Here's a car that taps into a couple of the fastest growing trends in the automotive market: those for full-electric vehicles and small SUVs. The DS 3 E-TENSE might have an awkward name but on paper at least, it promises to bring buyers some of the best things from both of these market genres. And it's another model that in this improved form should really move the DS brand forward.
DS uses 'E-TENSE' branding for its electric variants; the larger DS 7 Crossback E-TENSE is a 'PHEV' or 'Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle', which uses a 1.6-litre petrol engine combined with a battery. A DS 3 E-TENSE though, dispenses with combustion engineering altogether and is a 'BEV' (or 'Battery Electric Vehicle').
At its launch in 2019, this was the first full-battery-powered small SUV on the market. And certainly the first of many. It uses the same all-electric engineering we've subsequently also seen in other Stellantis Group products, the Vauxhall Corsa-e and Peugeot's e-208 and e-2008 models. Here though, thanks to a redesigned electric motor and a gutsier 54kWh battery, the EV proposition's been usefully improved.
This all-electric 'E-TENSE' variant is made possible due to the fact that the CMP platform that the DS 3 sits upon has, rather cleverly, been engineered to accept both conventional and full-battery powertrains. This 'full-battery' set-up sees an improved 155hp electric motor (up from 132hp) linked to a 55kWh lithium-ion battery (50.8kWh usable) and a system for recovering energy during acceleration and braking, with effectiveness you can maximise via two driver-activated energy recovery settings - 'Normal' and 'Brake'. A DS 3 E-TENSE also offers three main selectable driving modes - 'Eco', 'Normal' and 'Sport', the last of which delivers the powertrain's maximum 260Nm torque figure to the tarmac the instant the wheels begin to turn.
Which is why, despite the fact that this electric derivative tips the scales at over one and a half tonnes, rest to 62mph can be dispatched in just 8.7s. Of course, drive like that too often and you're not going to get anywhere near the improved WLTP-rated driving range of 250 miles. The battery weighs 350kg, but compared to the petrol version of this model, the car's kerb weight has risen by only 300kg - all of this mass low and centralised - because the engine and its ancillaries are no longer needed. All EVs are quiet but many suffer from wind noise and tyre roar; there's little of that here. What you do get - to meet the current trend - is plenty of semi-autonomous driving technology on offer (most of it optional). The 'DS Drive Assist' package combines 'Active Cruise Control' and 'Lane Keeping Assist' in a form that sees the vehicle managing both steering and speed.
Design and Build
At first glance, there is not much to mark this 'zero emission' model out from other variants in the DS 3 range. It's all very subtle, key visual differentiation points including a lower ride height and E-TENSE badging. Otherwise, this variant is exactly like its petrol and diesel showroom stablemates, so it's 4.17-metres long, 1.79-metres wide and 1.53-metres high, measurements which position this car amongst the bigger contenders in the segment for small premium SUVs.
Styling's an emotive subject but most will probably agree that this car still offers quite an interesting take on 'B'-segment supermini-based SUV design. The visual changes to this updated model are quickly covered: revised headlamps, now of the LED variety across the range, flanking a re-styled grille, wider and enhanced with gloss black or chromed diamond tips, depending on the model. The identifying DS WINGS have been tweaked to subtly join the grille and headlamps. The bonnet gains a Clous de Paris embossed insert, the 17 and 18-inch wheels have been re-designed and the rear has been refined, lights and boot emphasised with a lacquered black strip. This features polished stainless steel 'DS Automobiles' badging.
Nothing's very different inside, though all variants do now get a large 10.3-inch high definition central screen with a redesigned gloss black surround. Connected navigation and intelligent voice recognition are offered by DS IRIS SYSTEM. Users can personalise the central screen and the 7-inch instrument panel, complete with head up display that projects essential information in the driver's eye line. As before, the cabin features an over-riding diamond-shaped theme - the digital instrument pack, the dashboard switches, the air vents and many other interior fitments all bear this shape.
Also as before, you can trim the cabin out to a very high standard indeed, with special leathers, alcantara and pearl stitching. More practically, you get a reasonable array of storage compartments including cup holders and a broad, functional sliding armrest. The seats are particularly comfortable thanks to a special bi-density foam the brand has developed. But over-the-shoulder vision is somewhat compromised by the rear 'D'-pillar. In the rear, the window line in the rear is rather high, so if you've got kids, you might want to make sure they're OK with that. And the boot capacity is 350-litres, the same as the petrol model.
Market and Model
Expect DS 3 E-TENSE pricing to start from just over £37,000 and range up to just under £43,000. There's (thankfully) a simplified trim range, starting with 'PERFORMANCE Line' and 'PERFORMANCE Line +' levels, where the seats, the dashboard strips and the door panels are embellished with Alcantara. The PERFORMANCE Line + level gets extra equipment such as a central armrest, mats and lighting for the sun visors and footwells. Next up is the 'RIVOLI' level, which offers the brand's new Basalt Black grained leather seats (which are optional lower down the range) with scale-effect Basalt Black trim. A Pebble Grey upholstery with combined Nappa Leather/cloth is also available. At the top of the range, 'OPERA' trim features a Basalt Black Nappa Leather interior with the brand's signature 'watchstrap' seat finishing.
Safety-wise, all variants get a 'Safety Park', which includes an Emergency Braking System, Lane Keeping Assist, Speed recognition and Intelligent Speed Adaptation. Other standard features include an alarm system, a space saver spare wheel, air conditioning and a 10.3-inch touchscreen, with 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring, Bluetooth and a DAB digital radio with eight speakers.
Cost of Ownership
Make the most of the two driver-activated energy recovery settings ('Normal' and 'Brake') and consistently drive with the car in its most frugal 'Eco' drive mode setting and you might potentially get somewhere close to the quoted WLTP-rated driving range of up to 249 miles. That's partly due to the efficiency of this updated model's improved electric motor, plus the powertrain's ability to recover energy. Also adding to efficiency is a heat pump, there's thermal pre-conditioning and aerodynamic optimisation at the front and wheels and the brand has lowered ground clearance by 10mm on models with tall and narrow 17 and 18-inch wheels.
Like most full-EVs, the DS 3 E-TENSE carries a high-capacity on board charger, available in single phase 7kW guise or in three phase 11kW form - the single phase 7kW on board charger is the standard offering for the UK market. As usual with a car of this kind, there are a host of charging options for the improved 54kWh battery (50.8kWh usable). Charging at a dedicated wall box or standard public terminal will take 8 or 5 hours respectively. Additionally the car can of course be charged from a standard domestic socket. At a public 100kW rapid charge terminal, 80% of the battery can be recharged in just 30 minutes, which represents an average range of 5.5 miles per charging minute.
You might expect a newly-established brand to make an extra effort with warranty provision, but there's only the usual unremarkable three year/60,000-mile package. The electric 'E-Tense' model gets a separate eight year / 100,000 mile warranty for its electrical powertrain.
The DS 3 E-TENSE is hardly inexpensive but in compensation it's a satisfyingly desirable take on full battery-powered small SUV motoring. The design is individual, the cabin feels special and it's reasonably well equipped. Plus the full-electric technology works unobtrusively and the cabin's supremely quiet.
Are there issues? Well the improved driving range being offered here is more competitive, but it's still not quite at the forefront of the class. If that's not really an issue, you want an SUV body style and you'd like something a little showier than this car's cousin, the Peugeot e-2008, then this E-TENSE model should figure on your wish list. This car, like its brand, is aspirational. If you are too and you're shopping in this segment while looking for something a bit different, you might well like it.