France’s DS 3 Cabrio tries to out-pose Italy’s Fiat 500C in this fash­ion-con­scious shootout be­tween two stylish soft-top hatch­backs.

Torque (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

IIT is of­ten said that when it comes to cre­at­ing cars meant for fash­ion-con­scious mo­torists, no­body comes close to the French and Ital­ians.

The French and Ital­ians have a flair and tal­ent for de­sign that other car­mak­ers can­not match. Even MINI’s hand­some Convertible (pg 34) seems a bit or­di­nary when com­pared to the two hatch­backs grac­ing th­ese pages. Al­though the DS 3 Cabrio and Fiat 500C are both billed as convertibles, they are tech­ni­cally tar­gas, for they can only go “top­less” by slid­ing their cloth soft-tops rear­wards, and their cab­ins are never fully ex­posed.

The newer of the two cars is the DS 3 Cabrio. DS is Citroen’s stand­alone pre­mium brand, launched in 2015.

In line with its up­mar­ket po­si­tion­ing, the DS 3 Cabrio doesn’t re­sem­ble any Citroen model. Its el­e­gant highlights in­clude swathes of chrome on the grille and along the flanks, plus “shark fins” along the B-pil­lars.

Fac­ing off against the DS 3 is the Fiat 500C. But this is no or­di­nary 500C – our bor­rowed unit is the even funkier Gucci Edi­tion, which has the Ital­ian fash­ion brand’s trade­mark

Verde/Rosso/Verde stripe on its soft-top and “Gucci” badges on its B-pil­lars and tail­gate. The 500C’s trump card is the fact that it hasn’t aged since it was launched in 2010. If you want to at­tract mem­bers of the fairer sex, I dare­say this hatch­back’s adorable de­sign will do the job.

The 500C’s cir­cu­lar theme con­tin­ues in its cabin, which has round air-con vents and a hu­mon­gous speedome­ter that dom­i­nates the dash­board. I par­tic­u­larly like the Gucci-trimmed leather seats, which re­in­force the hatch­back’s fash­ion­able im­age.

Th­ese stylish el­e­ments, how­ever, can­not hide the 500C’s age. The cock­pit’s most mod­ern func­tion, for in­stance, is Blue­tooth in the basic hi-fi sys­tem.

Also less than sat­is­fy­ing is the rear ac­com­mo­da­tion. Be­cause the Fiat’s wheel­base mea­sures just 2300mm (ver­sus 2464mm for the DS 3), any­one taller than 1.5m is likely to ex­pe­ri­ence some claus­tro­pho­bia on the back­seat if he or she has to en­dure a drive longer than 30 min­utes.

The DS 3’s in­te­rior, on the other hand, has a much airier feel. There’s more head­room for all oc­cu­pants, and the longer wheel­base means ac­cess to the back­seat is also less tricky than in the 500C.

Also sure to please the driver is the DS 3’s cock­pit, which is sportier and more so­phis­ti­cated than the 500C’s. Fea­tures such as the car­bon fi­bre-pat­tern dash­board trim, flat-bot­tom steer­ing wheel and stubby gearshift lever en­hance the French num­ber’s cool fac­tor.

Key to both cars’ cool quo­tient, though, is their slid­ing soft-top. It takes an es­ti­mated 20 sec­onds to open/close the 500C’s roof, and the top can be op­er­ated at speeds of up to 60km/h.

But con­sid­er­ing our fickle weather, you’ll be bet­ter off in the DS 3, whose roof opens and closes in 16 sec­onds. The top can also be op­er­ated at up to 110km/h, which is handy if it sud­denly rains while you’re cruis­ing on the ex­press­way.

Both cars have fairly sim­i­lar lev­els of buf­fet­ing when driven

top­less, which is per­fect for those who love com­ing to work with a tou­sled hairdo. But if you want to blowdry your hair in a hurry, then the DS 3 is your ride. With a tur­bocharged 3-pot pro­duc­ing 110bhp and 205Nm, and a slick-shift­ing 6-speed au­to­matic, this hatch­back can sprint from rest to 100km/h in 9.6 sec­onds – 1.4 sec­onds faster than the Fiat. The 500C caters to sun­wor­ship­pers who are in less of a rush. Al­though the car’s nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 1.4-litre 4-cylin­der de­liv­ers a healthy 100bhp and a de­cent 131Nm, progress is ham­pered by the lack­adaisi­cal 6-speed robo­tised man­ual trans­mis­sion.

A robo­tised man­ual still has a clutch, ex­cept that the driver doesn’t have to op­er­ate it. But the prob­lem is, even the slow­est driver can shift faster than this gear­box ever could. Just as the revs build up, they sud­denly drop as the trans­mis­sion takes its sweet time to en­gage the clutch, slot in the next gear and re­lease the clutch again.

To has­ten this, you can tog­gle the 500C’s Sport but­ton, but the quicker shifts come at the ex­pense of smooth­ness. It would ac­tu­ally be bet­ter to utilise the man­ual over­ride fea­ture. Just re­mem­ber to slightly ease off the ac­cel­er­a­tor each time you shift, so as to avoid any jerk­i­ness. That said, both hatch­backs are pretty nim­ble when driven around town, with the 500C edg­ing out the DS 3 in terms of ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity thanks to its smaller size, higher seat­ing po­si­tion and lighter steer­ing.

But over­all, the DS 3 Cabrio is the su­pe­rior all-rounder. It boasts bet­ter in­su­la­tion with the top up, and has a roomier and more prac­ti­cal cabin to boot. The DS 3 might not make fash­ion-con­scious mo­torists say “ooh la la”, but it will cer­tainly make them gig­gle and say “tres chic!”

The DS 3 Cabrio’s cock­pit (above) is com­fier than the 500C’s and has no­tice­ably nicer fit and fin­ish, too.


500C’s dash­board­mounted gearshift lever is eas­ier to reach, mak­ing the man­ual over­ride more fun to use than the DS 3’s (above).

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