Here’s an example of how a stylish, fun Continental drop-top needn’t break the bank
SINGAPORE — Use the adjectives “European” and “convertible” when describing a car, and chances are people will mentally start adding a considerable premium to its sticker price.
Yet the idea of an affordable Euro drop-top is not new. It has thrived over the years, with examples such as the Peugeot 308CC to the Renault Megane Coupe-Cabriolet.
Sure, the segment has diminished somewhat in recent years, but here is where Citroen’s sister brand DS has stood up to be counted as it unleashes the DS 3 Cabriolet.
The Cabriolet is based on the funky DS 3 small hatchback, which is expected to have a facelifted version hitting our roads later this year.
It boasts a unique approach to going topless: The entire roof section, including the rear window, folds away, but the windows and pillars remain in place.
Paired with the car’s tall windscreen, it is a convincing alternative interpretation of the freedom of open-top driving.
While this means it does not offer the panoramic open feel of a traditional convertible, there are many benefits. For one thing, the DS 3 Cabrio has a much quieter cabin, and is less susceptible to turbulence.
Also, you will never be caught out by the weather: The 11-second operation of the folding top still works even if you are going at high speeds of up to 110km/h. The only drawback is that when fully retracted, the folded roof hinders the driver’s rearward vision.
Since it retains much of the hatchback’s basic structure, it behaves similarly like a hatchback on the road, with nippy, enjoyable handling and a sporty ride quality that is sometimes busy, but does not strain your patience.
A 1.2-litre turbocharged triple engine powers the Cabriolet, and the 110bhp delivers perky, decently quick acceleration. Mind you, it is not particularly smooth — and neither is the automatic gearbox — but it is generally sinless and far better than the single-clutch automated manual French cars that the previous generation was saddled with.
Heaps of satin chrome and French design flourishes make the interior pleasing enough to look at, and although the plastic does creak in some places, the practicality and equipment make up for it. The car has a touchscreen infotainment system, xenon headlights, six airbags, and you can cram three adults in the rear bench for short trips. The boot has a mere 285-litre capacity, but larger cargo can be brought in if you fold down the rear seat backs.
While it is less refined than its key rival, the Volkswagen Beetle Cabriolet, like the VW, it exemplifies the same values worth celebrating: That cars can be about enjoyment and freedom rather than spreadsheets, COEs and bottom lines — and still be affordable. Derryn Wong
DS 3 Cabriolet
Engine: 1,199cc, inline three, turbocharged, 110hp, 205Nm
Performance: 188km/h, 0-100km/h: 9.6s, 4.9L/100km, 112g/km CO2
Price: S$109,999 with COE