DS 3 Performance
It doesn’t quite gel on the road, so how would the DS 3 fare on track?
‘Given it wasn’t designed with trackdays in mind, it gave a pretty good account of itself’
OUR LAST TRACK EVENING OF THE year and the first opportunity to take our DS3 Performance onto a circuit. I’ll admit I was excited at the prospect, and an uncharacteristically balmy autumn evening and a challenging track configuration at Rockingham provided the perfect backdrop for what promised to be the DS 3’s most exacting test to date.
It’s no secret that up to this point the car hasn’t proven the most confidence-inspiring. As I’ve mentioned before, the ingredients are all there but the final package ultimately disappoints... on the road, that is. Then again, there ain’t no traffic lights or crossings on a trackday. So on that note it was towing eye in, helmet on and circuit here we come!
The issues I have had with the car’s fiddly controls and poor ergonomics immediately faded with nothing else to focus on but the racing line and the GT3S and 4s filling my rear-view mirror. A little heat in the Michelin Pilot Super Sports went a long way to restoring my faith and confidence and, a few laps of familiarisation later, I was ready to push on and see what the car could really do. I found an instant connection with those brilliantly placed pedals, heeling and toeing my way into the first tight left-hander. Turn-in has always been one of the DS 3’s strong suits and it didn’t disappoint here, more than holding its own with a Golf R, GT86 and M235i.
For me, the DS 3 has just the right level of performance for track driving. Unless you’re massively experienced, you generally want something that you can evolve with, without feeling as though you’re constantly on the edge of control. In the right hands, as colleague Will Beaumont showed, the DS 3 could keep up with the best of them and prove its worth as a nimble and – crucially – fun trackday car. And while we’re singing some praises, the brakes were a revelation, seemingly unfazed by lap after lap of punishment.
But the DS still frustrated in parts. Yes, it was fun, but then anything with a bit of poke and a quality diff would have been. Just as on the road, I couldn’t help thinking that it was the bite of those Super Sport tyres combined with the limited-slip diff that was almost entirely responsible for it feeling as good as it did. It just doesn’t give you the level of
interaction, balance and precision you would get from, say, a Clio 200 Cup. The oversized steering wheel frustrated in the same way it does on the road. And the feeling of being
on the car, rather than in it, was still there, although those PSA racing seats keep you firmly in place for tight direction changes.
Overall I was impressed with the ability of the DS 3 on track – but that’s largely because it’s pretty clear it wasn’t conceived and designed with trackdays in mind at all. Given that, it gave a pretty good account of itself.
Ultimately, though, the DS 3 Performance lacks the sharp focus of the very best hot hatches, and that’s as true on the track as it is on the road. So we find ourselves pondering the same familiar questions once again. For what purpose and – more to the point – what customer was this car really designed?
Above and below: track evening at Rockingham was a chance to see if the so-far-underwhelming DS 3 Performance could redeem itself on a circuit