(Pocket-lint) - Of the previous generation of DS cars - those that started life with the chevrons of Citroën on the bonnet - the DS 3 was always our favourite. It added interest to the hatchback segment that some other rivals lacked.
Reborn in crossover style, the DS 3 Crossback takes the quirky hatch into a new dimension, rolling out as DS Automobiles' second SUV. Not only does that launch itself into one of the most competitive car segments, but the E-Tense model is DS Automobiles' first electric car.
One design, multiple powertrains
Rather than offering an electric car that sits as a separate mode from traditional combustion engine models (as you get from the Nissan Leaf, for example), DS Automobiles has taken the approach of launching a car that offers both.
The electric model, called the E-Tense, will have all the same options as the fossil fuel cars: it will offer colours, trim options and all the customisation that you'll find elsewhere. Essentially, it's not going to ask you to compromise. Yes, there will be some differences in the interior presentation of information and some switchgear, but much of the car remains the same.
Some of this comes down the new CMP - common modular platform - of which there is an electric version (e-CMP) that underpins this new model and will be the platform for other group models in the future.
The battery is integrated into the floor and under the back seat of the car; under the bonnet is the electric motor and other elements, like the charging controller unit and heat pump for cabin and battery conditioning.
About the only adjustment needed to accommodate the electric version of this car is a slightly different rear suspension set-up. The boot space remains close to that of the ICE (internal combustion engine version) at around 350 litres.
DS 3 Crossback E-Tense range, battery and 0-62 time
Let's cross off the important specs for this car before we talk about the unique design it offers.
The DS 3 Crossback E-Tense has a 50kWh lithium-ion battery with a cited range of 300km or 186 miles on the WLTP cycle (450km/280 miles NEDC). There's support for fast charging of the battery up to 100kW, so the E-Tense can be charged to 80 per cent in around 30 minutes - that's going to be from rapid chargers on the motorway, for example.
Charging from an 11kW wall box at home would take about 5 hours, as well as offering charging from a conventional three pin plug, which will take a lot longer.
As you'd expect, there's a regenerative braking system to charge the battery as you drive, as you'll find on other electric or hybrid vehicles.
There's a 100kW motor which will give you 136hp, with a 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds. That might not set the world alright, but the 0-30 time of 3.3 seconds is perhaps more important. Like most electric cars, you'll get huge dump of torque from the electric motor to give you nippy off-the-line pace, perfect for city driving.
There's a heat pump in the E-Tense that will be used for battery conditioning - cooling or heating - to ensure that optimum conditions are maintained, and also allowing for pre-conditioning of the cabin while still connected to the power.
Mini SUV styling, interior chic
The Crossback name really means that DS Automobiles has put the DS 3 on steroids, moving it from hatchback to mini SUV in style, for a chunkier appearance, with greater on-the-road presence. Much of the DS identity remains, with those vertical daytime running lights and a larger headlight cluster that’s exquisite, offering smart LED matrix lights.
From the side the Crossback has the sharkfin detailing around the b pillar, behind the front doors, which separates front from back, like the old DS 3. This means there's still something recognisable. That DS design has become rather iconic, as there are a lot of DS 3 on the road, especially in the UK.
But the shift to SUV styling does make the bottom of this car look a little heavier than the top - and with options to vary the roof colour, there's the opportunity to create an interesting pairing for a unique style. We think it's a great looking car from the exterior, offering something different to the small SUVs on the road - especially with the electric option.
There are quality details that you might not expect on this level of car, like the hidden door handles that pop-out to let you open the doors. It's not quite the effect you get from Tesla or the Range Rover Velar, but it's a nice touch none the less and comes as standard on all models.
Unique styling is what really defines the interior of the DS 3 Crossback, which is where things get really interesting. It's potentially an interior that will divide opinion, but it goes places that Audi or VW won't, using materials and finishes to capture that French avant-garde spirit that sits at the heart of DS Automobiles.
So you'll find unique stitching techniques and leather details that are inspired by luxury brands, not just a flat and safe appearance. For some that will give this car character over the flat, black, soft touch plastics that inhabit most cars in this segment. Some others might just find it a bit odd.
While we're all for the variety of finishes, we can't judge how well the interior design works until we've had the chance the drive the car closer to launch in 2019. The thing that sticks out is the heavy use of diamond shapes in the interior controls - and whether that's going to make them usable, or if the design will detract from the functionality.
Interior technology and connectivity
Continuing a partnership with Focal, the DS 3 Crossback was designed to house a 12-speaker Focal system offering 515 watts. The cabin, DS Automobiles tells us, is a naturally quiet place and well insulated against noise, so that Focal system should have a great space to show off its talents. The E-Tense will have the added advantage of not having the combustion engine noise.
Whether the sound system is standard or not, we don't know - we suspect the Focal system will be an option.
The interior is 100 per cent digital, with a driver display that's digital and a central 10.3-inch display. We've not had the chance to fully explore this, but the feeling we had from DS 7 Crossback is that there was a lot of design and not great use of space - so that's the challenge that the DS 3 will have to overcome.
DS Drive Assist will add some safety features to the car, letting you automatically regulate the speed and position in the lane. It's a step on the path to autonomous driving, basically using adaptive cruise control and lane assist to keep you in the right place on the road; DS Park Pilot will also be able to park the car for you, using radar and cameras, like Drive Assist, to position the car accurately.
There will also be enhanced connectivity options through the MyDS app and the DS Smart Access function. This will let you use an app to remotely unlock and start your car, it can grant access to someone else for a limited time period - for ride sharing or because some forgot their keys.
While there are no shortage of this style of SUV or crossover on the roads, the electric options are rather more limited. This gives you a little more road presence than the Nissan Leaf, and it's going to be a lot more affordable than the likes of the Jaguar i-Pace or Auto E-Tron.
A natural rival will be the very good - and already available - Hyundai Kona Electric. The price and exact date that the DS 3 Crossback E-Tense will be available is yet to be announced, but we'll update as soon as we know.