Flair, by definition, is the ability or skill to naturally excel at something as well as possess a certain level of pizzazz while doing so. With that explained, one can definitely say that the Citroen DS3 Racing isn’t short of it; some may even argue that it has too much for its own good. Or you can look at the other extreme and think if you’re going to get a car that stands out, might as well go completely bananas.

You know Citroen has hit the right spot with this car when yours truly drove it home and introduced it to his relatively conservative, Camry-driving, RV-valuing middle-aged parents. The general response to it consisted of plenty of positive comments, some in rather “colourful” descriptions, but the message was clear.

This here is a car capable of bringing out everyone’s inner child. For starters, the normal DS3 (if you could ever call it that) is already something of an anomaly, and when you couple that to a colour scheme of Obsidian Black with Sport Orange highlights and military-inspired stickers, you’ll have heads turning your way wherever you go. Not one for the shrinking violets, then.

Now before one begins to wonder if this car prioritises aesthetics over actual substance, let it be known that under the bonnet lies the same unit as seen in the Peugeot 208 GTi. This means a PSA 1.6 litre turbocharged four-cylinder – in its THP 200 state of tune – the numbers are 202 hp at 6,000 rpm and 275 Nm of torque from 2,000 rpm to 4,500 rpm.


Transmission is a six-speed manual, with drive going to the front-wheels. The suspension has been lowered by 15 mm over the standard car and the tracks – both front and rear – have been, widened by 30 mm. Other changes include a reworking of the steering to improve feel and feedback and upgraded brakes by way of larger discs with four-piston calipers up front.

With the all-important tech specs out of the way, allow me to paint you as vivid a picture as possible on what it is like to live with the DS3 Racing, albeit for only three days. Before leaving Citroen at Glenmarie, I was expecting to be told to treat the car better than I would myself, which is understandable given that there are only 2,400 units available worldwide.

Instead, I was told to “enjoy the car” and “make sure I drive it properly.” Well, that and I had to refuel it using only RON97 petrol. Insert the key (no push-start button here), twist and the engine barks into life with a bass-heavy note before settling into… almost nothing. Yes, you read that right. For all its ‘look-at-me’ paint job and go-fast stickers, the DS3 Racing is very, very quiet.

“Is the engine even on?!,” said Anthony when he came to try out the car. Near total silence would make sense if said car was a Rolls-Royce, but for a DS3 Racing? I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. Fingers firmly crossed that it’ll drive the way it looks rather than the way it sounds, I slotted the car into reverse and almost stalled – and no, this wasn’t because the clutch was a pain to modulate.

In fact, it was the total opposite, for I have become so used to driving a car with a clutch that doubles as a (left) leg-press machine that upon initial contact, I found it difficult to locate the bite point of the Citroen’s clutch. Either that or I’m just not as talented as I thought I was. However, within five minutes of pooling about in traffic, my left leg and the clutch were pretty much on the same page, which further goes to show how civilised the DS3 Racing actually is.

Now with a car of this nature, I wouldn’t blame you if you jumped to the conclusion that this would be a rather difficult car to live with on a daily basis, glacially sliding along in traffic with unwanted stares from fellow road users and whatnots. But here’s the good news. Ignoring the rather hardcore aesthetics, it’s a complete pussycat around town.

Refinement is pretty top-notch, with NVH levels – bar the tyre roar – being more than reasonable for a car like this. Wind noise is not a problem, not even up to the national speed limit of 110 km/h. Those attempting long journeys in the DS3 Racing need not fear, just stick it in fifth and you’re good to go.

From what I’ve experienced, most overtaking manoeuvres won’t even require you to downshift, not when the car is able to pull itself up a decent incline with four passengers inside, speedometer pointing at 80 km/h and transmission in fifth. Keep the RPM just above 2,000 and right up to 4,500, and you’ll have access to all the torque you’ll realistically ever need.


But what about interior space, you say? If I was daring enough to have this as my only car, what about ferrying my folks, girlfriend/boyfriend, close friends, my pet or a set of golf clubs? As mentioned, among the four adults who managed to fit into the car, the shortest was 5 ft 8, or 173 cm. Squeezing five inside is possible, but cruel.

The rear seats fold down, though not completely flat. Better than nothing, I suppose, and it does help to add to the boot space of 359 litres. Should a situation arise that requires the driver to ferry a child, you can be the responsible hot-hatch owner and chuck said child into the back as the rear seats are equipped with ISOFIX points.

Moving on to the business end of the interior, the front bucket seats do present a couple of niggles, with the most glaring of all being that the side bolster was constantly in the way of my elbow whenever I shifted gears. For reasons unknown to me, I could never really get comfortable, despite finding the driving position of my choice. Perhaps it was something to do about the design of the lower back support of the seat.

Upon closer inspection, it was discovered that the steering wheel wasn’t exactly aligned properly against the driver’s seat and the pedal placement themselves were slightly offset, which did not help one bit. The upside to that is all-round visibility is pretty good, with only a rather thick B-pillar obscuring my view a tiny bit.

Despite the constant temptation to disable the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), I highly doubted that my talent reserve was more than enough to make up for it should things have gone sour. As such, it was ESP on for the drive up some more interesting roads. Pity that every time the key was turned, the initial theatrics and aural hype died down within seconds.

No matter. Get in, buckle up, adjust (and readjust) the seat to get comfortable and off I went. The first thing that was apparent as the speed built and the gaps between corners reduced was that feedback through the steering was a little wanting, which is perfectly fine for the daily grind and easing into cramped parking lots, but less so when one is pressing on with a bit more gusto.

In that context, it feels vague and rather light. Adding insult to an early injury, the all-important nine and three o’clock spokes on the steering wheel are rather thick, disallowing drivers to wrap their fingers around for better control. The saving grace was that the rack itself was quick and direct enough for yours truly.

As mentioned, the offset pedals aren’t exactly the best tools to be equipped with for this particular drive. In addition to their weird placement, any heel-and-toe action is pretty much out of the question, with the gap between the pedals slightly too far apart. The design of the accelerator itself also made it hard to blip quickly while driving fast.

Wiping away the speed is another thing altogether. Don’t get me wrong, the brakes themselves work pretty well, with plenty of stopping power, but my concern lies with how the middle pedal feels under my foot. At times, it feels as if there’s just too much assistance, making it feel as if the brakes are operated by a switch instead of a pedal, in which you modulate the amount of retardation required.

I thought the drive was panning out for the worse, but the action of the shifter ensured that it didn’t. The gates between each slots are spaced out nicely, allowing for a direct, short throw of the lever. Rushing it from second to third (or fourth to fifth) isn’t a problem, thanks to the well-defined gates and an ergonomically-designed knob.

Through the more challenging corners, the DS3 Racing really holds the intended line without really progressing into severe understeer. Sure, a bit of it is probably engineered in for safety reasons but rest assured, it will not dampen your drive should you choose to enter a corner faster than usual. Get a bit too greedy with the throttle mid-corner however, and one can expect the car to squirrel about as the wheels get momentarily overwhelmed.

Straights are slightly less exciting, with a linear, smooth power delivery – no instant, kick-in-the-head, pin-me-to-the-seat shenanigans to be had here. Do note though, that I say less exciting not because I crave that kick-in-the-back type of acceleration, but because the noise (or rather lack of) emitted just doesn’t tally at all with the pace one is generating – even with the windows rolled down. It’s just a boomy drone that increases in volume and not texture.

Finally accepting the absence of an inspiring soundtrack, I decided to give the sound system a try. For the record, I’m no audiophile, but the sound quality is definitely better than what I’m used to and for the sake of being objective in a field where the results are mostly subjective, I plugged in a USB with familiar music into this car and repeated it in another.

To keep the variables as closely stacked as possible, both the DS3 Racing and the test car were driven at the same speed and on the same roads with the same song on repeat. The end result? Certain parts of the same song sounded that bit richer in the DS3 Racing.

As for the GPS system, you can expect it to work like any other that’s currently on the market right now. However, an isolated case saw the system experience some sort of technical glitch where it was convinced I was still in Glenmarie, except for the fact that I was already in Subang. Yes, I tried turning the system on and off again, whereby it managed to sort its bearings out. Worry not, the navigation worked without flaw following that one incident.

Now, it’s a known fact that our local roads aren’t exactly the best around, but why complain when one can be optimistic and use it to evaluate the ride quality of a car, right? Along with colleagues of mine who drove the car, a unanimous conclusion was reached. The Citroen DS3 Racing rides pretty good for something that presents itself to be a hardcore, performance-oriented machine.


Throughout the entire test weekend, the DS3 Racing encountered a variety of road surfaces ranging from pool table-smooth to a pothole fest. Dips and undulations were dealt with rather nicely, the car absorbing almost everything except for the worst kinds of expansion joints. I recall one particular incident where the car was traveling briskly and went directly into a pothole – masked from the torrential downpour – and only then did it truly bottom out.

Individuals who contemplate buying a car with an orange and black colour scheme AND care about fuel consumption would probably like to know that after a weekend of hard driving, the digital readout reported a figure of 8.9 km per litre. It’s alright compared to what I am used to but it isn’t all that great, either. The car should be able to mark a more economical figure when driven by someone who isn’t trying to do the paint job justice.

At the end of the day, I’m not too sure if I’d be willing to plonk down my money for this car – I’m boring that way. Taking the liberty of asking for feedback from friends and family members on whether or not they’d do the same, well, let’s just say they were more than disappointed when they found out the car isn’t being sold here.


The Citroen DS3 Racing ultimately presents itself as a rather boisterous machine but the truth is, it’s all on the surface (not truly a bad thing). For those who want a car that doubles as a (bold) statement when they pull up and something that they can enjoy driving, they’d be more than happy with it. Those craving for something much more extreme and/or less flashy, best look elsewhere.

Upon returning the keys, I was asked to provide a quick, honest rundown of the car – and so I did. From how it performed – the good and the bad, to how other people reacted to it and why they should seriously consider bringing just a handful into the country. I just wished it came just in black.