’ windscreen’; features you won’t find on the petrol or diesel models.
Ride comfort is reasonable, with the soft suspension coping well on average road surfaces. However, on rougher asphalt the car’s weight drags it into ruts and potholes, making it lose composure. In this respect, the Kona Electric and e-Niro have the upper hand.
In truth, this is little surprise given that the electric powertrain adds 300kg to the DS 3's weight. You feel that extra mass in corners especially, despite the battery – which accounts for most of that bulk – lying in the car’s floor.
A switch on the centre console allows you to choose from three driving modes. In normal mode, the E-TENSE will use no more than 107bhp, with the maximum 134bhp available in Sport mode. The eco setting limits power to 80bhp in order to boost range, and you can opt for maximum regenerative braking by pulling the gear selector backwards while on the go.
DS is targeting the premium class, and the interior design feels special enough to meet the criteria. The cloth upholstery on our Performance Line test car – the lowest trim offering the electric E-TENSE powertrain – worked well with the Alcantara on the dashboard, and the angular styling is unlike anything else on the market.
Admittedly, the infotainment system and a reliance on touch-sensitive buttons to control many of the car’s functions are frustrations, and this is not the most spacious vehicle for passengers. Plus, while the 350-litre boot is just as big as in the petrol and diesel DS 3s, there’s no added practicality in the form of a front storage space, due to to amount of mechanical components under the bonnet.
It’s also a pity that equipment levels are fairly average: flush doorhandles, automatic air-conditioning, a seven-inch digital display and infotainment screens, lane-keeping assistance, cruise control and automatic emergency braking are all standard, but you’ll need to upgrade beyond the basic trim for LED headlights, a 10-inch touchscreen and sat nav.
Does that tip the balance in favour of the e-Niro and Kona Electric? In terms of value, yes. But those prepared to add a few options won’t be disappointed.