When: 23 February 2011
Where: Hertfordshire, England
What: Citroen DS3 Racing
Occasion: International first drive
Overall rating: 3.5/5
Despite a strong history of fine hot hatches Citroen has offered little lately that's fast and fun. The DS3 Racing promises to change that, as it was developed by the same people who produce Citroen's rally cars.
Engine: 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: Three-door hatchback
Rivals: MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works, VW Scirocco GT 2.0 TFSI, Renault Mégane 250 Cup
CO2 emissions: 149g/km
Tax band: C (€302)
Combined economy: 6.4 litres/100km (44.1mpg)
Top speed: 235km/h (146mph)
0-100km/h: 6.5 seconds
Power: 207hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 274Nm at 2,000-4,500rpm
In the metal 4/5
The Citroen DS3 is a striking looker in regular guise, but the Racing turns up the dial significantly. That's especially true if you pick the black and orange choice, then add the rather OTT decals. Us? We'd have the white and grey car pictured here; all the better for showing off the real carbon fibre add-ons, though we'd leave the sticker kit in the dealers.
Inside it's more of the same, the DS3's interior made more racy with some figure-hugging seats, DS3 Racing branding, some chrome and more carbon fibre. It works, though the optional satnav is a bit clunky and the handbrake lever feels cheap.
Driving it 3/5
The 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine is impressively smooth and responsive, and it revs sweetly to the redline. Citroen has thankfully resisted the temptation to add a paddle-shifted automatic gearbox and stuck with a six-speed manual. It's not as sharp or precise as a MINI's shift, but it's quick and easy enough across the gate, while the DS3 Racing's pedals are nicely positioned for heel-and-toe shifting.
It's the ride that impresses most though; even on large 18-inch alloy wheels the DS3 isolates the worst bumps with ease - which is useful on our pothole strewn roads. The steering is precise, though its light weighting does mean busy hands when the front wheels scrabble for traction. The front end never feels truly settled, with torque-steer under power and understeer in the bends.
In fairness it was streaming wet in our time with the car, but the Citroen DS3 Racing lacks the precision of its key hot hatch rivals, relying a lot on its ESP to keep the nose in check. That's frustrating, as otherwise it's an accomplished performer, with a decent ride and pleasing feel from the steering. A limited-slip differential would make all the difference, or more sophisticated understeer-quelling programming within the ESP system.
What you get for your money 4/5
Really, aside from the satnav - and those stickers - it's fully loaded. Rather unusually, Citroen has adopted a single Euro-zone price for the DS3 Racing, which massively benefits Irish buyers, making this hot hatch substantially cheaper than many direct rivals.
Opt for that retina-straining orange and black paintjob and you lose the front carbon fibre grille.
Citroen claims every piece of carbon fibre you see is real, yet there are no weight savings overall.
Only 200 will be built in right-hand drive and there's a waiting list already.
The Racing is an unusually cosseting range-topping hot hatch that remains true to the luxury feel of Citroen's DS3 model. It lacks the precision and sharpness of some of its rivals, but it's not without appeal if you want comfort combined with pace. The bargain price in Ireland may sway some buyers, though they'll need to get an order in quickly to secure one.